CNIB singing contest judges the voice and ONLY the voice

GigCity Edmonton CNIB

From left: ‘Voice of Edmonton’ judges Janet Brandly, Diane Bergeron and Jean Menzies

American Idol and its televised talent show ilk have often been criticized for being “glorified karaoke” – so it must follow that actual karaoke has been elevated to a higher Idol-like status.

Amateur singing nights are still all the rage, anyway. It’s not hard to find karaoke in Edmonton, but the popular karaoke hangout B Street Bar is trying something a little different this year: “The Voice of Edmonton,” a singing contest in which the judges are blind. The fund-raiser for the CNIB runs every Thursday through the end of March.

“It’s truly the voice that’s being judged,” says organizer Brad Scott. Talent contests can be a pain, he says. Contestants are often judged by applause, in which case it’s just a popularity contest, or by how they look, or by their “stage presence.” People will often complain no matter who wins.

In this case, Scott says, “You can dance around as much as you want, look as cool as you want to, but this strictly the voice of Edmonton.”

The grand prize from the March 28 final will include a trip for two on the Kokanee Freeride to Jasper. One dollar from every drink sold on contest nights will be donated to the CNIB, with up to $5,000 expected to be raised. Scott has a personal stake in this. His mother has been blind since he was five years old, and without the CNIB, he says, “She wouldn’t have had a life.”

Founded in 1918, the CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind) is a charitable organization that helps people who have suffered vision loss, through Braille books, home assistance, counseling, training and other programs.

The first round on Jan. 3 ended in a tie with the winners Morgan Nadeau and local actor Jesse “Lipsss” Lipscombe. The Voice of Edmonton contest is open to any singer who shows up at the B Street Bar, 11818 111 Avenue, on a Thursday night. Admission is free. Donations to the CNIB will also be accepted.