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Singing competitions

Northerner 10 Oct 11 - 07:14 AM
Bainbo 10 Oct 11 - 07:20 AM
Jim Carroll 10 Oct 11 - 07:35 AM
Bernard 10 Oct 11 - 08:23 AM
breezy 10 Oct 11 - 09:18 AM
breezy 10 Oct 11 - 09:20 AM
Paul Davenport 10 Oct 11 - 09:28 AM
Northerner 10 Oct 11 - 10:43 AM
GUEST,SteveT 10 Oct 11 - 11:04 AM
Paul Davenport 10 Oct 11 - 01:17 PM
GUEST,SteveG 10 Oct 11 - 04:33 PM
Northerner 13 Oct 11 - 11:53 AM
r.padgett 13 Oct 11 - 01:12 PM
Desert Dancer 13 Oct 11 - 11:45 PM
JennieG 14 Oct 11 - 01:40 AM
nutty 14 Oct 11 - 05:30 AM
foggers 14 Oct 11 - 05:45 AM
Northerner 14 Oct 11 - 07:07 AM
JHW 14 Oct 11 - 07:55 AM
GUEST,Jenny 14 Oct 11 - 01:02 PM
The Sandman 14 Oct 11 - 02:53 PM
Jim Carroll 14 Oct 11 - 03:57 PM
Sandy Mc Lean 14 Oct 11 - 11:29 PM
GUEST,999 14 Oct 11 - 11:33 PM
Sandy Mc Lean 15 Oct 11 - 12:06 AM
The Sandman 15 Oct 11 - 01:58 PM
Jim Carroll 15 Oct 11 - 02:53 PM
Desert Dancer 15 Oct 11 - 03:15 PM
GUEST,SteveG 15 Oct 11 - 03:25 PM
Sandy Mc Lean 15 Oct 11 - 04:37 PM
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Subject: Singing competitions
From: Northerner
Date: 10 Oct 11 - 07:14 AM

I wondered how many singing competitions there were, and where and when. I entered Saltburn's one a few years ago but was too nervous and forgot the words of one song. So this autumn I am busy looking through my songs for a couple more and will try again next year - with plenty of time to sing them in my local folk clubs and be confident with them.   Traditional, unaccompanied.


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Subject: RE: Singing competitions
From: Bainbo
Date: 10 Oct 11 - 07:20 AM

Did you see this thread about an online singing competition? Scroll down to the bottom, and you'll see the closing date for this year's event is October 31.


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Subject: RE: Singing competitions
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 10 Oct 11 - 07:35 AM

Singing/music competitions have driven more people away from the music than they have ever attracted - they are for WINNERS, and in order to WIN you need to conform to the tastes and interpretations of others.
I suggest you look at the Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann guide for competing singers/musicians for a perfect example of "singing by numbers".
I would think your experience at Saltburn is rather typical of everything that can go wrong with singing to win prizes
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Singing competitions
From: Bernard
Date: 10 Oct 11 - 08:23 AM

Singing in front of an audience is an attitude of mind. Anything and everything can conspire to distract you from your purpose.

Someone once said 'Don't practice until you get it right, practice until you cannot get it wrong!'... so true.

Competition in any field attracts competetive people, and it also draws in those who are not so competetive but are prepared to have a go.

Someone (else?!) once said 'It's not the winning, but the taking part that matters!'... rubbish! Very few people leave a competition thinking 'I didn't win, but at least I had a go!' - they may say that, but it's bravado... inside, they're gutted. They wanted to win, and wouldn't have taken part if they didn't think they could.

Okay, a sweeping generalisation, but reasonably valid I think!


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Subject: RE: Singing competitions
From: breezy
Date: 10 Oct 11 - 09:18 AM

Competitive singing helps one's self discipline and gives one confidence

It has set standards to aim aim for.

Confidence can be tested, but isn't that what builds character?

I'ld always rather pay and see something of a good standard than of no standard and I wouldnt wish to be embarrassed by taking a friend to see a sub standard performance.


