After the audition

Auditions are quite horrible things, no matter how much the panel may smile encouragingly or how many times you’ve acted or sung for them before.  Nerves are a quite volatile factor.  This is, of course, true in performance as well, but nerves have a different effect in the audition room.  In performance, they act as fuel, and without some level of nervousness a performance tends to be rather lifeless.  Also, before an audience, nerves can be used or covered in the process of presenting a character to the ‘big black giant’ in the auditorium.  Not so at auditions, at least not for the singing librarian.  No matter how much I might try to convince myself that it is a performance for a small, select audience, my lungs, tongue, hands and vocal cords do not get the message, or at least choose not to act on it.

Tonight, I had an audition for the musical Titanic.  This is a wonderful show, which I’m very (though quite quietly) excited about.  The music is breathtaking, the story is moving and the opportunities for actors and singers are numerous.  In the audition, we had to sing a song, any song, unaccompanied, then do a few exercises to prove that we had some measure of musicality.  I chose to sing ‘The Old Red Hills of Home’ from Parade (see Google for a selection of videos of this song) for a variety of reasons.  Firstly, it goes quite high, as do most of the male solos in Titanic.  Secondly, it’s a wonderful song.  Thirdly, it was written around the same time as the Titanic score.  Fourthly, it could show off what I can do in terms of acting a song – presenting a variety of emotions in just a couple of minutes.  It was a choice that I thought would cover all my bases.  Unfortunately, I am painfully aware that I did not do it justice.  Audition nerves kicked in and produced a quite impressive (but entirely inappropriate) vibrato from the very first note almost until the last.  Nothing I could do would stop it, not even closing my eyes and concentrating very hard on one particular line.  The song acquired an extra layer of wobble which it certainly will not have wanted.  I could blame it on the fact that we were unaccompanied, but it was nerves, pure and simple.

The exercises seemed to go well – pick out the high note, pick out the low note, sing a pattern of notes back to the nice lady at the piano.  But still there was the vibrato haunting me.  Part of me is very disappointed with myself – I could have performed the song so much better, and indeed have sung it better as I’ve been preparing.  Part of me wonders whether I should care – I am young, I am male, I can breathe, so I could well have just sung ‘Happy Birthday’ and left it at that.  I’d have a good chance of getting a role of some kind, even if by default.  But I didn’t do as well as I could have done, and that’s not a good way to start with a director and musical director who do not know me.

Within a week, I will know the outcome and we will begin learning the music.  The wait until the moment of truth will feel long, though, as there are a lot of people who expect great things of me.  I can feel them – colleagues, friends, relatives and others – hovering over my shoulder when I audition.  The more they expect of me, or perhaps the more they believe in me, the harder I find it to just relax and do my best.  Sometimes it feels as though there’s a lot more riding on my auditions and performances than there really is.  There’s a downside to developing a fan club, and that’s the perceived need to deliver more and better things to them in each new production. 

Perhaps many people feel like this, perhaps I’m an unusual case, who knows.  I just know one thing.  Regardless of what capacity I may be performing in, I echo the passengers as they sing “I must get on that ship!”

  1. I hadn’t read this when I spoke to you earlier, but you probably realised that. I’m trying to think of something useful to say, but whatever I say probably won’t be it, so please forgive me for that.

    I’m sure (or at least I hope) you know that the last thing any of your friends, colleagues, relatives, or other “fans” want is for you to feel pressured by their belief in or expectations of you. You don’t need to deliver more and better things in each new production, because we go to support *you*, whatever your role and however well you play it. The fact that you’re jolly good at what you do is a bonus! In the end, the people who like you and/or love you do so for reasons other than because you’re good at singing, acting or whatever, so you could probably come on stage and sing ‘Baa, Baa, Blacksheep’ ridiculously out of tune and they’d still be happy. I think the main thing for a lot of your “fans” isn’t how good you are, but the joy in the knowledge (or at least the thought) that you’re happy doing what you do on stage.

    I’m sorry if my regular questioning about shows, auditions, etc has added to the pressure you feel. If you’d rather I didn’t ask please let me know!

    I think it’s quite natural for any performer with any sort of fan base (!) to feel some sort of pressure to deliver more and better things every time they perform, so I don’t think you’re an unusal case in feeling like that.

    I hope at least some of the above rambling makes sense and maybe even helps a bit. Apologies if it doesn’t. If I’ve made you feel worse then I’m really, really, sorry!

  2. I’m just pleased for you no matter what part you land

  3. Oh no, now I’ve made people feel guilty!

    It’s things like my mum’s touching but seriously over the top belief in what I can do, to the point where she thinks I could and should play any role, or a certain non-blogging colleague who takes my ‘career’ in such things entirely too seriously. It’s at least partly in jest, I know, and not intended to make me feel pressured or uncomfortable.

    If I really didn’t want people to ask, I could easily not tell people about any auditions until results are announced – after all, I kept my first principal role secret from my mum for 3 months so I could surprise her with tickets on her birthday!

  4. Don’t worry, it’s horribly easy to make me feel guilty! Now I feel guilty for making you feel like you’ve made people feel guilty! 😉

    I shall continue to ask questions then, if that’s alright. Within reason, obviously! I bet your mum was delighted with her tickets!

  1. August 3rd, 2008
    Trackback from : vocal exercises

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