Blind couple’s awe-inspiring ‘Climb Ev’ry Mountain’ moves Britain’s Got Talent judge to tears

13 May 2024, 13:31 | Updated: 17 May 2024, 17:24

Operatic singer shows off stunning vocal range on BGT

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s timeless musical ‘The Sound of Music’ continues to move audiences 65 years on, in an emotional moment on Britain’s Got Talent.

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Singers from Shirley Bassey and Barbra Streisand to opera star Joyce DiDonato have taken on the great soprano ballad ‘Climb Ev’ry Mountain’ from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1959 musical The Sound of Music.

Often sung by operatically trained voices, it represents a daunting sing for many actresses. Rodgers’ key change into the final verse takes the singer up to an A flat in the original musical – for the film adaptation, the song was lowered by a whole tone.

But a new contestant on Britain’s Got Talent dared to take it on in the original key, and stunned TV audiences on Saturday night.

Blind soprano Denise Leigh, auditioning alongside her pianist husband Stefan Andrusyschyn who is also visually impaired, brought judge Bruno Tonioli to tears with her rendition of the great musical anthem.

A song of inspiration and encouragement, it is sung in the musical at the end of the first act by Mother Abbess, a mentor to Maria, at the monastery. Maria, who became a governess while deciding whether to become a nun, is looking for her spiritual path.

Sister Gregory, the song’s original muse, sent letters to Hammerstein and Mary Martin, the first actress to play Maria von Trapp on Broadway, comparing the similarities between a nun’s choice for a sacred life, and the choices humans make to find purpose in life.

Read more: ‘The best opera singer we’ve ever had’ – Innocent Masuku astonishes BGT judges

Blind couple Stefan and Denise impress with Sound of Music song on Britain’s Got Talent
Blind couple Stefan and Denise impress with Sound of Music song on Britain’s Got Talent. Picture: ITV/Britain’s Got Talent

Before their performance, Stefan told the judges how he met Denise 18 years ago. “We’re both involved with an awards ceremony and Denise was presenting, and I was the guy playing piano for two hours while everyone else has a three-course meal,” he recalled.

Denise added: “But we met on the tube train going there, and I didn’t realise he was the bloke who was playing for me that evening – and he leaned over and asked me for the time.

“What are the chances of a blind man asking a blind woman on a train for the time?!” she laughed.

As Denise reached the great, climactic A flat at the end of the song, judge Bruno Tonioli was overcome with emotion by the couple’s performance and led a standing ovation – followed by the other three judges, and the full audience.

“Go on mum!” one of Denise’s children shouted from the crowd.

Singer and pianist duo perform Sound of Music classic on BGT

The couple’s young son Dmitri, watching from backstage, was told by presenter Declan Donnelly, “Every single person in the theatre is on their feet!”, before he brought his parents’ guide dog out on stage to help them into the wings.

“I’m a mess, this show is killing me,” Tonioli added. “I can’t bear it.”

After the applause had died down, judge Simon Cowell added: “We always say this – without people like you, this show is nothing. And it’s true.

“I’m so happy that you made the decision to come on our show. I think you’re both amazing people – your whole attitude is actually quite unbelievable.”

Alesha Dixon described Denise’s vocal as “faultless”, before Tonioli added: “I am inspired by you.

“I have learned something today about your positive state of mind and the ability to have a sense of humour about yourself. We all need to know that – you are an example.”

Hats off to Stefan and Denise for giving a masterclass in stage presence and musicianship.