So if you are gearing yourelf to perform , then be well prepared and get it on autopilot then think about delivery, interpretation and expression.

if you sing from a word sheet then you are not ready tp perform


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Subject: RE: Singing competitions
From: breezy
Date: 10 Oct 11 - 09:20 AM

'to' perform

apologies for not proof reading


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Subject: RE: Singing competitions
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 10 Oct 11 - 09:28 AM

As one of the judges in this years 'Fred Jordan Memorial Singing Competition' at Bromyard FF I have to say that the thirteen entrants were all of a very high quality and the result would have taken a great deal of heart searching had it not been for a stunning performance by the eventual winner. This was by no means a 'singing by numbers' situation. In fact it was a performance that defied any pre-set criteria simply by the effect it had on the audience.
This particular competition is not about 'delivery, interpretation and expression' but rather about an intrinsic understanding of what the song means and what is meant by 'traditional' singing. Talking to the contestants afterwards it was clear that it was very much a case of 'its the taking part' and they were anxious to seek criticism and to move their singing forward.


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Subject: RE: Singing competitions
From: Northerner
Date: 10 Oct 11 - 10:43 AM

Hello all and thank you! I found your comments most interesting!

Bainbo, I don't think the online competition is for me, but will consider it next year if it is run again. To be honest, I think I would prefer a real audience to interact with.

Hello Paul! I don't think you will remember me. I was a storyteller at one of the same concerts as you at Whitby Folk Week 2008. It was one of Taffy Thomas's evenings, at the Yacht Club I think. I have just been listening to your Songbook CD. I really like the song with the crows in it, and sowing the seeds. What a great song! I see it's contemporary (having checked the Internet and found the writer and the lyrics for it). I hope you won't mind me having a go at that song, but not for the competition.

I found entering the Saltburn competition a few years ago really helpful (in spite of making my worst ever performance of one song). It got people talking to me and noticing me and generally broke the ice for me. And that can't be bad!! I wasn't able to enter the competition for the three years after that as Johnny Taylor gave me bookings as a storyteller for those three years. Last year my storytelling venue had been compromised by the government spending cuts (the tourist information centre had been moved into the library, restricting the performance space available) but I had really left it too late to take my songs to the standard I was looking for so I didn't enter the competition.

Anyway I thought I'd try again in 2012. To help me fight off nerves I thought I'd start off really early so the words would be embedded in me. I don't actually mind using the words for the first couple of timess, at singaround sessions, when I concentrate on the melody. I find it generally takes several live performances of a song before it becomes part of me. I have been researching for good songs and have found two that I really love and want to own.

I have been very busy for the past few years, firstly trying to bringing my storytelling up to a professional standard, then secondly learning to be a writer. I did an MA in Creative Writing at Teesside University. I'm now just starting to get my poetry published, and am getting very good feedback, so am tickled pink.

It's meant that my singing has basically just been ticking over. So now I'm catching up with it again. With the help of a large pile of CDs and the Internet I've been listening to loads of songs. And I've found some that really excite me! So if the desire to enter the competition again motivates me to put more work into my singing again then that is excellent.

When I start to learn a song I want to be sure of its melody and words, so it is part of me. More than that, I want to be inside the skin of the song. When it is at its best there are times when I connect so strongly with a song that it makes me go all goose-bumpy when I sing it. And that's what I am looking for in practising my songs - those wonderful gooose-bumpy moments.

I found your feedback so very interesting. Thank you!!!


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Subject: RE: Singing competitions
From: GUEST,SteveT
Date: 10 Oct 11 - 11:04 AM

"I have been researching for good songs and have found two that I really love and want to own."

Perhaps it's just me but I've always felt that it was the song that owned me, not the other way around. (And perhaps that's why I'd never enter a singing competition.)

Still everyone to his/her own.


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Subject: RE: Singing competitions
From: Paul Davenport
Date: 10 Oct 11 - 01:17 PM

Agreed Steve. I don't mind being there but I sure as hell wouldn't take part in one.
Northerner, the song was by Mike Barber (Damien's Dad) Glad to hear that you're using the CD as it was intended. Excellent!


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Subject: RE: Singing competitions
From: GUEST,SteveG
Date: 10 Oct 11 - 04:33 PM

Hi Paul and Jim
Love 'em or hate 'em, they are of course traditional.
FWIW Surely it's just horses for courses. Those who want to, get on with it; those who don't, keep away. Problem solved.


