Arts competitions during Covid-19: Still dressed in sparkling gowns or suits, but performing from home

Young contestant Goh Kai Cheng's livestreamed performance from his home in the annual Steinway Youth Piano Competition in May.
Young contestant Goh Kai Cheng's livestreamed performance from his home in the annual Steinway Youth Piano Competition in May.PHOTO: STEINWAY GALLERY SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE - Some performing arts competitions have gone online as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The annual Steinway Youth Piano Competition, for instance, was conducted online last month.

The competitors' performances were recorded from their homes and livestreamed on the website of piano company Steinway and Sons. Competitors took the chance to dress up in their performance attire, from sparkling gowns to suits, and confidently pulled off their rehearsed pieces.

Among the contestants was Goh Kai Cheng, a Secondary 1 student at Dunman High School, who says an advantage was that he did not have to adjust to the touch of a new piano, and could perform on the one he was comfortable with at home.

But there was a different type of stress. "Even though there is no actual audience watching live during the performance, I was constantly worrying about technical issues such as the connectivity of Wi-Fi. Thank goodness my parents were there to help me out," says the 12-year-old, who clinched the first prize for competitors between the ages of 12 and 14.

Ms Celine Goh, 47, who chairs the Steinway Youth Piano Competition organising committee, says Steinway ensured that the participants were on equal footing, by conducting sound checks and taking into account the position of the cameras to ensure optimum sound quality for the audience and judges.

She notes that the experience may be disappointing to some. "This edition is an unprecedented one and a completely different experience from performing in a beautiful concert hall," she says.

The annual Singapore Violin Festival, which usually consists of masterclasses, performances and a competition, was slated for July but had to be cancelled because of the pandemic. But organisers decided to convert the competition to an online event instead.

Contestants record their pieces and send their best attempt in for consideration.

This means less pressure on the competitors, notes Mr Tong Ming Xi, 42, founder of violin shop Tong Ming Xi and managing director of the festival.

He adds that conducting the competition online is also advantageous in that violinists from all corners of the world can participate.


"We have gotten submissions from Ukraine, Russia and more, whom we would not have seen if this was a physical event," he adds.

However, he says that this might be disadvantageous to the competitors who are less tech-savvy, as the poorer quality video and audio can negatively impact how the judges perceive the performance.

To date, Mr Tong says organisers have received over a hundred submissions, but are optimistic that this will increase to around 500 as the deadline, June 30, approaches.

Other performing art competitions, such as the International Ballet Grand Prix Singapore (IBGPS) 2020, also have to adapt. They are currently accepting video-recordings of auditions from dancers aged seven to 18.

The International Ballet Grand Prix Singapore 2020 is set to be an online competition because of Covid-19. PHOTO: INTERNATIONAL BALLET GRAND PRIX SINGAPORE

The competition usually includes a technique class, where competitors get to interact and network with fellow dance students, and learn from an international teacher. While it is typically conducted in a dance studio, this year it will be delivered online via Zoom.


"Judges will have to spend more time in their discussions and meetings, dealing with the different time zones they are in, as compared with a physical competition where they can all gather," says Ms Lisa Latip, IBGPS' organiser and chairman of Singapore Dance Alliance Limited.

However, seeing overseas competitors signing up for both the ballet and contemporary segments is very heartening, she adds.

"It shows there is still confidence that an online competition will also provide a good platform for their development."