28.5. Practising hard

It’s been pretty quiet in the office today, or as I usually say: so far no catastrophes. We still have today and tomorrow of the first round. By now I’m beginning to recognise the most common pieces.

The Sibelius Academy practice rooms have been in heavy use. The contestants can book four hours a day, which of course is not very much for anyone who wants to practise a lot… Some have managed to find other practice facilities such as in churches with the help of their host families, or they can practise at home. Sometimes things don’t go so well: the neighbours of one contestant started complaining of the noise just a couple of hours before he was due to perform…

All the foreign contestants are staying with private host families throughout the competition. These families are worth their weight in gold to competition organisers – many of them have been doing it for decades already: pianists, cellists, violinists and singers. Hosting is entirely voluntary; in return the families get just a breath of international music and sometimes life-long friends. A couple of the contestants took part in the previous Maj Lind competition five years ago and are staying with the same host families. The delight at meeting up again is mutual.

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