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Subject: RE: Singing competitions
From: Northerner
Date: 13 Oct 11 - 11:53 AM

Thank you all, and thank you Paul for the information on the song. I wonder if I like competitions? I entered a competition just yesterday, this time to promote my new storytelling business. I am currently on benefits but want to get off them, so am heading (hopefully) for the New Entreprise Scheme. Starting a storytelling business. The Entreprise Club I go to got some of us to enter into a competition that gives help to new businesses. Called Strictly Come Business. Had my turn in front of the Dragons yesterday; now I have to wait a month while the other heats go through to find out how I've done. Told the Dragons about storytelling, how I got into it, what I want to do, and showed them some testimonial letters from a school I did a volunteer session in. I like having a go at things...


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Subject: RE: Singing competitions
From: r.padgett
Date: 13 Oct 11 - 01:12 PM

As a colleague and friend of Paul and Liz, via Yorkshire Garland and also long time organiser of the other Fred Jordan Competition at Saltburn ff and who knows Northerner too!

I agree with a lot of what has been said here!

There can only ever be one winner (depending on the rules!) and it is vital that all entrants enter in the spirit intended

I organise but wont judge!

competitions of this sort do tend to raise the standard in my view and give people the jitters

Some really great performances from people, but they should not necessarily view it as a stepping stone, rather an accomplishment!

Ray


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Subject: RE: Singing competitions
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 13 Oct 11 - 11:45 PM

Recently I was debating whether to enter a singing competition at a "fiddler's convention" (and if so, wondering what to sing). I thought about opening a thread here, but in looking up past comments on singing competitions found them overwhelmingly negative, so I didn't bother to do so.

I had watched some of the competition the year before and saw that the audience was appreciative, and the performers were diverse. My sense is that the competitions at this festival on the California coast are pretty casual, relative to some others out there.

I am a middle-aged, amateur singer with no aspirations to fame and fortune in the field. a) Having some urge to perform (and having done a little bit here and there), b) having minimal access (mostly due to schedule issues) to open mics, folk clubs, etc., c) knowing I'd be at the festival anyway, and d) wishing for some incentive to get singing, because I have not been doing it much for a long time, I decided to go for it. (Also, entries were on-site, not in advance, so I knew I could back out at the last minute!)

My aim was to pull off a creditable performance and maybe get some feedback from the judges (as well as fulfilling the above). I entered myself as being at the "intermediate" level. I sang an unaccompanied song, one that I've sung a lot for myself, but never really performed for others. I was much more nervous as I sang than I had hoped to be, partly because there were some really good young performers before me. I left the stage thinking, "oh, well, that was an interesting exercise, time for a beer and to find friends to jam with!"

At the end of the festival as we prepared to go, I realized they were announcing the results. We ran into a friend who was surprised that the judges had bumped his performance on mandolin from the intermediate to advanced category and given him first place. We had missed all but the last announcements (fiddlers being saved for last), so I went to the judges table to see if there was some feedback. They said, "Did you pick up your prize?" I'd won first place in my category!

I have to say, I have no idea how many other contestants there were in that category, so I'm not sure what that outcome means, but it was a nice end to the day. I went in with no investment in winning, but came out with a certificate and a check, and also a new connection with someone else in the community (one of the judges) who is into old songs.

~ Becky in Tucson, USA


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Subject: RE: Singing competitions
From: JennieG
Date: 14 Oct 11 - 01:40 AM

Congratulations, Becky! Good on you.

While I'm not into competitive singing (or competitive anything, come to that....it's a long story) last year one of my choirs sang in two sections at our local Eisteddfod, and we won both sections. While I was pleased for the choir, I'm not sure what it means for us in the future - do we keep entering, do we enter just because we think we can win, or because we want to beat a choir which may have come near to beating us last time? I suppose I'll find out next year.

Cheers
JennieG


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Subject: RE: Singing competitions
From: nutty
Date: 14 Oct 11 - 05:30 AM

The secret with song competitions is to enjoy them - don't take them too seriously - but use them as an opportunity to sing songs that you really enjoy singing.

Never enter them with the intention of winning then if you don't you won't be disappointed and if you do, it will be a huge bonus.

Who wins and who loses depends on the personal opinions and preferences of the judges, of that particular competition, on that particular day.


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Subject: RE: Singing competitions
From: foggers
Date: 14 Oct 11 - 05:45 AM

Hmmm speaking purely from personal experience my competitive streak gets too big for its boots when I have entered competitions in the past; I end up not enjoying it and it has detracted from my pleasure in whatever festival event. So for these reasons I have now chosen to stay out of competitions.


