GALLERY: Fenland Has Talent finalists revealed after breathtaking night of auditions

TWELVE acts secured their place in next month’s glitzy Fenland Has Talent final after a breathtaking night of auditions at March Town Hall last Thursday.

Judges spent two hours agonising over which of the 23 acts who performed should make it through to the showcase event at the March Braza on June 9. The emotionally-charged evening was littered with classy and brave performances from talented stars, many of whom shone in front of their proud parents.

Just seven acts failed to turn up for the auditions which gave performers a five-minute chance to impress the judges in the hope of securing a coveted final slot.

The evening kicked-off spectacularly with March-based dance duo ‘Xposed’ booking their place at the Braza with a humorous and up-beat routine to a homemade mix-tape. Lauren Russell and Lauren Kirby, both aged 15, told judges they loved dancing together as they have a similar sense of technique that helps to inspire their work which was clearly evident in their near-perfect routine.

Daniel McAlister, 20, from March was the next act to progress through the audition stage with an electric solo contemporary dance display which included elements of ballet, jazz and modern styles.

The competition then really began to hot up as a plethora of fantastic singers took to the stage. Steph Penman, 15, continued to fly the flag for March as she produced a spine-tingling rendition of Alexandra Burke’s Hallelujah which moved some judges to tears.

With her place in the final almost instantly secured the pressure began to grow on the remaining acts. However, the next three showed incredible composure to book their places in June’s final.

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Chatteris’ singer Michelle Eglen, 28, wowed the panel with her classy performance of Oleta Adams’ Get Here while the adorable Alice Darwood, 13, from March, impressed with her version of Elton John’s Your Song.

Yet, just as the judges thought they’d seen it all, confident Megan Green blew them away with a breathtaking cover of Adele’s Someone Like You. The 13-year-old had travelled from King’s Lynn for the auditions but rightly earned her chance to return to March on June 9 with a stunning display.

Christian Smith soon booked his place in the final by singing John Mayer’s classic Your Body is a Wonderland while playing his guitar in an effortless acoustic display.

The 18-year-old was soon followed into the final by fellow Chatteris’ guitar player Connor Orridge, 14, who shone with a medley of songs which included riffs from Michael Jackson’s Beat It and the theme tune to the Rocky films.

The most unique display of the night belonged to March beatboxer Oliver Griffen who received a standing ovation for his genius display of vocal percussion which really has to be seen to be believed.

The 20-year-old had the panel on their feet and in hysterics as he switched effortlessly through beats including well-known songs such as Salt N Pepa’s Push It and Snoop Dogg’s Drop It Like Its Hot.

Judges had only just returned to their seats when showman Sam Horvath - set to be a real crowd pleaser at the final - produced a stunning display on the drums. The 14-year-old from Gorefield, who performs in a local band called ‘The Wash’, threw in a few tricks during an energetic display which once again had the panel on their feet.

With just two places remaining in the final it was time for the only bands in the audition to showcase their talent after waiting patiently all evening to perform.

Both acts played their own songs to deservedly grabbed their places in the final. Surviving Sunday - made up of Ben Greenwood (drums), Bryan Watson (vocals), Dom Greenwood (guitar and backing vocals), Chris Jacklin (guitar) and Alex Hempsall (bass guitar) - sung Rain to book their slot.

The up-and-coming band, who only formed in January and already perform across Cambridgeshire - had judges comparing them to the Lostprophets and similar praise went to Dave, who booked their slot in the last audition of the night.

The band - still unaware just who entered them into the competition - performed their tune The Man I Am which was enough to see Owen Armstrong (vocals), Aidan Millward (guitar), Kevin Roweth (bass guitar), Craig Brown (drums) and Lee Ireland (guitar) progress.

The talent on display was so exceptional that 2008 Britain Got’s Talent semi-finalist Michael Machell from Merseyside failed to earn his place at the Braza despite his keyboard rendition of Land of Hope and Glory.

March drummer Jack Howe, 12, was one of the unluckiest to miss out after a thrilling rendition of Iron Maiden’s The Trooper in front of his visibly proud mum and dad.

He joined Maddie Forster from Wisbech (electric guitar), Lora Grainger (dancer), 12 from March, singers Grace Selby, 11, from Chatteris, Selina Bower, 11 from March, Holly Orridge, 10 from Chatteris and Jodie Bavister, 11 from Whittlesey in narrowly missing out.

Kira Gibson, 13, who sung Green Day’s Time of Your Life with dad Mark Gibson and family friend Barry Tessaromatis on the guitar, also failed to progress as did Ben McCarthy, 17 from March, who sang Plan B’s She Said.

March-based dancing duo Abigail Wenn and Courtney Burke, both aged 11, also performed excellently but failed to secure one of the 12 final slots.

Cambs Times/Wisbech Standard reporter Gavin Caney joined Andy Hill and Tom Harlock, sound engineers for Fenland Arts, Ellie Savill, a Fenland Arts trustee and lighting specialist, Bondy, a singer/musician and session worker for Fenland Arts and Darren O’Sullivan, Fenland Arts’ artistic director, on the judging panel for the night.

However, the final - set to be hosted by BBC Radio Cambridgeshire star Johnny Dee - will have a completely new judging panel.

John Elworthy, editor of the Cambs Times/Wisbech Standard, last year’s Fenland Has Talent winner Luci Collins, March singing-sensation Aimee Peart-Webb, Isi Clarke of Grange Farm Studio in Emneth, Cambridgeshire theatre legend Michael Burrell, Face of the Fens winner Sara Fontanella and competition sponsor, Danny Boome of Boome Hair and Beauty in Whittlesey, will judge the event which is set to be a thrilling night of Fenland’s finest performing stars.

Katherine Nightingale, arts officer at Fenland Arts, said: “June 9 will not be just some local talent competition.

“The final of Fenland Has Talent will be one of the most amazing nights of entertainment you will ever get in Fenland. Plus it only costs �5 which can’t be bad.

“Every act that auditioned was superb and choosing 12 finalists was extremely tough. However, choosing just one winner on the night will be even more difficult.”

• Tickets are now on sale for the grand final of the competition - which is backed by Fenland Arts and the March Town Summer Festival committee - at a cost of �5. They can be bought from Fenland Arts’ Box Office and also at the Cambs Times/Wisbech Standard’s office in High Street, March.

All money raised from ticket sales will towards Fenland Arts’ Peter Hewitt Fund, named after one of the founder members of the association who died in 2009.

Mr Hewitt was awarded an MBE in 2007 for his services to the community of March and was widely known for his dedicated service to a number of groups throughout the town. Talented acts from Fenland looking to develop themselves can apply for grants to help pay for their training or equipment.

For more information about the fund visit www.fenlandarts.org.uk.

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