A sucker for talent

I'm one of these guys who can sit at my computer and spend an hour or two watching YouTube videos of first auditions from shows like American (and Canadian) Idol, America's Got Talent and the like.  But, my favourite talent show, by far, is Britain's Got Talent.  There is something about the people, the complement of judges, and even the two fellows who engage with the talent backstage that make it completely endearing.

Whether it was the seminal Sarah Boyle audition when she sang "I Dreamed a Dream", or the amazing coming out performance of Paul Potts, at some point I discovered these video gems and in some cases have watched them over and over again.  I discovered a new one last night that took my breath away.

Her name is Alice Fredenham, a 28 year old from Hartfordshire, England.  A "beauty therapist", she attended one of the auditions of Britain's Got Talent, not bothering to tell anyone because, as she said, "I'd rather go it alone, and then  if I'm not successful I don't have to admit that to anyone."

The pause in the moment following this comment, while likely placed by the savvy editors, gives the audience just the right amount of time to fill in the vacuum with their own thoughts about what is driving this lovely lady's incredible stage fright and lack of confidence.

We love the underdog, the sheepish, unpretentious, uncertain, frumpy and unfettered.  And while we all giggled to ourselves with Sarah Boyle's snarky retort to Simon before she started to sing, the moment she opened her mouth, we became instant converts.  Alice Fredenham was a contestant of a different flavour.

A visible lack of confidence, anxiety oozing from every pore, she crawls into "My Funny Valentine" and begins her torturously beautiful seduction.  Stretching the notes, belting out the emotion behind the words, and creating an interpretation completely unique and riveting, she inspired three words from me that were quickly repeated by Simon Cowell;  "Oh. My. God!"

"You have a voice like liquid gold," he declared.  "You could sing the phone book."

The look on Simon's face said it all.  He was floored and having difficulty processing the incredible  performance he had just witnessed. It was a look I have never seen before in watching countless clips from the show.

I sincerely hope that Alice Fredenham has not gone through the hurt, heartache and depth of emotion that the richness and authenticity of her performance suggests.  Though I suspect there is an undercurrent of personal circumstances that fuelled that amazing communication through song.

"That was the most mesmerizing, sultry, sexy, performance," said Amanda, one of my favourite judges on the show.

On one hand, she communicated the road-less-traveled, hard-knock-life of a Billy Holiday, with the tonal beauty and range of an Ella Fitzgerald, peppered with an inventiveness of Canada's own Holly Cole.  That said, she is in a class by herself, if it's conceivable to even suggest that.  I was floored.  I'm still floored, having watched it multiple times.

I don't know how this Cinderella story plays out.  I've chosen to bask in the glow of the first audition for a little bit before jumping forward to find out how far she advanced.  I prefer to listen to some of the most amazing vocal jazz phrasing I have ever heard, letting it wash over me for what it is: an absolute wonder.


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