Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Tzora song festival - a review (part one)

"Tzoravision", the local song festival (held approximately once every fifteen years), took place on Friday night in a packed dining room. The evening was supposed to start at 8:30pm; we arrived at 8:25 and by this hour almost all the seats had been taken. There is nothing like a display of local talent to 'get the punters in' and 'put bums on seats'.

The song festival celebrates the kibbutz's birthday (65 years since it was founded) but is also a competition; after the songs were sung, people could vote and choose their favourite (one person, supposedly one vote; no one was keeping a list). This year, we had a slight technical twist: someone had set up a website, and people with smartphones could connect to the site and place their vote electronically. For the Luddites, it was possible to vote in the time honoured fashion by marking a piece of paper with a pencil.

I don't like the competition aspect for two reasons: first, a kibbutz is supposed to be an egalitarian society and the idea of competition is supposed to be eschewed; secondly, people vote not necessarily on the merits of the song that they have just heard for the first time but more probably on the merits of the performance and also possibly according to family affiliations. The identities of the lyricists and composers were not disclosed till the end of the evening, but one could see who was singing; in certain cases, this could lead one to make an informed guess as to the identities of the writers. One might infer (correctly) from the above that none of the songs with which I was involved won; whilst this is true, I still don't like the competitive aspect (certainly none of the performers felt competitive; rehearsals were supportive).

I'm going to divide the ten songs performed into two groups: the first were the three songs for which I did the arrangements, along with one other song; the second group is composed of the six other songs. This blog entry will discuss the second group.

I admit that the following is an opinion based on one listen only, especially when I was concentrating on other matters, so I may have got some things wrong. Even so, I will try to be objective.

Whilst each song was performed by different singers, the accompaniment was provided by a core group of four local teenagers. One of them plays the saxophone very well, but the others - especially the guitarist and drummer - were a bit shaky. As a result, none of the performances were particularly tight. I think that it's very important to encourage the youngsters, but that encouragement should not overwhelm the possibility of criticism.

The singers all performed well, with no obvious clinkers. Apart from one singer, who is a trained vocalist and sang very well, the others suffered from poor microphone technique, to some extent. The vocals overpowered the accompaniment and sometimes they were distorted. It's a shame that the volume of the vocals wasn't slightly lowered as it would have made them clearer. The singers were generally under the impression that they had to 'eat the microphone'; obviously they weren't aware of the proximity effect which can lower the quality of the vocal sound.

The songs themselves tended to be over-long and not too well structured. I wasn't aware of any striking melodies nor any daring harmonies. I think this will become clear if and when people get a chance to hear the songs again. The whole evening was filmed professionally; the raw footage will be edited and possibly broadcast on the kibbutz's internal television channel. There might well be a dvd released of the edited footage, some of which may find its way to YouTube or similar external channels. I am just as interested as anybody else in having a permanent record of the evening.

To sum up, I was underwhelmed by this group of six songs.

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