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Contest Scoring
What are all of the 'categories' and how do they get scored?

A barbershop judge is responsible for evaluating the total performance of the contestant, through the orientation or perspective of one of the three categories —Music, Presentation, or Singing. Thus, certain elements of a barbershop performance will be evaluated by judges outside his assigned category. There are some common aspects of a barbershop performance that are evaluated by judges in all three categories. They are the five “shared elements”, described in the “Contest and Judging Handbook” which can be best posed as questions about the performance, including
  1. Is it in the Barbershop Style?
  2. Is it Ringing, in-tune sound?
  3. Is it Sung in good quality?
  4. Is it Suitable to the performer? and
  5. Is it Believable, From the heart?

Each category judge will determine a single quality rating or score, on a scale of 1 to 100. The judge will determine whether the level of the performance is excellent (A-level, from 81-100), good (B-level, from 61-80), fair (C-level, from 41-60), or poor (D-level, from 1-40), and award an exact score based upon an evaluation of all the elements in the performance that have an impact on his category. If no quality rating is appropriate owing to an unequivocal and definite violation of the rules, the judge will forfeit his score by awarding a 0, thus disqualifying the contestant.

Music is defined as the song and arrangement, as performed. The Music judge is responsible for adjudicating the musical elements in the performance. He judges the extent to which the musical performance displays the hallmarks of the barbershop style, and the degree to which the musical performance demonstrates an artistic sensitivity to the music’s primary theme.

The primary hallmark of barbershop music is its consonant harmony. Thus, the quality of any barbershop performance depends largely on the presence, accurate execution, and artistic delivery of the consonant harmony traditionally identified with the barbershop style.

Indirectly, the Music judge evaluates the work of the composer and arranger. A basic prerequisite for a successful barbershop performance is that the song be appropriate to the barbershop style. Beyond this, the various musical elements should work together to establish a theme. The sensitive handling of musical elements — melody, lyrics, harmony, range and tessitura, embellishments, tempo, rhythm and meter, musical construction and form — demonstrates musicality in a performance. A strong musical performance is one in which everything provided by the composer and arranger is skillfully delivered and effectively integrated in support of the musical theme. This requires that the music be suited to the performer, and that the performer understand the music. The Music judge is prepared to accept any treatment that is musically plausible. The theme may also change from one part of the song to another. Often, the theme will be the song’s lyrics, while at other times the theme may be one of the musical elements themselves, such as rhythm. Whatever the theme, the Music judge evaluates how the musical elements of the song and arrangement support the theme.

Presentation is a “giving”, a “bringing forth”, and a “sharing”, including the thrill of transforming a printed song into an emotional experience and sharing it with an audience. Words, notes, and other symbols on the printed page are the composer’s and, subsequently, the arranger’s gift to the performer. The presentation of the song is the performer’s gift to the audience. Within that presentation, the performer has the freedom to explore individual style as part of a unified performing group provided the individual expression does not override the bounds of good taste or contemporary standards of barbershop performance.

The Presentation judge evaluates everything about the performance that contributes to emotional impact upon the audience. Effectiveness and believability are the benchmarks used to evaluate a performance and its impact. In this context impact means the transference of an emotional experience to the audience; it may be gentle and barely perceptible or it may be enormously powerful … but, to be measured favorably, it must be believable and appropriate.

The Presentation judge is principally responsible for evaluating the entertainment value in a barbershop performance. Visual and vocal interpretation serve to explain the emotional content of the song as it is understood by the performer and to stimulate the audience’s participation in the experience. The Presentation judge evaluates how effectively a performer brings the song to life — that is, how believable is the illusion of the story/message/theme in its visual and vocal setting. He will, of necessity, respond to both the visual and vocal aspects of the presentation, but he will principally evaluate the interaction of these aspects as they work together to create the image of the song.

One ingredient that clearly identifies barbershop music is its unique sound. The best barbershop singing combines elements of technique and emotion to create an artistic result: the transformation of a song into an emotional experience for the performer and audience.

Primarily, the Singing judge listens for the pleasing effect of in-tune singing from voices that are free and resonant and exhibit no signs of difficulties. He expects to hear the ensemble as a unit, free from distractions by individual differences of quality or delivery. Furthermore, enhanced by the choice of harmonies, voicings, and voice relationships characteristic to barbershop, the ensemble sound can achieve a sound that feels greater than the sum of the parts: a “lock” or “ring”, or the feeling of “expanded sound”. The ring of a barbershop chord will always be the hallmark of the style. Any listener to a barbershop performance expects to be thrilled by the sound of a ringing climax, or awed by the purity and beauty of a soft and elegant expression of a song. Great barbershop singing demands mastery of vocal and ensemble skills to create the breathtaking effects of barbershop musical artistry.

The Singing judge evaluates the degree to which the performer achieves artistic singing in the barbershop style. This is accomplished through precise intonation, a high degree of vocal skill, good vocal quality, and a high level of unity and consistency within the ensemble. Mastering these elements also creates a feeling of fullness, ring, and expansion of sound throughout the performance. When artistry is present, these elements are natural, unmanufactured, and free from apparent effort, allowing the performer to fully communicate the theme of the song.

For questions and information about these programs contact:
Ig Jakovac
M-AD District VP for Contest & Judging

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