March 3rd, 2009

mirrormask, sphinx, afraid

On singing in public

Last night, we had "auditions" for people who want to sing solos with the choir. They're not really auditions, as the whole point of the choir is to be inclusive and welcoming and encouraging, so it's more of a "let me hear you sing" kind of thing, so that the director can, in her words, "match the right voice with the right song". In the old days (the previous director), everybody who wanted to sing a solo would get one (although this often meant having two or three soloists per song). The "new" director (she's now been there almost a year, so she's not so new anymore) puts more emphasis on the choral parts, so there have been fewer solos (also, she tends to spend more time working on fewer songs, so the repertoire's a bit smaller). All this to say that not everybody who "auditions" will sing a solo, although we are assured that it is based on "song matching", not singing ability. I think she believes that this is true, although inevitably those with more singing ability/training seem likely to "match" more songs. Or perhaps that's my cynicism talking.

Anyway! The point of this babbling is to say that I screwed up my courage and sang the audition.

Now, I am not actually very comfortable singing in public. I am completely comfortable playing my flute in public, even in a solo context, but singing is different. For starters, there's not actually having an instrument, which is surprisingly disconcerting for someone who's used to having an instrument to play. But perhaps more to the point, I have pretty much zero confidence in my singing ability.

This is probably largely the fault of my first-grade teacher, Madame M--. I can trace my insecurity in performing contexts right back to our first-grade Christmas concert/show/thing (it was a catholic school, so yes, it was a Christmas show!).

One of the songs we were singing was "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer". I was the only kid in the entire class who had ever heard the first bit before, the part that goes "You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen...." (I think we had it in a songbook or something -- I'm not sure why I knew it, but I've always known lots of songs that other people don't know). So Madame M-- said, "okay, you can sing that bit as a solo".

I was so excited! I was going to have a solo!

And then...

I was prone to colds as a kid, and had pretty severe allergies. So I had sinus issues a lot of the time. I *think* this is probably what prompted Madame M--'s decision, the fact that I sounded like I had a cold. But all that really matters for the story is that, after I had had some time (a few days, a few weeks, I don't know) to be excited that I! Had! A! Solo!, at one of our practices, she asked another girl to sing it.

This other girl didn't even know the words, but she certainly had a nice voice.

I was devastated. I've never sung in public since (except as part of a choir, or when playing Rock Band with a small group of friends).

But last night I did.

Well, that's not quite true. I sang a similar "audition" last Spring, trying to get past my first-grade issues. But I'd underestimated how anxious I was, I think, or I hadn't braced myself enough or something, and it wasn't a great performance.

Last night, though, was much better. I was still really really nervous, but I was able to get past it enough to sing properly. And it sounded pretty good, even to me. And the director went out of her way to let me know how good it sounded, how much better than the last time.

Now, admittedly, that was just singing for a small group of people. And it doesn't mean I'll get an actual solo. But I still feel like I achieved something:

I metaphorically told Madame M-- to stuff it.