In 2020, Nora Barton became the oldest act to ever appear on Britain’s Got Talent. At ninety-six years old, she gave a heart-warming and inspirational performance. Despite having Alzheimer’s disease (a form of dementia) and needing to be helped on the stage by her daughter and presenter Ant Macfarlane, Barton took the occasion in her stride and showed that she still retained her singing talent at this late stage of her life.
Barton was accompanied on piano by her daughter, Pam. Pam responded to questions from Amanda Holden, and explained that her mother had “sung to people all her life, so at ninety-six, this is a treat”. With Barton leaning against the piano for support, Pam began the piano introduction for the traditional song “The Loveliest Night of the Year”. This song was adapted from a Victorian instrumental waltz into a vocal song for the 1950 musical “The Great Caruso”.
After Barton sang her first line, the audience were moved into applause. As she hit the high notes in the middle, Dec Donnelley turned to the camera and remarked, “She’s into it now, eh?” As she reached the song’s high-pitched crescendo, the judges and audience alike stood to show appreciation for what they had just enjoyed. Pam pointed out the standing ovation to her mother, who took in the scene with wonder.
The judges were gushing in their admiration for the veteran singer. “You’re a very special lady. You’ve just entertained the nation,” David Walliams told her. Alesha Dixon commented, “Once a show woman, always a show woman.” Amanda Holden was next, telling Barton that she was emblematic of the “generation this country is built on.” Finally, Cowell gave his verdict. “I didn’t like you much,” he said, pausing for the audience to respond with pantomime booing. Then he added, “I love you.”
Unsurprisingly, she was given a yes from all the judges, booking her place in the next round. Cowell joked that it wasn’t just the four judges who had given her a yes, but also the four thousand watching audience members. She didn’t make it through to the Semi-Finals, but her audition was a brilliant triumph. Barton, from Brighouse in West Yorkshire, passed away in January the following year, aged 97.