Choosing Competition Repertoire

Choosing Competition Repertoire
Thursday musings...

On a more "classical" vent today...

As I have been in Canada recently (my home sweet home), I have been talking with Canadian singers and teachers and the discussion of repertoire choices for competitions came up.

Canada has a great music festival tradition, as well as the esteemed Royal Conservatory of Music that offers exams and diploma programs world-wide.  The syllabi of this system can be a great asset for choosing music and getting ideas for competition use.

However, given my discussions of late, I am taken by how DULL the choices have been.  And I don't mean SAFE, I mean DULL!!!

How does one make these choices? What criteria comes into play?

Obviously, the rules of the game must be taken into consideration  - be it Provincial or National Festival or a NATS competition etc.  There are certain hoops to jump obviously.  And YOUR OWN VOICE is the largest component of that.

However, where does it say choosing repertoire to create a program at this level needs to be uninviting, all the same, unexciting, not audience friendly?

These competitions have an audience - including the adjudicators! How do you the performer allow your audience to stay engaged in what you are doing?

The repertoire choices must take YOUR technical development into account, as well as your ability as an artist to reach an audience, your personality, your dramatic ability and how you can build an arc within a performance group.  

Are you doing that with your competition program?

Are you showing your versatility? Your uniqueness? Your strengths? Or are you becoming so safe you are going to wall-flower yourself before you even get on stage???

As an adjudicator, I want to SEE and HEAR some personality and creativity - and the program and how it reads can make me intrigued enough to want to SEE you and HEAR you!!! 

I am seeing, in competition, arias that are in vogue or out of vogue.  I can't quite understand that. Either you can sing the role or you can't.  How does EVERY soprano pick the same one?!? Why would I want to hear that? Why would YOU the singer want to sing the same as everybody else?  If we are, as artists, trying to be heard as individuals, then why would we want to be set up for an instant comparison?!?!

DARE to explore outside the box and find repertoire that you can truly stamp an individual mark on!! Dare to create a program that FLOWS - dramatically, emotionally, technically.  Dare to be creative!!! Dare to ENJOY IT!  Dare to show us WHAT YOU DO WELL!  This does not mean picking completely obscure things, or going so far afield we don't know what is going on.  This means finding what you do and DOING it.  

Show us what you DO NOW. Not what you would like to do or wish you could do, but WHAT YOU DO WELL.  If you are a great story teller - show us! If you are a great technician, show us! But do not limit it to that - find your strength and BUILD AROUND IT so the program has space and depth and breadth.  DO NOT PUT YOURSELF IN A BOX!!!!

Ask questions of your teachers and coaches, and then YOU MUST TRY THEM! If they do not fit, do not use them.  YOU are the one up there on stage, your teacher and your coach are not. If you are not comfortable, we will know that.

As an adjudicator, I want to see EACH singer SINGING, not worrying! I want you to be settled into the repertoire and the reason for DOING the repertoire.  

So, as you choose a program, safe is fine if it doesn't get dull - if it doesn't excite YOU, it won't excite us! Music has to find us where we are and ignite a passion - it is never diluted! Whether it excites, soothes, caresses, brings us to tears, it must do it completely.

Find that repertoire that allows you, the performer, to discover how YOU can access all those things.  Then nothing will be dull and we look forward to the performance - and remembering it!

Susan Eichhorn Young covers all things voice—strong and sophisticated singing and speaking. 

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