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Subject: RE: Singing competitions
From: Northerner
Date: 14 Oct 11 - 07:07 AM

Thank you all for your very itneresting comments. I have really enjoyed reading them. Don't have much more to add, except, to say, Backy!   Congratulations! What a lovely day you must have had!


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Subject: RE: Singing competitions
From: JHW
Date: 14 Oct 11 - 07:55 AM

The song should be sung for its own sake


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Subject: RE: Singing competitions
From: GUEST,Jenny
Date: 14 Oct 11 - 01:02 PM

Singing's for enjoyment and sharing - it's not a competition;


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Subject: RE: Singing competitions
From: The Sandman
Date: 14 Oct 11 - 02:53 PM

NO COMMENT


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Subject: RE: Singing competitions
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 14 Oct 11 - 03:57 PM

There is a story I have heard, but can't remember the details of (should be easily verifyable unless the Society has destroyed all the evidence out of shame), of a singing competition being held at Cecil Sharp House some time in the 50s when a number of elderly traditional singers were encouraged to compete against several young revival singers - the old boys were completely humiliated.
The person who told me the story was still incandescent with rage at the events - forty-odd years later - surely one of the most shameful events to have been organised by EFDSS.
A similar thing happened at Battersea Town Hall in the 1980s when a traditional instrumental competition was held.
Finding themselves short of competitors, the organisers persuaded a number of elderly musicians to go up against the cream of London's virtuoso plyers - the result - again, humiliation, plus a rather unpleasant confrontation between one of the 'failed' competitors and a judge.
Nobody here as come up with anywhere near a convincing argument for competitions for song and music.
I would guess that octogenarians Sam Larner and Phil Tanner would come off extremely badly against say a twenty or thirty year old with full use of his or her vocal equipment.
Irish music suffered great losses when the competition ethic was the only game in town - I am thankful that is no longer the case and we have thousands of young musicians over here flocking to the music purely for the love of it - to hell with the 'glittering prizes'.
Music is for enjoyment - competitions are for egotists.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Singing competitions
From: Sandy Mc Lean
Date: 14 Oct 11 - 11:29 PM

To me music, song, and dance is something that should not be a competitive sport, but something to be enjoyed by the performer and the audience . Judges must either demand conformity to a very narrow standard or base their decision on pure subjectivity. I can not comprehend why anyone would subject themselves to being judged by either process!
Sing for the sheer joy of it and let the judges kiss your #@$&!


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Subject: RE: Singing competitions
From: GUEST,999
Date: 14 Oct 11 - 11:33 PM

Hasn't been said better, me son.


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Subject: RE: Singing competitions
From: Sandy Mc Lean
Date: 15 Oct 11 - 12:06 AM

But then again Bruce, I have always been a bit of a non-conformist rebel. Whatever talent or lack of it I have I don't rely on for buying the groceries, but only for enjoyment and fun. The Grand Ole Opry has never called but this weekend alone I will play at four concerts, benefits and open mikes. People seem to like what I do but I play to the grey haired set ( I used to be grey until it all fell out) that can't stand the shit on todays radio or TV. I suppose that it's easy to sit in my ivory tower but the seat fits my arse quite well. I never could aspire to your degree of fame but at the same time feel honoured to call you a friend!


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Subject: RE: Singing competitions
From: The Sandman
Date: 15 Oct 11 - 01:58 PM

ok, I am now ready to comment.
to some extent i agree with jim,the Comhaltas competitions which are mainly aimed at chidren are a double edged sword, they do some good, but they also do some harm, they[through the marking system]encourage a standardisation of the music and an over emphasis on ornamentation, they also encourage a competitive attitude amongst musicians, giving some musicians[mistakenly] an attitude that they are better than others.
the singing competition at Saltburn festival is however a bit different from the comhaltas comnpetitions, it is aimed exclusively at adults,   
most adults are mature enough to realise that it is a lottery that there may be a few performers who are equally good and that the final decision, could be down to luck or any other subjective whim of the judge.
if the competitors treat it as a mini concert, and dont take the result take too seriously, it just becomes a different way of presenting a concert for performers who would not otherwise have had the opportunity to perform in a formal situation, that can be a useful experience.
the comhaltas singing competitions are riddled with absurd rules[ no songs that are translations from the English language, no songs in harmony, ETC ETC


