I sang a solo last weekend at our annual women's Christmas Tea.
The choir director picked I WONDER AS I WANDER.
I have always had stage fright. I hoped that it would not effect me as much this time.
As they say, those who can do, those who can't teach.
I have taught a few people ways to get over their performance fears.
"Bend your knees slightly. It relaxes your body as you sing.", usually my first instruction to my students. A tiny thing but a gigantic payoff. Other suggestions were similar. "Let your shoulders fall naturally. Don't hold them up to your ears." And so on.
I did not remember to do any of it. David, the choir director, spent a lot of time helping me to prepare, telling me, "bemd your knees. Relax your body." I laughed. "Oh boy I teach others to do it but I completely forgot about it." I bent my knees, lowered my shoulders, opened my fists. It helped. A lot.
I practiced at home. I visualized the room. I imagined the people. This would be different for me; the first time I would be able to see right into the faces of my audience.
My hope for my life had been to do just this; a cabaret moment. Telling a story to an audience through song. I wondered as I wandered. And this is what I thought about. This was my chance to do what I expected to do with my life.
I stood before the audience. I felt okay, no shakes. David played the piano introduction. The first word came out of my mouth. Immediately my body started shaking, my voice warbled.
The more I thought,Okay, calm down, these people are your friends, people you know, and you know the song. Enjoy it. the more I shook.
I continued to sing. I hit my notes. I felt I got some of the story out the way I meant to, emphasizing some worda and ideas, deemphasizing others.
I wondered though. How bad did it sound to them? How bad did it look?
"You were wonderful." they said. Nice, but these were nice people.
"How bad was it? How scared did I seem and sound?", I asked someone I trusted to answer honestly.
"Scared?" Martha looked at me with surprise. "You looked so calm and comfortable. I was amazed how relaxed you seemed."
It is funny how people's perception is so different from what we feel, or even what is really happening.
I love telling this story:
When I was in dinner theater we did CAROUSEL. Instead of an orchestra the producers decided to use a tape for the music.
It was the finale, the song When You Walk Through A Storm. It was a heavyduty moment, the memorial service for the character Billy Bigelow. We stood and the music did not start. We continued to stand, waiting. Nothing. The lead started to sing, in the wrong key. Some tried to join in but it was pretty bad. And then the music started. At the beginning. We started anew. And then the tape stopped. We started to sing. And then it stopped. We stopped. It started again. We started again. And this time got through the song. It was a debacle. So embarrassing.
And I cannot tell you how many people later came up to us and said "The finale was so moving. The most emotional of any CAROUSEL I have seen."
What you see and what they get. What you feel, what they get from it.