Over the past few weekends I’ve been adjudicating at various competitions. On several occasions I worked alone (as an adjudicator for the British and International Federation of Music Festivals), but this past weekend, I was one of a panel of judges for the ‘Stars of the Albion’ competition. Although I enjoy both challenges, working with others is not only more interesting and convivial, but it also shares the responsibility of selecting winners, which is never an easy task.
‘Stars of the Albion’ is an international performing arts festival and competition. It’s an annual event, uniting young talented musicians and dancers from across the world. The project forms a unique bridge connecting different cultures and in particular that of Russia and Great Britain. It aims to provide valuable opportunities for young emerging artists to perform, learn, communicate and develop.
Organised and promoted by Musica Nova Academy of Music, which was founded and is owned by Russian singer, pianist and educator Evgenia Terentieva. This bilingual establishment, situated just around the corner from King’s Cross station, on Crommer Street, combines the British and Russian principles of teaching. It’s held under the Patronage of the World Association of Performing Arts (WAPA) and is supported by the Rossotrudnichestvo, the Russian cultural centre in the UK.
This is the fourth arts festival & competition. There are two rounds; the first one is based on video recordings (DVD and YouTube), and the second is open to the public and held at the concert hall of the Rossotrudnichestvo, situated just off Kensington High Street, and at the Musica Nova Academy. The Rudolf Steiner Theatre, also in London, plays host to the final awards ceremony and gala concert. Thirty international and twenty national soloists as well as five ensembles were selected to participate in the second round.
Participants hail from a large spectrum of nations including the UK, Russia, Germany, Italy, Greece, Spain, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Republic of Belarus, Bulgaria, Malta, Philippines, Latvia, Armenia, Ukraine, Ghana, and India.
I was one of four to judge the instrumental category at the Musica Nova Academy (with colleagues, Alexander Ioffe and Yuri Zhislin (both from Russia), and Natalia Varkentin (who is Latvian)). The awards were segregated into three age categories; 6 -10 years old, 11 – 15 years, and 16 years and over, and all competitors were either pianists or violinists. The standard was reasonably high; students were expected to play their programmes from memory (including the duet classes), and many performed fairly advanced pieces (particularly in the age category from 6 – 10 years).
I’m always fascinated by the repertoire chosen for such events; there was a diverse selection from a piano arrangement of the theme from Schindler’s List (John Williams) and Yiruma’s ubiquitous piano piece The River Flows In You (played by a six-year-old!), to the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 11 by Liszt. We heard several renditions of Tchaikovsky’s Melody in E Op. 42 No. 3 (for violin) as well as typical selections from the ABRSM Grade 8 repertoire.
The winners of each class perform in the final gala concert (which was held last night), and some of them also win cash prizes. Whilst we enjoyed the instrumental classes at the Musica Nova Academy, a much larger panel judged the singing classes at the Rossotrudnichestvo Cultural Centre (which were huge in comparison). I like the inclusion of multiple disciplines; there’s something for literally everyone (both amateur or professional), whether a classical performer, jazz player, pop singer, dancer, or folk musician. This flexibility will ensure that the ‘Stars of the Albion’ goes from strength to strength, and it will no doubt flourish and develop over the coming years.
Melanie Spanswick has written and published a wide range of courses, anthologies, examination syllabuses, and text books, including Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). This best-selling graded, progressive piano course contains a large selection of repertoire featuring a huge array of styles and genres, with copious practice tips and suggestions for every piece.
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