Saskia Eng has been crowned the winner of Edinburgh Has Talent 2013 after a thrilling evening at the Festival Theatre.
The 12-year-old – the youngest contestant in the Edinburgh Has Talent final – stole the show and the winner’s crown with a powerful voice well beyond her years.
The ambitious singer from Murrayfield showed off her incredible vocal range with her performance of Tina Turner soul classic River Deep, Mountain High.
The City of Edinburgh music school pupil was only given the nod from the judging panel after one of the closest finishes in the competition’s voting history.
The victory capped off a remarkable three years for the pint-sized talent since she started singing.
She has already performed in front of a 12,000-strong crowd at Tynecastle Stadium and wowed Britain’s Got Talent judge David Hasselhoff in making it to one of the latter stages of the UK-wide competition.
The confident youngster said of her triumph: “Everybody was telling me I could win it, so it just makes me feel proud.
“I’d waited for about two or three years to enter this. It’s not scary because I’ve performed places just as big, if not bigger. But it was a good reaction – people seemed to like it.”
One of the esteemed judges, Boogie from Forth One, said it was the “hardest decision” to make in EHT’s five-year history.
One of the biggest surprises of the night, gymnastics group Astro Eden, finished a narrow second in voting. The group is one of just two clubs in the Lothians to specialise in acrobatic gymnastics and the series of handstands, flips and graceful acrobatics drew unprompted applause and cheers from the thousands in the gallery.
Self-confessed rock chick Cloe Peters, 15, hit some of the night’s biggest notes with her powerful version of Bon Jovi’s rock ballad Blaze of Glory. She finished third.
The unveiling of Edinburgh’s newest music star was a fitting conclusion to a search that had started three months ago. Hundreds of entries had been whittled down to a shortlist of 40 before the public voted to pick out the top ten.
As the winner, Saskia takes home a £1000 prize and the chance to perform at the star-studded Radio Forth Awards at the Usher Hall on Thursday.
In announcing the winner, Evening News deputy editor Euan McGrory said: “Everyone comes here and sees a whole series of acts they expect to blow their socks off and haven’t they done that tonight.”
There were echoes of last year as the Festival Theatre hosted the talent show for the second time. Two finalists – youth troupe Dansation and soloist Shayne Kidd – were also returning for another shot at fame after falling short in 2012.
Head judge and Evening News arts and entertainment editor Liam Rudden made it clear from the show’s early moments that he was looking for confidence from the performers.
He told the crowd: “It’s not every day that you get to appear in a theatre like this to this kind of audience. They’ve just got to grasp it.”
Fellow judges in Boogie, Evening News promotions manager Deborah Welsh and Richie Jeffrey, events manager at Forth One, were also on hand to deliver the verdicts.
The night proved age was no barrier, with the theme of “ordinary people doing extraordinary things” set from the opening numbers.
Members of the Forth Valley Chorus – a group of 100 women from all backgrounds and ages – performed songs from 1980s power ballad Holding out for a Hero to the more modern Katy Perry’s Firework.
The wailing sound of bagpipes played by the Stockbridge Pipe Band then filled the far reaches of the Festival Theatre.
Last year’s winner, Rebecca Traynor rounded out the stirring opening with a powerful rendition of Evermore’s Bring Me To Life.
Brazilian-born Ana Filogonio held nothing back as the first of the finalists to perform. The final’s oldest contestant at the age of 44 gave an operatic rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone from hit musical Carousel with gusto, with her twin eight-year-olds watching on in the audience.
It was a tough act to follow, but teenager Emma Milligan stood out with her distinctive pink and blue ukulele. The fourth-year Holy Rood High student’s rendition of one of Nina Nesbitt’s biggest hits was labelled as “unique” and “quirky” by the judging panel.
Hairdresser Toni Manson, 30, lifted the tempo with an original dance-pop track that had the crowd clapping from the opening moments.
Mother-of-two Elizabeth Currie then overcame her nerves to earn plaudits for taking on an Adele song – a performance delivered just five months after the 27-year-old had given birth to her second child.
Laura Bell-Jack, 15, had travelled further than any other contestant to perform, hailing from Coldstream. Her raw performance with a guitar and her own original song – the first the 15-year-old had ever written – was labelled “courageous”.
Dansation was entering for the third year in a row, with the 11-member group performing carefully choreographed moves to the sounds of singles like Fighter, Eye of the Tiger and Ready to Rumble.
Boyband 911 provided a blast from the past, performing comeback single 2 Hearts 1 Love as the judges deliberated over who was deserving of the winner’s crown.