Shadow Jury reported in words that all could understand

It was Arto Noras who first came up with a novel, interesting idea for the 2013 International Paulo Cello Competition: a shadow jury of young cellists working alongside the official Jury and posting a blog designed to provoke discussion among the public at large. It was such a success that the Mirjam Helin Competition decided to copy it.

The Shadow Jury 2014: Joonas Asikainen, Ann-Marie Heino, Jenni Lättilä, Petri Bäckström ja Juho Alakärppä.

“The aim was for the Shadow Jury to provide an insight into what it means to be a singer,” says Executive Director Marja-Leena Pétas. “We wanted to show people that opinions may differ greatly, and that there is no right and wrong in a competition, just different views.”

The members of the Shadow Jury therefore wrote separate blog texts, outlining their personal views and saying who they thought the winners should be. The Jury consisted of five young professionals: Jenni Lättilä (chair, soprano), Ann-Marie Heino (mezzo), Petri Bäckström (tenor), Joonas Asikainen (baritone), and Lied pianist Juho Alakärppä.

“It’s important to speak to people in words they can understand, and to prove that it’s possible to talk about singing and express opinions without using special terminology, simply by saying what we like or what we don’t,” says the youngest member of the Jury, Joonas Asikainen.

Jenni Lättilä was delighted at the feedback. “We got lots and lots of comments on Facebook and from people at the concert halls. Our blog obviously had a large following.”

The Finnish Broadcasting Company (Yle) collaborated closely with the Shadow Jury, just as Executive Director Pétas had hoped. “I take my hat off to Yle,” says Jenni Lättilä. “They used us a lot as commentators on their programmes, for example. The Shadow Jury, Shoutbox and Yle audience poll clearly activated people.”

According to Jenni Lättilä, the Shadow Jury sought to act as a mediator, to describe the progress of the competition in words people could understand, reporting on individual performances and also touching on other themes, such as how a singer prepares for a competition, why they decided to take part, and the workings of the official Jury. “We worked on the principle of giving kindly, constructive feedback and describing what we felt on hearing the singers, not to pounce on mistakes or talk only about technique. We were honoured to be entrusted with such an extremely interesting assignment and we hope the practice of having a Shadow Jury will continue!”

From the Semifinals onwards the Shadow Jury was joined by British opera expert Yehuda Shapiro, who gave the blog an international critic’s slant.

Text: Auli Särkiö
Translation: Susan Sinisalo
Photos: Heikki Tuuli