Adjudicating “true gift” for Helene and Doug

01 July 2015 / News

For our violinists Helene Pohl and Doug Beilman, June brought some wonderful moments adjudicating for two prestigious music competitions – the 2015 Michael Hill International Violin Competition (Helene) and the 2015 New Zealand Community Trust Chamber Music Contest run by Chamber Music New Zealand (Doug). In these individual accounts, they share the joys and responsibilities of the adjudicator role.

Helene on the Michael Hill International Violin Competition

Am I being compelled to listen?
Is the performance all about the music or is ego creeping in?
Am I hearing the variety in sounds and approaches to phrasing that really bring out the different characters of each of the compositions?
Are they bringing something special, something personal to their interpretation?  Am I hearing the piece in a new way from this performance?
Is the overall sound they are making really connecting to the core of their being and carrying their voice to the audience?
Do I want to hear what this player will do next?
Would I pay money to hear this player?

These were the questions going through my mind as I listened to the 18 fine young virtuosi who had been selected from 158 applicants to compete in this year's Michael Hill International Violin Competition. They were all of an extremely high standard, higher even than two years ago when I was previously on the panel. Thus freed from issues of violin technique, I was able to really think about what attitude and interpretation the players were bringing to the music. It was fascinating and very inspiring - and clearly interesting to a great number of audience members, many of whom listened to three straight days of violin playing in Queenstown. The opportunity to hear so many players allowed them to start to formulate for themselves what they look for in a performance. 

I very much enjoyed meeting my fellow judges as well - players from all different countries, schools of violin playing and from different realms of the music world. Some are primarily soloists, some now mainly teachers, one a concertmaster and two quartet players. The hardest task was not to speak about the performances we had just heard, as we were banned from communicating about the playing in the competition until it was all over, so that nobody could be influenced by anyone else's opinions, and each person's vote would carry the same weight in the secret balloting.

In all aspects, adjudicating at this wonderful competition was a truly inspiring experience and I am glad to have had the opportunity to be involved again this year.

Read more about the Michael Hill International Violin Competition.

Doug on the NZCT Chamber Music Contest

From the outset, the task of listening to and adjudicateing more than 110 local Auckland secondary chamber music groups over five full days was indeed a daunting prospect. Fortunately my partner in this amazing musical marathon, pianist Richard Mapp, had already been through the process several times before, and proved a wise mentor for this incredible journey. Our method involved both of us listening to all the groups, but alternating the writing of reports and the subsequent speaking at the end of each of the 16 preliminary sessions. I was most surprised by how my own sense of interest and astonishment at the level of talent, passion, and dedication continued to grow through the four days of preliminaries. Such a range of musical styles, personalities and abilities were on offer, far exceeding my expectations. 

It was then a somewhat sad reality that we faced the need to make decisions on those making it to the two semi-final sessions Sunday morning, and the awarding of the many special prizes on offer - so many groups that deserved to receive unique praise would in the end only do so through our on-stage comments after each concert. I hope they know how important we believe their activity and hard work actually is! It was an additional pleasure to be able to simply listen in the end to the final eight performances without being distracted by the need for more comment. I certainly felt like I knew and appreciated these young musicians well by the evening's close - the whole experience was a true gift for me, and one I look forward to having again in the future.

Read more about the New Zealand Community Trust Chamber Music Contest

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