VC WEB BLOG | VC ‘Young Artist’ Kerson Leong – ‘Menuhin Comp : Most Important Musical Experiences’ [BLOG]

2010 Junior 1st Prize Winner, VC ‘Young Artist’ Kerson Leong guest blogs about his eventful experience

Kerson Leong Menuhin Competition

With the 2016 Menuhin Competition opening rounds commencing today, VC recently caught up with a number of former prize winners to get a better understanding of their time at the competition – and the opportunities the biennial event has presented.

2010 Junior 1st Prize Winner, VC ‘Young Artist’ Kerson Leong, from Canada guest blogs about his eventful experience.

Even though it now feels like eons ago, participating in the Menuhin Competition 2010 in Oslo, Norway was one of most important musical experiences of my life, and certainly the most eye-opening and memorable experience for me at the time.  Not only was it my first time in Europe, but it was also the first time I was immersed in such an international musical gathering.

However, what was equally memorable and exciting was the journey getting there.  The days leading up to the competition coincided with the eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull, an Icelandic volcano, which wreaked havoc on everyone’s travel plans.  As European airspace shut down, my parents and I were stranded in Frankfurt airport with no way out.  Frankly, we were very lucky just to be there at all, and not on the other side of the Atlantic. 

We ended up undertaking a fifty to sixty hour journey on five trains and one bus through Germany, Denmark, and Sweden, and finally Norway.  By the time I got to Oslo, I was a little bewildered, weary, and I had not touch my violin for three days.

However, all my personal worries slid away the moment I set foot into the Norwegian Academy of Music.  I was greeted by an exceedingly warm atmosphere, very friendly staff, and of course, friendly competitors.  I found myself being so at ease and having so much fun mingling with my new peers that I was quite reluctant to practice at all. 

There was also a violin exhibition on site with 60 new violins by luthiers from all over the world inspired by the ‘Ole Bull’ Guarneri del Gesu.  As someone who absolutely loves violins and bows, it was very exciting to see so many interesting violins in one room.  I spent so much time in the exhibition while I was there that I almost forgot that I was participating in a violin competition!

When I stepped on stage for both the first and final rounds, I really didn’t feel any pressure as if it was a competition.  In fact, I remember really enjoying myself, whether it was chamber music with my official accompanist, Lina Braaten, in a string trio, or with orchestra.  This was definitely reflective of the positive and collegial atmosphere which I feel is a trademark of this competition.  I also really enjoyed improvisation in the first round, which was another unique feature.  I think this is a necessary skill every musician should have. 

The announcement of the final results was a moment I will never forget.  To have reached this point from all the uncertainty just two weeks before aboard packed trains and buses was an immensely emotional and gratifying journey it itself.  Meeting both Menuhin’s daughter, Zamira Menuhin and King Harald V of Norway, and performing in the beautiful Oslo Opera House with the Oslo Philharmonic was an amazing finish to it all.

– Kerson”