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Subject: RE: Singing competitions
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 15 Oct 11 - 02:53 PM

Sorry Dick, Sandy McLean said everything that needs to be said far better than I (or anyone else, I suspect) could.
Comhaltas is living proof (if that's the right description for, as Breandan Breathnach once described it, "An organisation with a wonderful future behind it), of the damage the competition ethic can do to the music.
I saw literally hundreds of youngsters abandon the music in the UK because they got sucked into the competition thing and didn't win anything.
It can never be about winning, especially for youngsters who are self concious enough already without being told that what they are doing isn't good enough.
When the Willie Clancy Summer School was established at the beginning of the 70s there was pressure from CCE to base it on competitions; the organisers resisted and went oun without their support.
The CCE branch here has just stumbled back into life after 20 years absence - this year the WCSS catered for all traditional instruments to capacity attendance, and next year will be holding its fortieth annual school.
Speaks for itself really   
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Singing competitions
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 15 Oct 11 - 03:15 PM

But it's traditional (or old-fashioned, at least) -- Virginia Gazette of November 26, 1736:

We hear from Hanover County, that on Tuesday next, (being St. Andrews Day), some merry-dispos'd Gentlemen of the said County, design to celebrate that Festival, by setting up divers Prizes to be contended for in the following Manner, (to wit) A neat Hunting Saddle, with a fine broadcloth Housing, fring'd and flowr'd &c. to be run for (the Quarter,) by any Number of Horses and Mares: A fine Cremona Fiddle to be plaid for, by any Number of Country Fiddlers, (Mr.Langford's Scholars excepted:) With divers other considerable Prizes, for Dancing, Singing, Foot-ball-play, Jumping, Wrestling, &c. particularly a fine pair of Silk Stockings to be given to the Handsomest Maid upon the Green, to be judg'd of by the Company. At Page's Warehouse, Commonly call'd Crutchfieldin the said County of Hanover,where all Persons will find good Entertainment.

:-)

(I found this ad quoted in a scholarly article on fiddle contests, the author of the article says it's "oft-cited". Chris Goertzen (1996) "Balancing Local and National Approaches at American Fiddle Contests", American Music, 14(3):352-281.)

The same strong voices on the topic are heard here as have been heard before... I'm not sure that they actually address the original poster's inquiry.

Personally, I see the risks, but I've experienced the fun, too. I'd hate for competition to be a preeminent forum for traditional music (the hazards of this have been shown clearly), but I see no reason for a blanket blackballing of the idea. The music seems to be surviving just fine.

But, that's my approach to many arguments.

~ Becky in Tucson


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Subject: RE: Singing competitions
From: GUEST,SteveG
Date: 15 Oct 11 - 03:25 PM

I can't actually believe I am backing Dick against Jim and others, but it appears I am in this case. What you are saying here is because one competition organisation is naff all competitions are naff. That is not necessarily the case. They are not my cup of tea as already stated, but some people get a lot of pleasure from being in a competitive environment. It gives them an extra buzz, and they are perfectly entitled to this, and are not lesser human beings because of it. Competitions can also engender interest where that interest would not normally be forthcoming.

As I said earlier, if it's not your cup of tea, ignore it. Nobody is forcing anyone to take part, or saying this is the only way to approach music. Live and let live!


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Subject: RE: Singing competitions
From: Sandy Mc Lean
Date: 15 Oct 11 - 04:37 PM

There are communities on Cape Breton Island where a fiddle can be found in most homes and pipes as well. The Celtic music, song, and folk-dancing of Ireland, Scotland, and France has survived and been passed down through many generations. From a small population we produce many performers who grace the stages of the World. The only competitions here are for Highland dancing but that was never a part of our traditional culture. Once years ago a piper from Scotland told pipers here that they were playing incorrectly. People thought that he must be right because he had won many competitions in his home country and was an "authority". What people now realize is that competitions and military marching bands robbed the music of what is called "blas" in Gaelic (flavour or individual expression). Today many performers from Scotland look here to find cultural aspects that have been lost to the mother country. What is true of piping and fiddling also would hold true of competitive singing in my view.


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