Sunday 25th March 2018 – Cheltenham

The aim of this competition is to discover and encourage new young singers of talent and provide them with an opportunity to perform before an audience and a panel of renowned professional judges. The winner will also have the opportunity to  perform with the Cheltenham Bach Choir and a professional orchestra.


The competition is open to young professional singers from all voice registers who are aged 28 or under on 25th March 2018.

First Prize:

The Cedric Virgin Memorial Prize: £500 and a performance with the Cheltenham Bach Choir and a professional orchestra.

Second Prize: £300
Third Prize: £150


Candidates will be shortlisted using information from the application form and a high quality performance on CD or MP3. David Crown, the Director of Music or the Cheltenham Bach Choir, will shortlist twelve candidates to participate in the competition on 25th March 2018. His decision will be final.

The competition will be open to members of the public.


The first round will comprise a recitative and aria lasting not more than 12 minutes. The final round will comprise a programme not lasting more than 25 minutes. Candidates should present an imaginative, well-balanced, Baroque programme. Presentation and programming will be assessed along with the performance. Works should be sung in the original language and key. There is to be no repeat of repertoire throughout the competition. Candidates are expected to provide their own accompanist, who should be of a high professional standard. There is a Steinway piano at the Prince Michael Hall.


Christine Cairns


Christine Cairns has sung all over the world with conductors such as Sir Simon Rattle, Vladimir Ashkenazy and Andre Previn and with all the major orchestras in the U.K as well as the Vienna Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic, The Los Angeles Philharmonic and Philadelphia Orchestra. When her younger son was diagnosed with autism she decided to concentrate on teaching and has taught for the last eighteen years at the Birmingham Conservatoire and at home in Shillingford. She will be taking up a post at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in January 2018. She also regularly adjudicates at music festivals.
In 2000 along with her husband, the conductor John Lubbock, Christine set up the charity “Music for Autism”. She regularly gives concerts for people with dementia and autism and the charity has now played to more than 40,000 children..

Professor Russell Smythe


Russell Smythe trained at the Guildhall School and the London Opera Centre. He has sung in all the major British houses, throughout Europe, in North America, Israel and Japan, under Sir Colin Davis, Antonio Pappano, Christoph von Dohnanyi, Seiji Ozawa and Mark Minkovsky. Roles included Eugene Onegin, Don Giovanni, Germont Père, Balstrode and Shishkov. He has recorded several roles on CD and Video. Before retiring from the opera stage in 2011, he sang Niceno (Vivaldi’s L’incoronazione di Dario) at Garsington, Manoah (Handel’s Samson) and Lothario (Thomas’ Mignon) at the Buxton Festival, and Ping (Turandot) for the Flemish Opera at their two houses in Antwerp and Gent. On the concert platform he has sung Elijah, The War Requiem and Messiah, and has performed many song recitals collaborating with Graham Johnson, Geoffrey Parsons and Roger Vignoles. He teaches at the Royal College of Music in London (where he was made an FRCM in 2013), and also King’s College, Cambridge. He gives workshops in Britain and abroad, including the Oxenfoord Summer School where he returns next summer (2018) in his role as singing teacher.

David Crown


David Crown is the Music Director of the Cheltenham Bach Choir and the vOx Chamber Choir. A choral scholar at King’s College Cambridge, he then sang as soloist in opera and oratorio, winning several competitions and working with some of the world’s foremost musicians.

As music director of the Reading Phoenix Choir, David took the choir to the finals of both the BBC Choir of the Year and the Cork International Choral Festival. He was also Director of music at Somerville College, Oxford, making two critically acclaimed recordings and gaining many accolades for their performances in the UK and abroad.