The first round of the Two Moors Festival’s Young Musicians Platform competition took place this weekend. A total of 47 candidates aged 18 and under entered at a standard of ABRSM Grade 7 and above. This could be any instrument plus voice and they were asked to prepare two contrasting pieces of their choice.
The competition is unique in several ways. The first is that we look for four outstanding players and not just one. The emphasis is on performance and ability to share an innate love of music with an audience. The audition atmosphere is unlike any other in that we chat in a fun way to each candidate from the moment they walk through the door and we also give a mini masterclass if there’s time. Each of the winners receives £250 plus an opportunity to share a recital in the main festival.
Judging from the feedback, all participants feel encouraged, inspired and above all retain their joy at being involved in playing classical music. In one instance, a young singer said he had been singing music theatre until recently. He then heard songs by Richard Strauss (nothing could be more different) as a result of which he was hooked on Lieder!
The way in which our competition operates begs the question – should all competitions be run along similar lines? Or does this imply that Bach’s B Minor Mass is something to be taken lightly? Does this prepare aspiring young musicians to enter the profession with rose-tinted spectacles when they should be aware of the arduous work and fierce competition that lie ahead? Does this give them a false impression that all competitions are going to be staged in a similar manner?
In an age when competitions abound and spring up like mushrooms, I believe the more encouragement one can give school-age youngsters the better. They need to be inspired, their sheer joy of being involved in classical music requires fostering as much as possible and nowadays, where there are so many competitions, to have one that does these in spade loads says a lot.
It’s instantly noticeable if the music comes from within a musician who plays from the soul. Likewise the opposite where the playing is automatic and the delivery forced. Dare I say it, but some of the performers from specialist music schools display this. There is always the expectation that these youngsters are bound to be brilliant but we’re often disappointed.
With all this in mind, this is where the Festival’s own competition comes into its own. The environment that is provided gives each entrant such stimulus that nerves are frequently dispensed with so that they can play with such expression that technical limitations don’t matter. Their overall love of music-making in a performance is all that matters regardless of whether they enter the profession or not and that the inspiration we give them will help them in later life.