Giving the public a glimpse of the jury’s reasoning in music competitions

21st June 2021 | Concerts, Inspirations, Musings | 1 comment

Last week I followed the Cardiff Singer of the World competition on TV with great enjoyment through all the rounds. I was so impressed with these singers who, despite a year of lockdown and no opportunities to sing to live audiences, were able to come out and perform so generously to a hall empty of everyone except the orchestra (behind them) and a three-person jury (out front).

Performing to an empty hall is a feat of imagination. In normal circumstances one gets so much from seeing, hearing or sensing the audience’s response to things as one plays. Their reaction can be very encouraging. Therefore when there are just a few people to sing to, and those few are taking care to betray nothing through their facial expressions, you have to conjure up an invisible audience.

As it happens, I was very happy with the result of the Cardiff competition – having admired South Korean baritone Gihoon Kim since his appearance in Round One.

However, I did regret that we were offered no insight into how the jury had arrived at their decision. These days there are lots of competitions on television – I’m a fan of the Great British BakeOff, the Great Pottery Throw-Down, Masterchef, and the Great British Sewing Bee among others. In all of them, we get to listen in on the judges’ deliberations and the feedback they give directly to competitors. This is a form of educating the public and I find it very helpful.

So to follow a competition where the jury simply gives us a winning name, but no insight into why they chose that person, feels a bit disappointing. We did have expert commentary from various distinguished singers along the way, and a few comments from members of the jury speaking in a personal capacity, but we were not told the basis on which the jury selected the winner of each round, or the overall winner. This would have been particularly interesting in a year when all five finalists were so good. Even though the jury’s decision matched mine, I’d love to have known something (lots of things, actually) about their criteria.

I tend to think that these days it isn’t enough just to announce a winner. It’s also important to make listeners feel informed and included. At the very least, hearing what the jury was looking for and why they preferred X to Y will help people to add more ingredients to their listening, and that can only be a good thing.

1 Comment

  1. Leslie Carrington

    Our thoughts exactly! I agreed with the verdict (although the mezzo from Georgia was outstanding,too) but I would love to know what qualities gave the winner his advantage.

    Perhaps the jury will read your article and take note!


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