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"Making Menuhin: The Documentary" reveals the perseverance and spirit behind the 2021 Competition

Maria Duenas winner the Menuhin Competition 2021
María Dueñas of Spain, senior winner of The Menuhin Competition Richmond 2021. (Image used with permission.)

At the beginning of 2020, everyone who was anyone in the Richmond classical music scene was getting ready for the excitement of the Menuhin Competition, the world's leading international competition for young violinists, hosted right here in RVA.

The best youth violinists from all over the world were to descend on our fair city that May, along with international violin superstars and global media, to celebrate and participate in the “Olympics of the violin.”

Then in March, the COVID-19 pandemic reached our shores. And just like that, the world changed.

What happened next is the subject of VPM’s new, half-hour production, Making Menuhin: A Documentary. Directed by Paul Roberts, the program follows the Menuhin Competition’s unprecedented decision to postpone the Competition for a year, only to hold it virtually in 2021 – and how their decision and the continuing pandemic affected the Competition’s young violinists in every corner of the world.

Just as the rest of the world pivoted to new technology to stay connected, the Menuhin Competition organizers refitted the competition to allow participants to submit performances recorded live that met specific requirements so all could be judged fairly and accurately.

“The documentary captures the artistry and determination of each competitor to get it right in one take,” said Mason Mills, executive producer for the production and at VPM. “They only get to perform once, just as they would have live, but it's captured on camera for the world to see.”

The competitors – some as young as eleven – overcame logistical hurdles and recorded their entries from diverse locations such as schools, concert halls, or at home in countries all over the world – China, Russia, Austria, and the United States to name a few.

“I was really surprised by the beautiful private performances from each of the featured competitors,” Mills added. “They performed exclusively for this documentary in stunning locations for our international cinematographers. You can't see these anywhere else.”

What stands out most in the documentary is not what was lost by the Menuhin Competition’s absence in Richmond, but by the perseverance of all who organized and participated in the Competition -  the shared love for beautiful and compelling music. Their stalwart spirit this past year made the Menuhin Competition Richmond 2021 unique in practice as well as heart.

Watch Making Menuhin: The Documentary Friday, December 3 at 9 p.m. on VPM PBS; or at 1 p.m. on PBS Passport, VPM's YouTube channel and Facebook page, and at vpm.org/menuhin.