Perhaps this post could also be called, “Why singers are the way they are.”
I was laying in bed last night with my usual insomnia and realized I had the perfect idea for my next blog post. It came to me as I was going through my nightly prayers and requests from the guy upstairs – the prayer/hope/wish/request that I ALWAYS have when getting closer to performance time – HEALTH!
We start tech and dress rehearsals for “Oklahoma!” on Saturday. Then it’s straight through with daily rehearsals until opening night next Friday. (Except for our one day off on Thursday.) This is where I go in to what I call “paranoid singer mode.” There’s just no way to get around it. I live in constant fear of getting sick. In fact, I often think the worst part about being a singer is the stress of worrying about not getting sick at a really important moment. Every move you make, every decision, everything revolves around the voice.
Sadly, I’ve learned the hard way about getting sick at the wrong times and it’s the worst thing that can happen to a singer. I still remember getting the flu 6 years ago before my solo debut at the Kimmel Center as soprano soloist in Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. Exactly one week before the performance, I lost my voice to the flu. As in completely gone. When I would try to sing, NOTHING came out. I was a wreck. Not only had I worked REALLY hard on my music (and had lots of people coming to see me), but let’s be honest, I already had plans for the money, and if you don’t sing, you don’t get paid. I got my voice mostly back the morning of the concert, but it was an absolutely horrible thing to live through.
Then in 2009, I got the swine flu – right in the middle of the epidemic. The problem was that it was a week before opening night of HMS Pinafore – and I was singing the lead role of Josephine. I had to miss all but one dress rehearsal AND I had to miss an amazing caroling gig. Olde Towne Carolers (my caroling group) got a contract to sing for the Philly stop of Disney’s Christmas Carol Train Tour. I had been looking forward to that gig for MONTHS. But I was forbidden to go in public with my swine flu and had to get a sub to fill in for me. So I missed out on and amazing gig for DISNEY and missed out on the money I was going to make singing it. Fortunately, my voice didn’t go away that time, so I was okay for opening night of Pinafore, but the cough that lingered wreaked havoc for months.
And just this past Christmas season, I ended up getting the flu after our appearance singing on the Rachael Ray Show. I tried to plow through my caroling gigs for a few days, but eventually my voice couldn’t take it, and I lost it completely for several days. Again – at the worst time possible. I had to go on steroids to try to get it to come back sooner.
Why am I going on and on telling you about all these situations? Because I find so often that non-singers just don’t get it. Think about it – what if EVERY time you got sick – even with a little cold – you couldn’t do your job. And you couldn’t get paid. And if you don’ t have someone to cover you, you have to do it anyway even if you might be really terrible… which in turn will hurt your chances of getting other jobs in the future, because in this business you’re only as good as your last performance. Heck, think of sitting in a performance and hearing a singer croak through a whole show because they lost their voice – wouldn’t be much of a pleasant experience.
So if you sniffle or cough when you see me in the next 2-3 weeks and I run away from you squirting anti-bacterial gel all over my hands and face with abject horror in my eyes, don’t take it personally, it’s just that I CANNOT get sick. 🙂