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Talented musical youth tune up for Emunah's big final

Promising jewish musicians seem to be getting younger and younger.

    Brazilian-born Leon Keuffer
    Brazilian-born Leon Keuffer

    Promising jewish musicians seem to be getting younger and younger. Next weekend's final of the second Emunah Young Musician of the Year competition will feature 10 extremely talented singers and instrumentalists, aged from only 10.

    They will be performing at the Royal Academy of Music, to support the newly-established Lord and Lady Sacks music therapy programme at Emunah centres in Israel, which use music to treat emotionally disturbed children.

    Event chairman Michelle Hirschfield says the competition is "an opportunity to showcase the wonderful talent in our community and give young people a chance to perform to a large audience. Secondly, and importantly, it enables us to raise funds to help children who have had the most tragic lives, and give them the care they desperately need."

    Judges Malcolm Singer, Teresa Cahill and Norma Fisher will be looking for technique and an engaging performance from the finalists.

    Ten-year-old oboist Toby King-Cline, from Ealing, is this year's youngest finalist. Having played oboe for three years, he achieved a distinction at grade seven in December. "Performing makes me feel amazing. I love doing it. I like playing classical music because I can put my own expression into it," he says.

    Nathan Dean, dedicated to practice
    Nathan Dean, dedicated to practice

    Toby, a pupil at Durston House school, impressed the judges in the heats with a performance of Schumann's Romance No. 3, coming runner-up in the woodwind and brass section to saxophonist Daniel Hilton, 14, who will also be competing in the final. Daniel, who attends Highgate School, says: "I've been playing saxophone since I was about nine or 10 and I'm taking my grade seven exam this term. I also play the cello."

    Another of the younger competitors is 11-year-old singer Brady Isaacs Pearce, from Bushey. "I've been singing for seven years and have been in shows like Annie and Peter Pan with my theatre group," she says. The Immanuel College music scholar recently performed in the 25th anniversary tour of Les Misérables in Paris. "I enjoy musical theatre because you are able to transform into the character you're playing and feel different emotions," she adds.

    Twelve-year-old cellist Annoushka Sharp, from Golders Green, was runner-up in last year's Emunah competition. A music scholar at North London Collegiate School, she practises both before and after school, and composes her own melodies. "My experience is that performing creates an unusual mix of nervousness and excitement," she says. "As I play, I can feel the vibes coming back from the audience that culminate in the applause at the end. Nothing beats that!"

    Travelling furthest to compete in the final is 14-year-old pianist Annabel Lawrence, from Harrogate. The Cheltenham Ladies College pupil, who won a music scholarship to the school, says: "I have always known that I want music to be a huge part of my life."

    Violinist Leon Keuffer, 17, will also travel to the competition, from Salford, although originally he came from much further away. Born in Brazil, he settled in Britain to study violin at Manchester's Chetham School of Music. He says: "This is my first time in the competition and I'll be very happy if I win."

    Thirteen-year-old James Harvey, from Bushey, has been singing since the age of eight and has a music scholarship at Aldenham School. A runner-up in last year's competition, James has ambitions to be a West End soloist. "When I first performed in front of people I was nervous, but now I've overcome that and just really want to sing my best at all times," he says.

    Pianist Nathan Dean, 14, from Borehamwood, impressed at the heats with his performance of a work by Chopin. The Yavneh College pupil practises for several hours a day. "My teacher says: 'A good pianist practises until he gets it right. A great pianist practices until he can't get it wrong'."

    The eldest finalists are 18-year-old singers Louis Patterson and Jonathan Garcia, who both attend University College School. For baritone Jonathan, this will be his first competition. "I particularly love the drama and excitement of opera and the way in which singers communicate with me," he says.

    Louis was described by the judges in the heats as having "a very big voice". Would he like to go professional? "It's currently under debate," he says.

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