What a Stage magazine article and a recall taught me about being a legit singer and creativity.
To be perfectly honest, I’ve been putting off writing this blog post for a REALLY REALLY long time, every time I sit down, open up my laptop, get a cup of tea and stare at the screen, my mind goes completely blank. Its like my brain has suddenly decided to have no knowledge of what we are meant to be doing and I have to abort the whole situation with a tiny bit of frustration that I cannot find the words for this story.
Not that its a particularly hard subject for me to write about, or I’m bothered about the personal details.
I just cannot find the right way to write it, to express it, to convey what I mean.
So, here is attempt number three. (I’m determined this one will be published, so if you’re reading this, thank you and yes, I did it, finally!)
I sing a lot.
I sing high notes a lot, more specifically.
But, recently, I’ve noticed when I’ve told people this, I normally put the phrase ‘but its not your sort of thing’ before or after. Almost an apology for how I sing?
Funnily enough, when I first began loving musical theatre, I was a girl who wanted to be an Elphaba, I wanted to belt out those ridiculous notes with my super powerful chest voice and would never even dream that singing high or ‘operatically’ was even a possibility.
I had no interest in being the girl who sung high notes, I wanted the gritty roles, I wanted the roughness and the riffs.
Then, when I was thirteen and began tuition with my first ever singing teacher who shoved an Italian aria under my nose and made me lift my soft palette for the first time, there was no turning back.
As a singer, you know where your voice sits, whats comfortable, whats right!
And, legit singing had thrust itself upon me.
I remember asking her what it felt like when you hit a high note right (difficult question to answer I know) but she responded ‘you’ll feel it, the vibrations bouncing round your forehead, the openness of the throat and just exhilaration.’
I most certainly feel that exhilaration. I get a buzz from my legit singing, almost how I’d imagine it feels to belt, legit singing has that quality for me.
As you’d expect I become obsessed with the scores and shows my vocal ability longed to be a part of, Carousel and Showboat and Gigi, these beautiful, semi-classical scores with long phrasing, rounded vowels and romantic lyrics.
I get personally insulted when thespians claim ‘the soprano’s are the ingenues, the naive romantics’ and yes, in the formula of musical theatre this is true to a certain extent but hear or see a woman sing ‘If I Loved You’ as Julie Jordan from Carousel and tell me there is any less grittiness, strength, rawness or authenticity than Eponine singing ‘On my Own.’
Just as shows like Rent and Wicked paved the way for a whole generation of young theatre lovers, these legit shows are what made me truly fall in love with musical theatre.
But, legit singing is dying.
Or so, I didn’t realise until I went into professional training.
Where in performance class the week Rodgers and Hammerstein was dished out I was overwhelmed with excitement and the next week it would be ‘Pop/Rock’ musicals, I wanted to hide in the corner, evading the entire situation.
Unlike, the majority of people who welcomed the news with a cheer.
While I wanted to sing top ‘C’s’ and gush about the new production of Showboat, most people wanted to riff, belt and sing ‘Waitress’. (Which I admire equally!)
I began to feel out of place, lacking in confidence and become unable to sing in front of people without having the biggest anxiety attack; I lost all value in what I did. Lost all value in my vocal type. Hated the way I sang. And became intimidated by the people around me.
I felt like I was being made into a type of performer that I wasn’t at all.
Who wanted to listen to R&H anymore? Who wanted to hear soprano’s? Where would I fit into the industry? Was there even a place?
Then, I came across an article in Stage magazine, with the headline,
‘In Showboat, they celebrate the fact I have a big classical voice…
They love her, she’s perfect, but now want her to change: she’s a petite woman with a very big voice and not everyone knows what to do with it.’
The article is an interview with Gina Beck who was at the time starring in the new production of Showboat at the New London Theatre as Magnolia.
Gina explains her struggle with her vocal type within the musical theatre world, how she’d always tried to tame it down or fit in another box but knew the classical shows is where her voice belonged.
I first saw Gina as Christine in Phantom of the Opera in 2009, I ended up seeing Gina three times in the role of Christine during that year, her performance was hugely influential for me, not just vocally but from an acting perspective, she’s long been my favorite Christine and for me, no one has come close.
The article made me realise that despite what I was feeling, there will always be a place for legit singers in the musical theatre world. No matter how small in the changing climate, its there. 🌟
Four months later, after leaving hospital, I had an audition for one of the top musical theatre courses in the world. I’d booked the audition as a ‘confidence boost’. The idea that, if I can go and sing in front of this audition panel, I can get the courage to start singing again.
I didn’t over-think my song choice and took what I did best, placing no expectation on the situation. On the day of the audition, I was the only legit singer, which again frayed my nerves. But I was determined to stand there and do what I do, having learnt my lesson.
One week later, I got a recall.
I was shocked, I knew getting a recall for this particular school was like gold dust at times, especially if you’re female.
But again, I went with no expectations and had the best time in London at the recall audition and sang my high notes with complete pride.
During my time, the head of musical theatre expressed how much he valued my voice and even though they weren’t able to offer me a place that particular time, his belief in me as a legit singer made me fall in love with my vocal type again. ♥️
So, yes, I’m a legit singer. Yes I sing high notes. But that is my art, that is what I do, that is what makes me, me!
Long story short, whatever it is you do, if you write, paint, draw, own a business, do it authentically, do what it is that you do because that is your power.
My power is my legit voice.