Hello everyone! It’s been a while since I’ve last written a blog post about anything, really, but the truth is I’ve been so incredibly busy these last few months that I just didn’t have the mental availability to sit down and write some meaningful or interesting. I’m writing this from a couple of miles up in the air as I return to London after a mini-tour of Switzerland for some concerts with nothing but Puccini in the programme and what a treat it was.
Before I talk a little about that, one of the things that prompted me to write this post was staring out the airplane window into a beautiful sky after a week of making amazing music with some tremendously talented people, and realising (again) how lucky I am to be able to do what I do for a living. I don’t mean this in a ‘just gonna rub it in’ kind of way, but rather as a grateful recognition that despite all the ugliness in the world today, I need to count myself lucky every day that dealing with a beautiful Art Form is what I do for a living.
Life on the road is difficult: it’s lonely, it’s tiring, air travelling is always an aggressive experience (at least for me) and managing a good health under these circumstances can be incredibly difficult. This last week was an example of that as I flew to Switzerland still not completely recovered from a dreadful cold that had me coughing for two weeks, and with an incredibly demanding schedule ahead of me: land, rehearsal the next two days, followed by 4 concerts back to back. However there was no way I would cancel. Firstly because we all need to make a living and I had people counting on me, and secondly because I don’t know if I’ll ever get to sing this Puccini rarity which is the Mottetto Per San Paolino ever again. At the end of the day, you really have to trust your technique and let it do its job and I really owe a huge amount to my three main singing teachers Antonio, Laura and now Sherman for having helped me build a technique on which I can rely to get me through these challenging situations.
Add to this the mental load of being in a new place, working with people you’ve never met and wanting to leave a good impression and returning to a temporary home with none of the things that make your home Home. Neither your furniture, or your family. It is a lonely life and over the last year and half because I’ve been travelling so much, it only seems to get a bit more difficult. However, the elation you feel while performing such great music in such a beautiful setting (how amazing is Zürich!) carries you through and you really, in away, hand over yourself to Music and let its healing and uplifting quality help you pull through. I have also found that keeping a regular meditation routine helps immensely. Having struggled early in my career with performance anxiety and having learned to manage it linking Hypnotherapy with Self-Hypnosis/Meditation is one of my most powerful in coping with this life on the road. Let me stop you now from raising a sceptical eyebrow or two by saying there’s absolutely NOTHING supernatural about Clinical Hypnosis, Self Hypnosis or Meditation. It’s a skill you can learn that makes you essentially able to slip into and control that pre-falling asleep state when you’re still conscious but super relaxed. I do it for 15 minutes every day and it really has an amazing effect in helping me relax and center myself.
But back to the Music: in the end it all went really well. How amazing it is to see that your joy in performing a piece is coming through and you have an audience smiling from ear to ear when you finish! I’m returning home with a really joyful feeling of having spent the week singing one of my favourite composers with a period instrument orchestra, recreating what would have been the sound of this piece back in the 19th century. This is something I’m incredibly passionate about, as you all know, and I have to say that flying back home with this on my ‘luggage’ - so to speak - is something that at 10 years old when I first started considering being some sort of musician, I could have never imagined.
One final thing that I believe links with what I’ve just written is the notion of kindness especially towards Artists. How many of us haven’t scrolled through the comments section on youtube videos of our favourite singers and read some incredibly vile and gratuitous vitriol towards another person? So, as we approach the Holiday season, I’d like to leave everyone with an appeal, if you can call it that, to make ‘Kindness’ your top new year resolution. Be kind to people. Be mindful at all times that all the people you encounter have their own inner world of insecurities, fears and life issues they’re dealing with. With singers, just be mindful that that performance you’ve just watched and thought ‘why is he/she not sounding so great if he/she is one of the most famous singers in the world today?’ was maybe recorded after that person just had a horrendous journey to that venue and might be having a hard time coping with life as we all do from time to time. We’re only humans after all and although sometimes the audience may see our voices carrying through an entire orchestra without amplification as a super-power, at its essence are a lot of hours of hard work, study and a lifetime sacrificing things that most people take for granted.
Let’s face the Music and be kind!