Last night I sang in front of people and I didn’t die

I have this crazy anxiety about singing in front of other people. I don’t know why – I enjoyed singing as a kid and was in my primary school choir, but I also have memories of feeling like I wasn’t very good and feeling ashamed of that. I think I stopped singing fairly early on. Up until recently I couldn’t even bring myself to sing in front of my husband – not without putting on a funny voice and making a joke out of it.

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Ella Fitzgerald – one of my favourite vocalists.

When we were writing The Gin Sisters the plan was to have a couple of songs in there, and I was going to do a song by myself. The idea terrified me but I was determined to give it a go and get over my fear. The first time I tried to sing in front of our director I was a mess – as soon as I stood up the anxiety washed over me and I could barely get anything out. The next few times I got a bit better, but my voice was still shaky and I was so nervous that we pulled it from the show. I was bitterly disappointed in myself and angry that I was letting my own self-doubt get in the way of my goals. I put it away for months while we focused on the rest of the show, and said to myself “well that’s just one skill you can’t do”. I beat myself up so badly over it – ridiculous right? I stopped practicing and became shy about singing at home again.

I played my uke in The Gin Sisters but didn't sing!

I played my uke in The Gin Sisters but didn’t sing!

We did two runs of the show – Perth Fringe World and Adelaide Fringe, and I tried to see as many shows as possible. I’ve been so inspired by the work I’ve seen that I decided it was time to step out of my comfort zone even further than I had with The Gin Sisters (where I still have my partner in crime Sapphire to rescue me when I forget my lines!) and do a one woman show, which I am writing at the moment and will be performing in the Cabaret Fringe Festival in June. In that vein, I have been trying to do new and scary things and so I decided that I would try singing a little song in our amateur night, Bloomers.

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Some of the gals performing in Bloomers with Sapphire – some for the very first time!

One of my biggest problems is that if I don’t start in the right place, I can be singing way out of tune but not know how to get back in tune. Sometimes when I hear notes next to each other I can’t tell which one is higher or lower, and I also struggle to tell when I am doing it right. The fear of being out of tune really puts me off. So, to get over that, I sang accompanied by two egg shakers (skilfully manned by audience members), so I wouldn’t have to stress about being in tune with anything except myself. I didn’t tell anyone I was going to do it so I could back down shame free, but I also didn’t bring a plan B which meant I pretty much had to do it.

You know what, I was ok. My voice didn’t break, I think I hit the right places and my words didn’t come out muffled. I’m not going to be doing musicals any time soon, but I did it. And I’m really proud of myself. It was just a silly little song that lasted all of a minute, but it’s a wall I’ve been running into for years, and it feels great to have broken through a little, and I’m interested to see what’s on the other side.

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