Audition advice from the greats

This arrived on my Facebook page via Audition Oracle

I love these things in particular:

Remember the panel are well intentioned- they want to cast someone and they’re hoping it’s you!

Mean what you say, say what you mean

People come to enter your world, you don’t need to prove anything or go anywhere

Sorry for the dodgy link, I’m a bit new at all this…

Renée Fleming, Susan Graham and Thomas Hampson talk auditions


Packing for overseas tours

Today: packing advice for overseas travel.

When I travel abroad I have 2 lists (oh, I do love a lost) to pack from. One is called ‘to pack: clothes’ and is written ad hoc for each trip about an hour before I pack, the other is called ‘to pack: other’ and is written in stone (or however it is that an iPad makes it appear on my screen’

There are a few things I like to take which are specific to singing/business travel, I.e. I wouldn’t bother on a holiday.

iPad dock: I like to listen to music, podcasts, talks, audiobooks, the dock just makes it easier

Plastic tub: particularly in a self catering place it’s nice to make your own lunch, but annoying to have to buy a new receptacle every trip

Salt and pepper: again, so useful in self catering, but surprisingly expensive if you only use a week’s worth then leave them behind. Oil and balsamic etc on the other hand I tend to buy a bottle and share with my colleagues. I sometimes like to travel with some mixed herbs, but as I’m sure you can imagine a small bag of chopped green foliage is not something to be caught with in an airport so I usually only do this within the uk…

Facemasks: in fact just a few nice pamper type things, nail varnish and remover, leave in hair conditioner, foot scrub, for those evenings when you’re alone and homesick and need some me time after a concert

BBC iPlayer downloads: I love this feature of iPlayer, Auntie stops me getting UK withdrawal symptoms

Hand knitted socks: I use these instead of slippers, but I used to take my slippers when I had some. It’s just so comforting to have something to wear in your room, so it feels a little more like home

Obviously I pack all the normal stuff too, but these are my extras for a pleasurable tour.

Making the most or the least

I am very lucky in my career in that I get to travel a lot. Usually within Europe, but occasionally further afield, too. Today I am in Brussels, a city I come to reasonably often. Brussels is a beautiful, historic, cultural, vibrant city. So what edifying experience do I have planned for today? Nothing. Unless you count sitting in my b&b watching detective dramas.

Am I doing the right thing? Should I be out making the most of being in a city which most Brits think of as a holiday destination? Is it ok to take it for granted, in a way, that I can come back another time?

When I am in a new city, or somewhere further away, I tend to sightsee, hit the museums, get lost in back streets, struggle with the language etc. However, in these cities I know well, or at least visit frequently, I just chalk them up to a business trip and forget the plethora of activities around me. I always say to myself, I’ll bring the boy one day, we’ll see it together, sightseeing solo is sad.

Am I right? Or ungrateful?

My usual line is ‘it will still be here next time, and if it isn’t, you’ve got bigger things to worry about than not having seen Atomium…’

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…

Reasons to love my job number 1 of millions.

You know what’s great? Today is chilly but sunny, half term, Monday, all the things that add up to a great day out with my friends and their kids. If I worked 9-5 I would have to stay in the office until dusk, when everything is closed and children are tired. As it is, I went out this morning with my friends, enjoyed this unexpected sunshine and shifted my work back to this afternoon and evening.

I’ve even taken advantage of my energy today to clean the kitchen floor.

Never let me say I don’t like being a singer.

Unexpected pleasures

There are a lot of simple pleasures to be had in life if we only take time to appreciate them. Singing exposes me to lots of them, for which I am very grateful.

Beautiful landscapes seen from train windows, e.g Oxfordshire, train rides here are gorgeous
Opportunities to see long distance friends at gigs in their towns
Discovering new tea/coffee shops near oratorio gigs
An hour in the charity shops in a choral society town between rehearsal and gig
The compensatory lie-in after a late gig

These are just a few of the non-career related reasons I love my career.