Jools Holland Competition Winners, Charlie Cooper and Annaca Espach, perform at the Manchester O2 Apollo

It’s not every day you get chance to play on the same bill as one of your idols, let alone your idol hand-selecting you personally to join the bill at his next sold-out show.

Fortunately for two talented, up and coming musicians, that’s exactly what happened when Jools Holland teamed up with Dawsons Music and Yamaha, to offer them the chance to share the stage with him last weekend.

Charlie Cooper, 28, and Annaca Espach, 24, were chosen by Jools to appear on the bill at his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra show at Manchester’s O2 Apollo on December 7.

The Winners With Jools

Incredible Opportunity

Charlie and Annaca, both solo musicians, had submitted entries to a competition held by Dawsons Music and promoted via its partners Smooth Radio, Liverpool Sound City and Sentric Music.

Entrants were tasked with uploading short videos of them playing an original composition.

Submissions varied from singer/songwriter sets through to expert boogie-woogie demonstrations, all of which were hoping to catch Jools’ eye.

Once all the entries were received, 10 were shortlisted and sent to Jools himself, who selected Charlie and Annaca as his overall winners.

Originally, there was only supposed to be one winner, but the standard was so high even Jools couldn’t choose between them. Instead, he invited both Annaca and Charlie to play their winning entries at the prestigious show.

He said: “All of the entries on the shortlist I received were superb. I would have had them all on stage if I could.

Annaca On Stage

“In the end I chose Charlie and Annaca because I believe they both demonstrated superb talent and excellent musicality. Both have bright futures and hopefully this experience will spur them on to keep doing what they love.

“Their entries, in particular, showed great charm and positivity coupled with that little bit of magic which all good performers have. I’m sure they will both go on to do fantastic things and I wish them every success for the future.”

Both winners performed their original tracks on Jools’ own Yamaha GT7 piano, and enjoyed the full VIP backstage experience, including a meet and greet with the man himself.

Charlie, from Manchester, said: “Just being given the chance to have Jools Holland hear me play one of my songs was an amazing opportunity but sitting at Jools’ piano and playing to a full house at the Manchester O2 Apollo was genuinely a dream come true.

“I loved every second of it and I can’t wait to be up there again, next time hopefully with my own band!”

Annaca, from Tunbridge Wells, added: “”This was the most amazing night of my music career so far.

“Jools Holland is an icon of mine, and to play his actual piano at the Apollo in front of a sold-out audience was incredible and very surreal. A great way to bring an end to 2013!”