Magnificent seven RGS musicians win awards

SEVEN magnificent musicians from Ripon Grammar School shone when they took part in a competitive music festival.

Winners at the Ripon Young Musician of the Year Competition, which attracted 48 entrants from throughout the district, included William Bellaries, 16, from Sawley.

He was awarded the prestigious European Piano Teachers’ Association Cup for Piano Performance, covering all sections of the popular competition after impressing judges with his rendition of Debussy’s Reverie.

Now working towards his grade 8 in piano, with a view to taking a diploma, he aims to play in an orchestra professionally one day.

A previous Harrogate Music Festival winner, he was delighted to collect his trophy: “It meant all the time I spent practising was worth it.”

Gerard Tam, 11, from Hong Kong, who also hopes to become a professional pianist, said he was elated to win the overall Year 7 and 8 pianist class.

Winning over the judges with a captivating performance of Debussy’s Clair de Lune, he started playing piano aged three and has already achieved his grade 8.

Pianists Riya Nair and Laurie Roberts secured first position in the ensemble class for Year 4 to 8, with their performance of Leslie Fly’s Frost Fair.

For Laurie, 12, from Bishop Monkton, who has been playing piano since he was seven and has achieved grade 3, this is the third time he has been a winner at the Ripon festival.

Last year, he and Riya won the duet class and the year before he won his solo class: “My piano teacher always enters us into the festivals to give us the chance to perform in front of people, and for fun, so it's always really special to win.”

Riya, 12, from Leeds, who has achieved grade 2 in piano and sings in Ripon Cathedral choir, said she was overjoyed to win again: “I was so glad because we put a lot of effort into it.”

Xander Galloway Gee, 12, from Ripon, excelled in the ‘two skills’ class, winning first place in the up-to-Year 8 section while also being named overall winner in his class.

He sang O For The Wings Of A Dove by Felix Mendelssohn and played Ballade Op. 100 No. 15 by Friedrich Burgmüller on piano.

He began playing piano when he was six years old, at the same time as joining the Ripon Cathedral choir and was accompanied at the competition by the cathedral’s assistant organist.

Having already achieved grade 4 in piano and grade 5 in singing, Xander’s ambition is to win a university music scholarship: "I was shocked to win because the competition was stiff, but it was a great thrill and I really enjoyed it.”

Sisters Francesca and Lily Abrahams, from Laverton, won the duet ensemble for Year 9 to 13, playing The Old Windmill, and were named overall winners of the ensemble section.

Lily, 14, also won the Class 4, section 2, in piano and voice, playing The Juggler on piano and singing a German piece, Hirschlein ging im Wald spazieren.

Currently on grade 5 piano and grade 6 singing, she aims to achieve grade 8 in both: “I was very happy as I won with my sister as well, and we had worked very hard.”

Francesca, 17, has been playing piano since she was eight and is working towards her grade 8, having already achieved grade 8 in singing with distinction.

A finalist in the Harrogate Young Musician of the Year, she hopes to get a choral scholarship to university: “I was so thrilled to win my class in Ripon as this is my final year, so it’s a great way to end. I would definitely encourage people to enter as it is a really positive experience.”

RGS director of music Michael Barker said: “We are so very proud of our talented young musicians, who are superb students. It is a great opportunity to have such a competition on our doorstep. They all have very promising musical futures.”