Monday 7 April 2014

So, apparently, life has begun.

I wrote a post about two weeks ago that I chose not to post as, although I stated within it it was not a "woe is me" post, it was. I put my feelings of, what I can only describe as, displacement down to the fact that I was on the brink of a big birthday (I know you all know it was 40 as I have not stopped going on about it for the past year). Well I have now smashed my way through to a new decade and, I have to say, it is not nearly as bad as I thought it would be.

Don't worry this is not just a narcissistic post about my own ageing process. In the rejected post I had planned to discuss how I was thinking of giving up performing to concentrate on teaching. However my whole outlook has changed, literally overnight. I still have no gigs lined up but I actually do have the desire to try and rectify that and start working on my yodelling again.

Part of the original post is still relevant though. I wrote about how our moods affect our ability to sing. This idea (obviously not my idea, the thought is nothing new) came from a throwaway comment by someone on the Opera Talk page on Facebook about Maria Callas. The post addressed how it is possible that a broken heart was partly responsible for the decline of her voice. 

Of course I may have got the gist wrong, I read it very quickly and now can't remember exactly where I saw it so can't check it, but the idea makes for an interesting discussion. I realise this might come as a surprise to some but I never really thought about how our moods affect us physically. This could be because my life has not really been anything less than OK. However, I started having some pretty major vocal issues during my last long term singing job. I put it down to the way the soprano line of the music I was being asked to sing 8 times a week had been written but perhaps the problem lay deeper than this.

Those of you who know me and, more importantly, my singing will know I have/had a pretty robust voice. I am not precious, I always give 100% and, although I get sick from time to time, I have never ever had vocal problems. So it came as a bit of a surprise, about 3 venues into the tour I was on, that I had developed a ridiculous wobble at the top of my voice. It got worse and worse and nothing I did could put it right. I went to see my singing teacher but there was nothing she could do to fix the problem in the one lesson I could fit in. Logistically getting back to where she was was impossible while I was still on tour. So I was left to my own devices.

I accepted it and just got on with my job but got more and more embarrassed by this awful hole at the top of my voice. When I completed the tour I thought, if I took a few weeks off singing, my voice would recover and all would be hunky dory. This was not the case. The wobble was still there and it seemed there was not a lot I could do about it. So having read that throwaway comment about Maria Callas's broken heart it occurred to me that this might actually be part of my problem.

Hearts can be broken for many reasons (my "broken heart" was nothing to do with my love life). I am not going to go into specifics here but elements of that last job, as early on as the rehearsals, knocked my confidence and left me, I believe, a little broken hearted. I could not see a way back from this feeling for quite a long time. Whereas in most instances like this I would pick myself up and prove myself to the people I needed to prove myself to, this time it felt like my career was not going to get any better and I should just be happy with my lot. I could only summon the energy to make do and get on with it. I had lost the will to fight. In many ways I had given up before the show even started. Yes, I was really lucky to be in a job but that thought could not change the way I felt at the time. And that was the problem, psychologically I could not shake the feeling that I was not good enough.

The last four paragraphs were written when I was feeling very low and I felt like time was running out and I had to make a decision about how he rest of my life was going to pan out. You may, or may not, be pleased to know my voice is starting to behave the more settled I become and I am feeling like I want to sing again. I saw my birthday approaching and felt that, in order to make my life worthwhile, if I had to put my house in order and make huge decisions, ones that there might have been no going back on, before it happened. This is all total and utter bollocks (language, sorry).

What the last few weeks have taught me is, essentially, never make a decision when you are feeling low but also never make a decision when you are deliriously happy either. The first could see you give up on things you have striven for your whole life and the second can see you agreeing to things you would never agree to if you were in a, let's say, neutral state of mind. 

At the moment I am quite content thank you very much, the perfect state of mind to evaluate things. I will continue to build my teaching practice (or should it be practise? I am never sure) but not to the detriment of my own singing. After all it is what I have wanted to do, and what I have done, since I was 9 years old so it would be foolish to give up on it just as life has begun.

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