Sunday, 20 June 2010

Sing to Win (or let it go)

Start, Finish, Carry on!

So what does a singing teacher do on a quiet Sunday? Firstly tries not to have to teach, which does not always transpire. After so many years of teaching and rehearsing almost all the hours God sends, I reckon God would not have a problem with letting me have a few hours back in lieu!

I have an unlikely and curious love of watching athletics, be it Olympic, World, European or Commonwealth Championships. Today was the second day of the European Team Championships, held this year in the sparkly and 'mountain kingish' city of Bergen in Norway.

There is something about the 'of the moment' nature of a race, jump or throw, which is very like the nature of performance. It starts, it happens, it finishes, and there is not a damn thing one can do about it.

The key is in the preparation, both physical and mental. I am always so impressed by the post race interviews with the athletes - they are questioned on TV with the world listening, regardless of whether they have won or lost, and thus have to answer in as much as they can, as to why things transpired the way it did. This seems a fiercely harsh feature in the life of athletes as young as 18 or 19, and a consistently brave way of publicly dissecting ones performance.

As singers we are often shielded from facing the whys and wherefores, and there is so much private brow beating and mental grief when things have not gone our way, or we lost a competition, failed to sing a long prase or successfully hit that blasted top B flat. We call it 'artistic temperament'.

The new Head Coach for Team GB has started to use the American system of pre event pep talk. He stands each athlete up in front of his peers and tells them what is expected of them within their discipline, and what is expected from a mental strength point of view. A young 3000 metre runner of 19 years old said ' I loved it, it gave me such drive, and determination to raise my game'. I suspect many singers would curl up and die. I suspect the 'artistic temperament'card would not hold much water with Mr Big in Athletics!

The ability to pick oneself up after failure or loss is such a important facility in the armoury of a singer. The last performance is gone, never to be repeated and the next one is all that matters. In other words, when it is done, it is done. We need to learn from past ventures, but not to allow them to colour the future performances.

I can remember so clearly being told over and over again that it was what I did in my lesson that mattered - the performance may be good or bad, according to any given circumstance - but the hard work that I did before hand was my propulsion to progress, and that is what made my teacher smile.

The reward was her smile ! The silver cup or the media review was important, but her belief in me was a prize beyond the glitter. I always went on to run the race, and sometimes it was great, and sometimes I sang like a drain, and when I moaned in a depressed and possibly self indulgent way, her reply to that was, ' Right dear shall we get on'.

What a woman.

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