Teen sings her heart out at Norfolk talent contest

Maria Willis and Amy Morris (centre) with some of the contestants and Judges. Photo: Maurice Gray.

Maria Willis and Amy Morris (centre) with some of the contestants and Judges. Photo: Maurice Gray. - Credit: Maurice Gray.

A teenager from Wroxham has beaten off competition from over 120 singers from all across Norfolk to win a county-wide talent competition.

Maria Willis, 19, was one of 12 performers to make it to the Grand Final of 'Sing Your Heart Out Norfolk 2016', which took place at The Space in Norwich last weekend.

She won a cash prize of £2,000 together with an opportunity to produce a CD and headline their own show after being judged winner on the night.

Maria said: 'I was so surprised and I did not think I would win. I had the most wonderful time performing and watching the other contestants. It was a pleasure to be part of the entire experience and I can't wait to start working on the recording.'

The atmosphere was electric during the three hour event with a 'full house' of supporters and families, compered by Gary Winter and judged by Steve Bradley (Former Breakfast DJ on Radio Norwich 99.9), Matt Hall (Head of Music at Stalham High School), Judi Ingram (Leader of local Drams Groups), and Simon Brown (Jazz innovator and pianist). Each contestant performed two favourite songs each prompting audience reactions with loud applause standing ovations and screams of encouragement.

Other finalists included: Amy Morris, Craig Blyth, Emma Nuule, Gelo & Ryan, Georgia & Maddi Dawson, Jade Grand, Jess Fleur, Kayleigh Gare, Perry Cooke, Rianne Collins and Simon Lawlor.

The time came when the judges retired to a 'store cupboard 'to decide who the outright winner could be, during which a surprise guest, from the BBC's 'The Voice', contender Bradley Waterman, entertained the anxious audience who were awaiting the judges, who later returned to the theatre stage in readiness to announce their verdict.

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The competition featured eleven heats, plus three semi-finals held at Sheringham, Ludham, Thetford, Kings Lynn and Gorleston and judged by an experienced team.

The organisers Gary Winter and Becky Ingham, who are Directors of Allseason Productions, found the response 'to be an eye-opener', due to no auditions or fee to enter policy, which became popular among Norfolk's many would-be stars. Mr Winter added: 'We didn't expect such a great response and the public have really taken to it as a great community event.'

The competition which is to be held annually is open to anyone over 12 years old and many young teenagers have taken part, and, two were finalists, at just 13 and 14 years of age.

Miss Willis, who works at Bewilderwood as a 'Twiggle' said she was starting a Foundation Course in 'Vocal Studies' at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, in September, and the prize money is a fantastic start to the fundraising as well as organising two charity events for 'Norwich Mind' and her local church.

Over the years, Maria has performed as both a soloist and a chorister. Being a member of the Broadland Youth Choir gave her the opportunity to perform in the national tours. She has a keen interest in musicals and has taken part in a few local productions; her most challenging role to date would have to be 'Carlotta' from 'The Phantom of the Opera', which she performed with the Norfolk Youth Music Theatre.