Getting started in the biz’…

Euan Murdoch is travelling Around the World in 60 Days and blogging about it…


St Martin's Chamber Music Contest at St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square

St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square, Jacqueline Wedderburn-Maxwell at the lunchtime concert. Photography by Marc Gascoigne

Many of us who began our careers last millenium look back on the lucky breaks that allowed us our start in the music business. We did not have to make our way through the endless auditions and the disappointments often associated with competitions that emerging musicians and ensembles have to negotiate now.

Last night I was one of five judges on the panel for the final of the St Martin’s Chamber Music Competition at the iconic St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square. Three excellent young ensembles selected from a field of 35 groups presented half hour programmes and played their hearts out for us and for an enthusiastic audience. The audience prize went to A Piacere Trio and the overall winner was an excellent string quartet formed in 2006 at the Royal Academy, the Jubilee Quartet. Their prize is an extensive tour of British music clubs arranged by Making Music. Ultimately it will be their performances on the road that will determine if they make it as an ensemble, or not. They have already had to jump through many hoops and demonstrate their resilience to get this opportunity. What I enjoyed about them was that they took risks in performance. It was a brave choice to present one entire work in the final rather than selecting contrasted movements from a number of composers and different musical styles. Their expressive and dynamic contrasts in Mendelssohn’s opus 80 were the highlight of the evening for me and I wish them every success with their career.

Audience Prize winners, Piacere Trio

Audience Prize winners, Piacere Trio. Photography by Marc Gascoigne

Overall winners, Jubilee Quartet

Overall winners, Jubilee Quartet. Photography by Marc Gascoigne

This competition is in its fourth year and is rather unusual in that it encompasses groups of three to eight musicians including both vocal and instrumental combinations. While it can make it quite challenging to assess the varying technical demands and expertise, it does focus your attention on the ensemble and their communication with each other and with the audience. The semifinals of this year’s event included a vocal group and last year’s final featured a saxophone quartet. It is this variety that will help to keep the chamber music genre alive and it offers new audiences more entry points. We sometimes forget that the genre extends beyond the string quartet!

I can’t quite remember where and when I was given the advice about how to prepare yourself for competitions and auditions but I’ve certainly passed it on many times…you just have to remember that the judges always get it wrong, even when you win. With that pearl of wisdom I’ll sign off until next time.

– Euan, 20.03.2013

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