On health

So this week I am on tour with a group I sing for. We’re a small ensemble singing a slightly complicated programme which we have been touring around on and off for a few months and will continue to tour for the foreseeable future. The balance within the ensemble has been hard to achieve with a varied programme, but we have worked hard and each person is now pulling their own weight, supporting their colleagues and contributing to something beautiful. We are a well oiled, 12 person machine, each part as indispensable as the next.

I am ill.

This is a disaster. I think. Or a secret. Or a fact of life. How do I know how to deal with this?

From a purely professional point of view, the show must go on. Although I don’t feel great, I can still sing to a high enough standard to perform the show and not let my colleagues (and public…) down. I managed the show last night and am immensely grateful for a scheduled day off today for resting and the purely medicinal administering of detective dramas. The greater problem for me is how I interact with my colleagues.

As singers we all guard our health jealously, so is it appropriate for me to socialise with them, hang around in the dressing room, stand close in rehearsals? I’m not sneezing or coughing a lot, only occasionally, and I’m not sure I’m still contagious, but it’s just that, I’m not sure.

The reactions of my colleagues have been very interesting. The most caring offering sympathy and drugs, preferring to greet me with a hug despite my warnings and generally making me feel better and loved. Some didn’t notice I was ill. Perhaps I covered it well, didn’t allow it to affect my professional behaviour, held my dignity (and sneezing) in public places. Or perhaps they just don’t notice me?

The worst ones are the ‘fortress of health’ types. The ones who, on hearing a cough on a train promptly change carriage. The ones who carry hand gel to offer to colleagues who look a little pale. The ones who in a joking, but not joking way lean in and say, ‘if I get ill I will put a bomb in your room…’ (true story from yesterday…)

It’s a hard balance, I don’t know whether I should try to hide my illness, so that it doesn’t count as a black mark against my name, so that I can continue to enjoy the social perks of artistic life, so that I can avoid the snide remarks and black looks. Or should I just invest in a bell and move to the singers equivalent of a leper colony?

It seems to me that it’s hard to win, but I’ll be better tomorrow…