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Your knees are shaky, your hands unsteady and you doubt very much if anything will come out of your mouth when it’s time to sing. Whether it’s a My Pop Choir Friends and Family night or any other musical performance, have you ever felt just a wee bit (or a lot) of stage fright?

As well as these onstage nerves, you may also start to feel anxiety weeks or even months before a significant event where you are performing. As we look forward to singing at the prestigious Koerner Hall this December, it would be quite natural for you to feel some butterflies, along with your anticipation.

Hopefully, you will feel reassured to know that our very experienced and professional My Pop Choir staff have been through it all and learned to cope. Here is their advice both for the months ahead, as well as for your time onstage.

“Come into a performance as prepared as you can,” says Jenn Kee, Burlington/Hamilton choir director. “Know the lyrics but also realize that a little flub will not derail your performance. There are always going to be anticipatory butterflies, but you can eliminate real dread through preparation.”

Trepidation is not always a bad thing, according to My Pop Choir owner/director Alex Fiddes. “There are good kinds of nerves and bad kinds of nerves. If you’re not nervous at all, that’s not a good thing as it might indicate indifference. Nerves are there to fuel your body, to tell you that something big is happening. They are a natural, healthy response to the circumstances.”

“Stage fright is so normal,” adds Kelly McNamee, Alex’s wife and a member of the folk/indie group Lunar Bloom, who also helps on the administration side of My Pop Choir. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or a veteran. It’s just your body preparing. And excitement and nervousness are so close together. The adrenalin pumping gives you the focus to do the show.”

If you still need convincing, Toronto/Burlington director, Iain Stewart, says, “The most reassuring thing is that most people get nerves. It’s just getting used to dealing with them. I’ve been nervous for so many years in so many productions.

He suggests using visualization as a technique for dealing with anxiety before an event: “Imagine what the performance will be like – the audience, the people around you. Then your body has time to get used to nerves, so you know it will be OK.”

Even when practising, you can start preparing yourself to cope with whatever may happen during a performance.  “Be sure to relax your body so you can breathe,” Iain says. “If you’re too tense, you can’t breathe properly and it becomes a cycle.”

Keeping perspective is also essential to calming any anxious thoughts that may pop up weeks or even months beforehand. “Is this performance going to alter the state of universe?” asks Alex. “Of course not! You can argue that each of us isolated is somewhat insignificant. Being one of 400 people gives you freedom.”

Kelly offers a firsthand experience. “During Lunar Bloom’s very first gig, the very first note I sang was completely wrong. I was really embarrassed.  After the show I didn’t want to make eye contact with anyone but people kept giving us compliments.  You have those moments and you feel really embarrassed and horrified but it doesn’t mean that it ruins the whole performance.”

So in the weeks before the event, you have built your confidence by being well-prepared and thinking about what to expect. You realize that the entire concert doesn’t depend on your being perfect. But then you are on stage and both body and mind seem to be shaking – what can you do?

Alex has a solution for that wobbly feeling: “Stand up tall, lift your shoulders, bringing them back. Give your shoulders and neck a bit of a stretch and relax your jaw. And do some deep breathing.”

Can you do all that when you are actually on stage? When you are a part of a large choir, as we will be at the Big Sing, no one in the audience is going to notice your relaxation technique.  “And if you need to take a second don’t sing for a couple of bars, find your footing and come back in,” advises Iain. “Fuel your nervousness into positive energy.”

Get out of your head, Jenn advises: “Focus on the storytelling, the music itself and any personal meaning that it has for you. Lose yourself in the story and become its interpreter for the audience.”

Perhaps the thought of that large audience is a significant part of what is causing your anxiety, which you fear may come to life, as you see Koerner Hall filling up. It’s important to keep in mind that your purpose is to entertain.

“We’re all there to have a good time,” Iain reminds us. “The audience needs to see you enjoying the performance.”

Jenn agrees: “No one in the audience actively wants you to make a mistake. Everyone in the room will be rooting for you. And any mistake will be gone in an instant. Your only job as a performer is to make sure that everyone in the audience is having as good a time as you are. It really starts with you. The more fun you have the more fun they’ll have.”

“This is going to be a joyous event,” says Alex. “We can smile and share the experience with the other singers. This is for laughter and fun and play. Enjoy the beautiful space of Koerner Hall and don’t be intimidated.”

“Find the joy within yourself and share it with the audience,” Iain recommends. “That’s what they will remember.”

Encouraging as always, Alex urges us to “embrace what’s coming. Ride the wave!”

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1 comentario

Dave Toms
Dave Toms
25 abr

Great article and sage advice, for sure!

Something that helped me is wisdom from psychologists helping people overcome their fears: "Re-contextualize your experience." When I feel nervous, anxious, shaky, I tell myself in a quiet little voice "You're excited. This isn't fear. It's excitement. This is potentially wildly wonderful. And it's going to be great." Even if it IS fear. Even if it IS anxiety. I tell myself it's excitement instead. And with that, the anxiety transmutes into energy, the fear into rocket fuel, the shaking into ecstatic glee. This technique takes practice, patience, and perseverance. But it works for me :)

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