It started rather inauspiciously, the day of my debut performance with the Bromley Music Makers.
I drank some inferior wine last night, which gave me an allergic reaction and therefore half a night’s sleep. Then my grumpiness was exacerbated by that Guardian letter and the reaction to it on Twitter. At first I was as enervated as everyone else by the woman pouring out her long-held resentment, bitterness and grief for her “lost” life to a 10 year old son who was, seemingly, just being a ten year old, and therefore unable to comprehend what was being said to him if, indeed he could concentrate for that long.
Then in the midst of growing condemnation for the poor woman on Twitter, I started to wonder what on earth would prompt someone to write and then publish such a letter. Loneliness, stress, depression, isolation? No-one is perfect and if there is anyone who says that they have always treated their child (biological or adopted) with complete kindness and fairness all the time, well then I think that their idyllically perfect world is a lie.
In all relationships we stay things that we probably do mean but which have catastrophic consequences. We are only human. Perversely I wanted to take the debate a little further than straightforward condemnation. It would appear that the reaction has spilled over until late this evening. I have received a hectoring tweet about the effect of harsh words on a child. As if I had no idea about how to talk to children, for goodness’ sake! I thought we had finished that conversation this afternoon, but still it goes on, it would seem.
Anyway, I’m doing a digression of Ronnie Corbett proportions which, come to think of it, isn’t very large.
This is the background against which I set off this evening for my debut performance with the Bromley Musicmakers, a group of adult musicians who get together once a month and entertain themselves and each other with music. This last sentence is important, because it’s not really my primary purpose in joining. I have joined under pressure from my singing teacher, who feels, white rightly, that I should gain more experience in public performance in advance of my diploma exam in a few weeks.
I suppose I am only a natural performer in my head. I am anxious to do well and try and give a perfect performance. There is such a disconnect between what I can do and the sort of performance given by Kiri Te Kanawa or, I don’t know, Lesley Garrett and it rankles. Maybe that’s being hard on myself but I just want to do my best. I am quite hard on myself but I do think that that is a necessity.
I’ve run through my pieces with my accompanist a couple of times, and I didn’t think she was as reassuring as perhaps I need that I’m singing properly and in tune. Combined with that, I only actually learned correct breathing technique last week after my teacher finally spotted what I had been doing wrong all this time, so I’m having to reassess my breathing technique, which has always let me down in performance.
Given this, and the day’s grumpiness and the fact that everyone was locked out of the concert rooms until just before the night’s concert, so I couldn’t have a run through or warm up properly, well it was an inauspicious start.
Gosh I was so nervous, despite being reassured that no-one was there to judge me or mark me like in an exam. For me nerves manifested themselves in taking far too small breaths and singing too slowly therefore not being quite able to get to the end of my phrases without taking a breath. I’ve practised and practised that and my disappointment in myself was crushing. Looking back, I can;t even remember how it all went.
And yet my audience was receptive and quite fulsome in their praise at the interval, despite my doubts. There were some realy entertaining music culminating in a rousing performance of two Armenian songs. Which is when it struck me: my teacher would have been able to dissect the technical prowess of the singer into very small constituent parts and the pianist looked as though he was making it up at times. A far cry indeed from the discipline of my Purcell and Dring. And yet their performance went down so well because they were throwing themselves into playing and singing music and not worrying about technicalities. They weren’t judging themselves. They were having fun.
I need to do this, because having fun and losing oneself in the music is the only way to give a great performance. I need to switch off my monkey brain and stop worrying about whether I’m good enough. The only person judging me and finding me wanting is me, really. And that needs to stop right now.