‘Bravo, maestro!’ That is how St Joseph’s College Head of Music, Mr Layton, addressed student James Hodgkinson on informing him he had been awarded a Merit in his ARSM diploma examination for Singing.
At just 13 years of age James triumphed in the professional level examination and now may use the letters ARSM after his name. The Associate of the Royal Schools of Music is a performance-only diploma and an opportunity for candidates to demonstrate performance skills after Grade 8.
James sang a 30-minute programme of eight pieces, including seven by heart, and was assessed on his musical communication skills, interpretation and technical delivery. He was assessed remotely due to the current lockdown.
Said James, ‘I wanted to do the ARSM diploma as a challenge after Grade 8 as it was something that not many people of my age do. I am really pleased with my Merit and am extremely grateful to Mr Layton for helping me prepare and for accompanying me. Thanks also to my singing teacher, Mr Richard Edgar-Wilson.’
‘I tried to keep the programme as diverse as I could. The earliest piece I sang was ‘An Evening Hymn’ by Henry Purcell – composed in 1688 – and the most modern was ‘A Bit of Earth’ from the Broadway musical, The Secret Garden, written in the early 1990s,’ he added.
At the age of six, James won a scholarship to Canterbury Cathedral Choir, which he joined as an 8-year-old. For the following five years he gained an outstanding classical/choral music education.
As a chorister, James sang six days a week in the Cathedral, and even performed in the Vatican. On a two-week American tour, he and his fellow choristers sang at concerts and church services covering from California to New Jersey. He achieved ABRSM Grade 5 theory at the age of 10 and Grade 8 Singing with Distinction when he was 12.
James is always on the look-out for new opportunities. He recently appeared on ITV’s The Voice Kids and was a reserve semi-finalist in the BBC’s Songs of Praise Young Chorister competition. He is in demand in the local community, too, singing at weddings and care homes as well as giving voice to his support for carers during the Clap for Carers initiative.
The Year 9 student at St Joseph’s College aims to become a professional singer but has more than one string to his bow: he is currently working on Grade 7 piano and is also a cellist. Bravo, maestro indeed.
Mrs Clarke, Principal of St Joseph’s College, said James’s achievement was truly outstanding.
‘It has been delightful to see James settle in as a member of our community. His dedication to music and his remarkable singing voice are wonderful assets to the school. His rendition of Pie Jesu for our recent Remembrance Service was shared virtually with students, staff and parents. It also added to the beauty and poignancy of the Remembrance lightshow we hosted,’ she added.