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Yamaha Birmingham Accompanist of the Year finalists announced

UNIVERSITY NEWS LAST UPDATED : 19 OCTOBER 2009

Celebrating its tenth competition, the Yamaha Birmingham Accompanist of the Year Award (YBAYA), jointly run by Yamaha Music UK and Birmingham Conservatoire, recognises the skill of promising young accompanists from around the world. Twenty competitors applied to compete for the 2009 Award, with entries received from Japan, South Africa, the Republic of Korea, Australia, Ireland, Portugal, Sweden, the UK and Iran/Canada (dual national).

Following the Preliminary Round held on 17 & 18 September, the finalists for the 2009 Award have been announced as Nana Hizumi (Japan), Amy de Sybel (UK), Yshani Perinpanayagam (UK) and Jonathan Fisher (UK). The Final Round, taking place on 22 November in the Adrian Boult Hall, will be adjudicated by distinguished UK-based accompanist Roger Vignoles.

Describing the dynamic of duo performance, Roger Vignoles compares the role of the accompanist to that of Ginger Rogers: performing the same dance as Fred Astaire, only ‘backwards and in high heels'. The success of the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing, has given the phrase renewed currency, with dozens of celebrity participants admitting that achieving fluidity, communication, subtlety and style in pairs is rather difficult.

Whether setting a mood, negotiating incredibly difficult pianistic writing, or playing the part of an entire orchestra, the role of the accompanist requires a range of skills and, above all, the ability to communicate with a duo partner at the same time.

Each of the finalists chosen to compete for the title of ‘Accompanist of the Year' and a prize of £1500 has already displayed an ability to work collaboratively with their partners, as well as to play beautifully. The judges for the Preliminary Round were John Humphreys and Simon Nicholls, both of whom teach accompaniment at Birmingham Conservatoire, and pianist Graham Lloyd, Worcester-based pianist, accompanist and teacher.

Already a multiple prize-winner, Jonathan Fisher studied at the University of Huddersfield and the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM). From 2005 to 2007 he held the position of Junior Fellow in Accompaniment at the RNCM, where he now works as a staff pianist. In addition to a busy concert career centred on chamber music and accompaniment, he also works as a pianist at Leeds College of Music.

Amy de Sybel studied as a scholarship student in London, Poland and Oxford. She has given performances throughout London, including at the Wigmore Hall, where she was the winner of the Sir Henry Richardson prize for Accompaniment in 2008. She recently completed her advanced postgraduate studies at the Royal College of Music.

Nana Hizumi studied in Japan and Amsterdam, where she participated in several masterclasses with artists such as Rudolf Jansen, Udo Reinemann and Julius Drake. A former scholarship and prize winner, she now gives more than 40 concerts per year, working primarily as a vocal accompanist in The Netherlands.

Yshani Perinpanayagam undertook her junior and senior studies at the Royal College of Music, including exchange studies in Prague. She has given performances as a soloist, orchestral pianist and chamber musician, including broadcasts for radio and television. She is currently a Master's student at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, supported by the Musicians' Benevolent Fund.

Simon Nicholls said, "The Preliminary Round showed a high standard of achievement in general, but we did not have much difficulty in arriving at a choice of finalists, all of whom show special qualities of communication and empathy. The Final Round should be an exciting occasion, as well as an artistically satisfying one."

Graham Lloyd added, "This flagship competition, supported generously by Yamaha, continues to present the art of accompanying as an important part of musical performance. I thought the standard of this year's YBAYA was extremely high and it was a privilege to listen to young artists committed to music making at this level."

The Final Round of the 2009 Yamaha Birmingham Accompanist of the Year Award is open to the public. The competition begins at 2pm on Sunday 22 November in the Adrian Boult Hall (Birmingham Conservatoire, adjacent to Central Library) and the winner will be announced at the end of the event. Tickets cost £6 (£4 concessions) and are available on the door from 1.30pm.

Added by on October 19, 2009

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