In November, the International Board of Directors approved an amendment to our contest rules pertaining to how the Music category scores performances. The amendment encourages all Music judges to weigh the most basic characteristics of the style in the same way, actually
assessing penalties for performances of arrangements that do not exhibit those characteristics.

The bottom line is that this change should have little effect on how you choose your contest music, and final scores probably won’t change much, but contestants should have a better idea of how the scores were affected by use of non-stylistic material. If you don’t want to go any further into the weeds, stop reading now! But if you donned your music nerd hat this morning, carry on…

What has changed:  In recent contest history, Music judges have been simply lowering scores overall if a song heard in contest lacked characteristics of the barbershop style. While judges may continue to lower the score for contest songs that don’t fit our style very well, the new rule describes three situations in which a score must reflect an actual penalty based on style considerations. Penalties can range from a point or two to forfeiture.

Music judges are called on to assess a penalty:
– When excessive passages in a song are not sung in the inside voice. As before, contestants will not be penalized for a song that features a brief and appropriate bass or tenor melody. But when that melody in the outside voice becomes a significant characteristic of the performance, a penalty will be assessed.

– When the song and arrangement lack characteristic chord progressions that resolve around the circle of fifths. Music judges continue to listen for the harmonies characteristic of our style. But if the expected chord progressions are lacking, the Music judge will assess a penalty rather than simply lowering the score.

– When the song and arrangement contain excessive passages without words in all four parts. This does not change current scoring practice, which supports appropriate embellishments, such as brief periods of three parts on a neutral syllable behind a lead feature, for contrast in the arrangement. But when the neutral syllables against a solo become a significant characteristic of the performance, or when the song is all
“doobedoobedoo”, a penalty will be assessed.

What has not changed?
Music judges will continue to judge the song and arrangement as performed, and the group’s musicianship in bringing the song and arrangement to life.

What does this mean for you?
We expect not much! Overall scores in Music are unlikely to change significantly. Strong contest vehicles will remain strong and weak contest vehicles will remain weak. Most of our contestants seem drawn to arrangements that are firmly in the barbershop style, anyway. But some stylistic concerns that were previously reflected in “lower” scores will now be more clearly reflected through penalties. If a penalty of five or more points is assessed, the fact that a penalty was assessed will be noted on your Contestant Scoring Summary and on the Official Scoring Summary. If a smaller penalty is assessed, you can count on your Music judge to mention it at your eval.

As always, Music judges – both Harmony, Inc. and BHS – are a resource for you if you have any questions about whether an arrangement you wish to sing in contest is likely a strong or weak contest vehicle, based on characteristics inherent in the song and arrangement. Just ask (but be sure to leave us some turnaround time!).

Submitted by Kathy Greason
Harmony Inc, ICJC
[email protected]