Sunday, 20 November 2011

The morning after the night before. . .

Oh my word. What a night!
W  H  A  T ,     A      N  I  G  H  T  !

Well, I did it! I sang a solo in front of a hundred or so people at Caroline Sharpe's annual 'pupils concert' at Trinity Methodist Church. I'm struggling to find the right words to adequately express how I feel this morning. Ecstatic? Over the moon? Proud? Deleriously happy? Yep, pretty much all of those. I dare say regular readers of this blog may have been getting a bit tired of hearing about my 'demons' and my struggle to overcome the damned things that have handicapped my life since age ten. Well it ends here! No more. The demons have been slain and the only way is UP from here on.

But plain sailing it was not. Let's rewind a little. . . .

Things were fine when I had a singing lesson with Caroline on Wednesday. I was confident that I could do it and was conscious of how I would probably feel if I bottled out!  Between then and Friday evening however, the nerves started to get a hold. By Friday night I had worked myself up into such a state that if I was to get any sleep at all I was going to have to tell Ruth that I couldn't go through with it. To my irrational mind, in order to at least do the two 'Caroline Sharpe Singers' songs justice I would have to forget the solo. Ruth, bless her, reassured me that I didn't need to do it if I didn't feel I could. I'm not on the programme, so no-one would know if I pulled out. So I got a decent night's sleep feeling the pressure was off. Sigh!

Saturday morning first thing I texted Caroline to say I didn't want to do the solo and she just said  'that's fine, but just have a run through with Chris Hill on Saturday morning anyway, just for the experience'. I didn't fancy that to be honest, but never mind. So on Saturday morning it was off to Trinity for the CSS rehearsal. That all went well until it was time for the soloists to do the run throughs with Chris. I then slipped into utter panic mode,  and I even put my jacket on and was about to leave. Ruth urged me to stay and at least give it a go which would be an achievement in itself. After all it was only the 'Enchanted' girls listening. I did stay, but when it came to my turn, the absolute terror I felt was indescribable! Only God knows how I managed to get through the whole song. I was shaking like a leaf and when I finished a mild expletive slipped from my lips! Honestly, in a place of worship!?! I think in the circumstances God will forgive me. Anyway, several of the girls commented that the nerves didn't show in my voice which was comforting. Chris tried to emphasise the point, as he has done previously - what's the worst that can happen? A bit of embarrassment? Thanks to Ruth, Chris and Caroline, I left Trinity actually feeling that perhaps I can do it after all.

The next few hours were a bit of a blur, but I was growing even more determined to do it. Olivia posted a message on Facebook which was really nice of her and meant a lot. What was really odd was just how calm I felt when I got to Trinity. Chris and Caroline reckoned it is to do with 'putting on the frock' as it were. One gets 'in the zone'. As of 6.30 pm  I was up for it. Game on! But I daren't predict whether that would still be the case come solo time! The problem now was that I had become so focussed on my solo that I was struggling to refocus on the opener Sing With the Spirit with the 'Singers'. For this, Jeff and I were much happier next to each other, which worked much better than the 'one in front of the other' that we had tried in rehearsal. It seemed to go very well and the alarmingly large audience seemed to enjoy it.

Then we had three wonderful pieces: a solo by Holly; a duet with Olivia and Anna-Ruth and then a solo by Alice. These were all stunning performances. Then it was my turn - no pressure then? Caroline and I had worked out a signal system to check that I was still 'up for it'. She was to give me a 'look' before announcing the section of english pieces and I was to respond with a thumbs up or down. By this time I was totally focussed on doing it and forgot to look up. Unknown to me, Caroline and Ruth were looking at each other, trying to ascetain whether I was or wasn't going to sing! Thankfully she did include me in the intro. I was obviously very nervous as I stood up, but I had been strangely gripped by a steely determination to do it. Failure was no longer an option. I've no idea where it came from but was very thankful that it did.

What followed stunned even myself. I felt I started my rendition of Handel's Where E're You Walk a little tentatively so tried to open up a bit. I insisted on having my comfort blanket there in the form of the music on the stand, but in truth didn't follow it at all. I suppose it gave me something to look at rather than the audience, which might freak me out. I found the more I sang the better it seemed to get and I actually started to enjoy it! I remembered to put in the 'twiddly bits' in the second half. Then Chris finished off the tune and the audience applauded and even noticed a few whoops!?! Amazing! For the first time, I actually looked up at the audience and saw smiles on faces!  I think that moment will stay with me for ever.  I honestly felt like throwing my arms in the air and screaming YEEESSSSS!!! but made do with a feeble bow and sigh of relief.

As I returned to my seat, Chris Hill shook my hand and Ruth was in tears! I had done it. Blimey Charlie, I had actually done it! With the overwhelming feeling of euphoria that followed, I didn't notice Anna-Ruth had gone on after me. So I snapped out of it and tried to listen to the rest of the first half. Again, each piece from Anna, Enchanted, Rowan and Maisie were superb. To round things off were Maggie and Wendy with the hilarious Cat Duet by Rossini. Everyone loved it, especially the kids!

I won't go into too much detail about the second half or this blog will end up like Lord of the Rings, but my last contribution was with the choir for Windmills of Your Mind. I think we all felt this went okay, but with plenty of room for improvement. To complete the concert we had solos from Olivia (accompanied by George Owen), Rose, Wendy, Lottie, Rebekah and Rowan. In the middle, the Ladies Group including my Ruth performed a superb rendition of Lloyd Webber's Look with Your Heart. I think I was as proud of my wife as she was of me. To round off an unforgettable night were Enchanted with the increasingly brilliant Oklahoma medley and then Time to Say Goodbye. A fantastic concert that seems to have been universally heralded as the best so far!

So that was that. The end of what was for me, a truly incredible, life changing experience and a night I will never forget. At the risk of making this blog seem like an oscar acceptance speech, I can't finish without thanking a few people:-
  • Firstly, my wife Ruth for all the support, belief and encouragement to get me over the finish line
  • Chris Hill for his Saturday morning 'pep talk' and his exceptional piano playing.
  • Also Anna, Sis-in-law Julia and Olivia for their words of encouragement.
  • Finally to the musical genius that is Caroline Sharpe. To get me into a position to sing a solo inside nine months, having never ever sung before is nothing short of miraculous.
Thank you all!

So where do we go from here? Caroline's next major task will be to rein in my runaway enthusiasm! Next up is another wedding and then it's Christmas stuff! Bring it on!

Cheers for now,


  1. Tears?!!! I just had an unfortunate speck of dust in my eye ;-)

    Having lived and breathed the debilitating effects of your anxiety lately (which cannot be understimated!!) I can be forgiven a little eye-leakage. You see, you thought you'd lost faith in yourself but what you didn't realise was that I had safe hold of it until you were ready to take it back. Mind you, I wasn't going to hold onto it beyond Saturday so it's a darn good job you went through with it!

    As ever, I am very proud of my Al and look forward to 'what next?' for LMVC, CSS and Alyn Coward the soloist!

  2. 'What next' is weddings or carol concerts every weekend through until Christmas! As for 'Al the Soloist', I'm already looking into 'Bring Him Home' from Les Mis, as per your request! ;-)
    So proud of both you and Anna too! Hugs, Al x


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