It all comes down to this; time for the rehearsals of the the 2011 Junior Eurovision Song Contest. Tuesday 29th November saw all the contestants use the stage for the first run through of sound and camera practice, and whilst for the most part many excelled in regards to vocal abilities, not everyone was appearing a potential winner.
Latvias’ Amanda appeared to struggle vocally on all but one of her run throughs of Moon Dog, Moldovas’ Lerika didn’t appear pleased with her camera angles and missing her all important props for the No-No staging, and we had a near fall from Bulgarias’ Ivan whilst using a makeshift chair to jump off which could have put an end to his Superhero hopes should he have slipped.
Troubles were most centre stage for FYR Macedonia however, with an official confirmation that Dorijans’ voice was indeed choosing this most important week to break. He appeared visually distraught to not be able to hit any of his power notes during the rehearsal of Till the End of Time, and our hearts certainly were breaking for him too.
On the flip side, charging ahead in the press centre ratings are the countries of Belarus, The Netherlands, Sweden and Russia.
Starting the competition but ending the rehearsals on Tuesday was Katya from Russia. The entrant was always expected to be of high quality due to the fact that this is Katya’s 2nd time on the Junior Eurovision stage and could therefore draw upon her experience to use her rehearsal time wisely. Resplendent in her modern white couture dress, she gave an extremely polished performance both vocally and in choreography, showing that the Russians certainly weren’t going to waste their opportunity to practice the final staging from the get go. Russia appeared to also be the only participants to reveal a specifically designed background for the entry. The main staging feature central to the performance of Romeo and Juliet is that the backing dancers revealed white tracksuits with blocks of red on the back, which when standing together form a heart matching that of the background. Its an extremely strong opening for the final on Saturday, and this should be a huge advantage to the team most hoping to win this year.
Sweden were another country on which huge expectations were set by many of the press in attendance. Rating online as a favourite amongst Eurovision lovers, many were unsure if the studio performance could be matched on the live stage. The first rehearsal showed that vocally Erik can live up to those high expectations. However whilst the sounds of the song had many bopping along to the run-through, visually it disappointed. The stage performance features Erik up front leading a band of 2 female backing singers, a drummer, a guitarist and a DJ, and it doesn’t convince us that he is a true frontman. Live, Falling lacks the spark that it conjures up when listening to the studio track, and I feel that if Erik moved away from behind the microphone and engaged the audience more with movement like a real band leader would this could potentially cause more threat to the top of the leaderboard.
Another highly anticipated entry from her national final performance was that of Rachel from The Netherlands. The same staging from the Dutch contest was featured, with Rachel standing on the scaffold for the majority of the song, with the dancers rotating the scaffold and dancing to the side of it. In regards to camera work, Rachel met all the angles like a professional, although utilising the same staging is an obvious benefit to her confidence. The high energy of the song is matched by the high quality of the vocal from Rachel on each and every take, and despite the fact the staging is manufactured so the focus always remains on Rachel, she is also very engaging and colourful to watch. Its hard to deny that this is the perfect song for its target audience, and Teenager remains for me a strong dark horse to take out the whole contest.
Lastly, but hardly likely to come last on the big night, Belarus was a standout amongst standouts. Lidiya has a powerhouse voice on the live stage that demands far more attention than as featured on the studio version. Unusually for the country, they have matched her voice with a very understated stage show – just her centre of stage with a violinist on a podium on either side. It visually and vocally is perfect, and when the camera draws close-up for her power note thats lasts more than 10 seconds, it sends shivers up the spine of all that listen in the arena. Angels of Goodness may not be the song that sets out to attract the most votes by hitting a target audience, but it is a heavenly song delivered by a heavenly voice which outshines the competition on a quality basis.
For a full review of all the rehearsals in depth and the latest news from JESC as it happens, don’t forget to check out our friends at escXtra. We’d also like to take the time to thank BMI for their support of ESC Insight and the associated sites and content with flights to Yerevan. Thanks to them we can bring you the biggest Junior Eurovision coverage we’ve ever undertaken!