I was talking today to Richard and Gabi about the importance of actually performing a piece in front of an audience, and how it makes music come alive in a very different way than practicing. No matter how many times or how hard you practice, it’s not the same.
Singing alone in my living room, I might concentrate on accuracy and memorization. In front of my voice teacher, my main focus is on technique, breath support, and placement. In a rehearsal with the pianist, I would try to pull all those things together, and also of course come in at the right moments and keep my tempo in line with the accompaniment.
And with all of those things in mind — sometimes including nervousness about not making mistakes, or just simple performance nerves — it is only when I get out in front of a crowd that it hits me… it’s a performance! It’s a song. The folks listening (mostly) don’t know or care about the perfect technique, intonation, or even words. They want to hear and see what I am conveying with the music; the feeling I am trying to share.
This realization hits me every time I perform a classical piece. I’ve been singing Broadway and standards for decades; they don’t make me nervous any more. But I’m still occasionally anxious about presenting “serious” music. And then I get in front of an audience and I remember that it’s all about delivering a song. It’s all about entertaining the people listening.
And I can do that! I love to do that!
We had a great concert yesterday. A couple flubs here and there, but mostly glorious. It was so grand to sing with both of our different piano players, and with Derek, too! And what a joy to get a chance to show off our classical chops and then melt into the jazz half.
We could have wished for a larger audience, but that’s often the way it is. Next time, more publicity.
My favorite moment was when the band played the first verse of “Blues in the Night,” and then stopped. I had the mic in my hand as I stood just out of sight of the audience. Then I launched into the honky-tonk words “My…. mama don’ told me… when I was in pigtails…” and walked into view. It was the best!