Every two years Wales hosts the prestigious BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition, this year being the 32nd year it has been held. The twenty singers who take part are selected from nearly 350 applicants, with auditions held in eight cities around the world. The exception to this rule is for Wales, which as host country has a place for a singer as of right. Céline Forrest from Swansea won the Welsh Singers Competition in 2014, which gave her entry to this year’s Cardiff Singer.
As well as competing on the stage of St David’s Hall for the main prize, singers can in they wish also take part in the parallel Song Prize competition, each giving a 20-minute recital with piano in the Dora Stoutzker Hall of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. From these, five singers are selected to go through to the Song Prize final. On the first day of the competition, Céline stopped by after her recital to talk to Cath Barton about the experience.
Congratulations on your recital Céline.
Thank you. I was pleased with how it went.
How are you finding being with the other contestants?
Well, we’re all staying in the same place. We’re being sensible and resting but a couple of events have forced us to talk with one another! Seriously, it doesn’t feel competitive at all. Everyone encourages everyone else, asks how they’re getting on and so forth.
It must feel good to be welcoming everyone else to your home country, does it?
I feel a huge amount of responsibility about that. In some ways I’m at an advantage – I’ve sung in St David’s Hall before and am used to the cameras. Being the home contestant I get lots of people wanting to talk to me, so I’m busier than some of the others.
I was half expecting that you would include a Welsh song in your recital programme.
Oh, I have. I’ve got a Welsh song if I get through to the final. And it’s one which will definitely stand up with the other songs in my programme.
You did include two Scottish songs today, Ye banks and braes and Ca’ the yowes to the knowes, traditional songs in arrangements by the English composer Roger Quilter. What made you chose those songs?
I’m half-Scottish and I love those songs. I also felt they fitted well in the programme. You need something simple alongside the more “show-offy” songs, to give a contrast and also a rest for the voice.
You’re obviously comfortable singing in different languages. Where does that come from?
My Mum was a French lecturer and speaks several languages and I’ve taken after her. French is my favourite language to sing in – and English is the hardest!
What is your favourite song?
The Debussy (De fleurs from Proses lyriques) which I sang today. I think that’s my absolute favourite.
It must help having your own accompanist (Rebecca Taylor). How long have you worked together?
We were just trying to work this out. It must be four or five years now. It’s so helpful – if something unexpected happens in a performance we can adjust easily because we’re so used to one another.
What are your ambitions as a singer?
I’m in my last year at the Royal Academy and then I’m going to the National Opera Studio for a year, so I’m still training. I definitely want to be an opera singer, but I’ll never give up song. I’ll always keep doing that as well.
Meantime you’ve got a busy week ahead of you in this competition. What’s the best thing about Cardiff Singer of the World 2015 for you?
Oh, the best thing is definitely representing my country!
Thanks for sparing time to chat, Céline, and the best of luck for the rest of the week.
Banner illustration by Dean Lewis.