Singer from Harlem, New York, goes straight to top of UK chart with his debut album.
Noah Stewart’s debut album, Noah, is top of the classical album chart. Photograph: Katherine Rose for the Observer
A tenor singer from Harlem, New York, who used to be a receptionist at the city’s famous Carnegie Hall, has become the first black singer to top the UK classical album chart in its 25-year history, his record company has said.
Noah Stewart, 31, who completed his debut run at London’s Royal Opera House in Judith Weir’s Miss Fortune last week, went straight to the No 1 slot with his debut album Noah.
The 31-year-old, who was supported financially as a young singer by the actor and producer Bill Cosby, said: “I’m very proud to be the first black musician to top the classical charts. It’s both an honour and privilege.”
Legendary singers, including American sopranos Leontyne Price and Jessye Norman – plus Willard White, the Jamaican-born baritone – helped establish black artists in the classical music field.
Martin Talbot, managing director of the Official Charts Company, said there had been no other black artist at No 1 since the classical album chart launched in the late 1980s.
One of the highlights of Stewart’s career so far has been appearing in Mozart’s Requiem at Carnegie Hall where earlier, as a struggling singer working an assortment of jobs, he answered phones on reception.
His musical development began in Harlem, where he studied classical music at the Harlem School of the Arts.
At the age of 12, his choir teacher encouraged him to pursue a music career; he began doing voiceovers for Sesame Street and TV school specials and won first place in the New England music competition in Boston, before gaining a full scholarship to the Juilliard School in New York.