Singing contest lets artists be judged by voice alone

Singing contest lets artists be judged by voice alone


norman lebrecht

January 16, 2019

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By Voice Alone are pleased to announce the launch of an innovative new singing competition taking place in London in 2019. ‘By Voice Alone’ offers classical singers the chance to take part in a major competition without the age limits, restrictions and requirements of many other contests, and to be heard by representatives from the Royal Opera House, English National Opera, Welsh National Opera, Scottish Opera and The Grange Festival. In a major step towards tackling unconscious bias in casting, the first round is a blind audition, with no names, CVs or headshots – ensuring all applicants are judged by voice alone. Applications open at the end of January with the first auditions taking place in March and April.

The competition’s primary aims are to discover and support raw talent and to open up the singing profession to artists from as diverse a pool as possible. By beginning the three-stage competition process with a blind audition, By Voice Alone offers an alternative to the more traditional audition and casting processes and removes the typical markers of success that are often used to determine a candidate’s suitability for a position. Consequently, singers are judged not by their CVs, prior experience, age or background – but purely by their vocal ability. Melanie Lodge, the competition’s creator, hopes that this will open up the classical singing profession to those who have found themselves overlooked in the past.

“We hope that By Voice Alone will be the first step towards making a significant and measurable change to the levels of diversity represented on the UK’s concert, oratorio and opera stages. We want to see more BAME artists on stage, more disabled artists on stage, and more artists with a range of backgrounds and training. We feel strongly that achieving this will create a richer artistic offering for audiences, and as young people from diverse backgrounds see something of themselves reflected on stage, we’re confident it will encourage them and their families to engage more with classical music, too.”

The panel for the first round will comprise judges recommended by the UK’s major opera houses and summer festivals, many of whom will attend in person for the second round. Confirmed jurors include David Gowland (Royal Opera House), Michelle Williams (English National Opera), Kathryn Joyce (Welsh National Opera), Sarah-Jane Davies (Scottish Opera) and Scott Cooper (The Grange Festival.)

“What has been overwhelmingly exciting is the willingness of these companies to embrace the ethos behind By Voice Alone,” said Melanie. “Almost all the major houses and summer festivals are keen to be involved, and even those who can’t be there in person at the competition have been incredibly responsive and supportive of our shared aim of widening access to the profession. It’s something that we can all get behind and work together to make happen. We’ve met with a lot of encouragement from companies who are keen to lead change, and who see By Voice Alone as an exciting opportunity to collaborate and disrupt the industry in a really positive way. This is all about finding and nurturing raw talent, and giving singers who might have previously been invisible a platform to showcase their potential in a very real way.”

In addition to the opportunity to be heard by industry professionals, there is a prize fund of £5,000 on offer. This includes two ‘Raw Talent Encouragement Awards’ of £500 each that will be made from the first round, in recognition of two singers with outstanding vocal potential that would benefit from further training. The remaining prizes will be awarded at the competition final on 20th May.


For further information and for branded materials, please contact Melanie Lodge at, or visit the By Voice Alone website at


  • Antonia says:

    Great for the first round! Nothing mentioned regarding how the later rounds are to be conducted. I’m assuming these are not blind auditions. So, adjudicator hias can still appear on the way to the final prize.

    This is definitely progress, but why is it soooooo painfully slow in classical music in terms of how people are treated? Classical music is so incredibly innovative in its compositional freedom and development, yet still we have sexual harassment and biased auditions and competitions. Even a new competition calling itsself “By Voice Alone” appears to not be judged by voice, alone, during the later rounds.

  • Jay says:

    This looks awesome! As someone who didn’t come to classical singing through the traditional routes (I wasn’t rich enough!) and later in life, there’s little chance I’d ever get the chance to sing for the ROH, ENO etc without something like this!

  • Saxon Broken says:

    The downside is that the judges are likely to be overwhelmed with applicants, most of which have no prospect of success. This is, actually, why the opera companies screen the applications – to make the selection process manageable.