In her book The Anatomy of Melody, Alice Parker describes a choir festival experience.
“I once (never again) adjudicated at a high school festival where four choruses in sequence sang the same choral work to a group of judges scattered around a darkened auditorium. We were to judge only on the bass of fidelity to the page with no consideration for expressivity or style, no deviation from square pitch and rhythm. The groups that won sounded lifeless and dull, and the one choir that brought vitality and enjoyment to the singing was shot down by everyone except me.” (pp. 160-161)
What do you value in a musical performance? Does your ratings system reflect that value? How can you ensure musical performances with strict adherence to a ratings system?
For me, I seek performances that make me feel – an engaged, passionate performance.
The MSVMA Adjudication Rubric does an excellent job of balancing the many disparate elements of a performance into something that is reflective of a holistic impression.
Without such a carefully considered system, though, we run the risk of valuing mechanism over music. And what we value in the festival/contest room is what we end up teaching in the classroom.
Shortly after the passage above, Alice points out, “We don’t eat the page of the cookbook, and we don’t sing the writing in the songbook.”