Mezzo-soprano Debbie Gooding first competed in the Guild in a junior singing class with the song Dreams in 1993.

Now, 20 years later, watched by husband Matt, her parents and close friends, she has achieved her dream of winning the Manx Music Festival’s top prize after winning the competition’s top solo singing prize, the Cleveland Medal.

It came shortly after she was presented with The Billown Rose Bowl, with Neil Taverner as the winners of the vocal duet final.

Debbie, from Douglas, told Island Life: ‘It is a bit surreal. As a long time lover of the Guild, the Cleveland Medal has always been that dream to win especially as a singer who sings in a classical style.

‘I am quite honoured especially given that this year is the 100th year and it was an extremely strong final.’

It was Debbie’s fourth time competing in the Cleveland Medal Test - she first made it through in 2016, followed by 2018 and 2022.

Debbie was up against baritones Neil Taverner and Matthew Quinn, bass singer Graham Crowe and sopranos Karen Elliott and Ruth Tickle.

‘All the performers are very talented singers, including my duet partner Neil Taverner,’ Debbie said.

‘We went from singing together half an hour before to competing against each other for the medal.’

She said there was a lovely the atmosphere in the Villa Marina’s Royal Hall and that it felt very special: ‘The audience was filled with people who I’ve known for a long time, some of whom have watched me sing as a little girl including Kath Cooil.’

Debbie started singing as a young child while having piano lessons with Kath. ‘I sang because I didn’t want to play piano,’ she said.

At primary school, she was taught by Enid Kellett specifically for the Guild and she later joined school choirs.

She said she only properly started singing at 17 when studying A level music.

‘I had to perform a recital and chose to sing Handel Arias with Enid’s help,’ she said. ‘It reignited my singing passion and I started to sing more.’

Debbie sang in the solo classes at the Guild until about the age of 14, when she had a break until she was 18.

‘Whilst at Arbory I also sang in the school choir which was entered every year by Mrs Kellett who carried on being my singing teacher until I was in my 20s,’ she said.

‘Although I’ve predominantly sung in the Guild, I’ve also competed in drama - spoken word, character study and duologue - instrument classes playing clarinet and as a member of Rushen Silver Band.’

Debbie, who works for corporate service provider Affinity Group, has sung in many churches around the island and concerts for the summer season as well as with choirs and ensembles.

‘I also love performing on stage and have been lucky to perform with most of the island’s musical theatre companies in various productions, the favourite definitely being Phantom of the Opera with Taylorian,’ she said.

‘Although I had a break from regular lessons, I’ve been working with Mandy Griffin for a few years now and she is still my first point of call for repertoire advice.’

Meanwhile, Penny Lavery was the overall winner of the junior singing solo classes, earning the Sheffield Plate.

• A Post Guild Concert takes place at St John’s Methodist Church Hall on Wednesday, May 17 at 7.30pm.

Compere for the evening is Judith Ley and Gareth Moore is the accompanist. Admission is £8 on the door, which includes a country supper.