Last night I performed in what maybe the last performance of a cabaret show. I host the show and mime, make a ham sandwich and sing. Singing has been a huge monstrous fear of mine since I was in a choir at school one christmas aged 13. The dress rehearsal was in the church and we had been arranged in a formation at the front. After having all sang the song once through the teacher looked at us and said there was one person who was out of tune. She pointed straight at me and told me to mime the words. I was standing in the middle of the front row. It was a humiliating experience and destroyed all confidence that I ever had in my singing.Singing became a deep rooted fear of mine. Even with the innocuous Happy Birthday I tended to try to avoid being heard.
Years later at drama school after the first term we all had to sing solos once a week. Standing on stage that first time, I had to hold onto the back of a chair as I got through my song. The chair was trembling across the floor. Week by week I sang and never really got through the crippling fear. The only time I could manage was with a character song and belting out All I want Is a Room Somewhere was the closest I got to any sort of tolerance of singing. My acting teacher commiserated with me as she too struggled with singing but reassured me that when I leave college unless I audition for musical theater I would never have to sing.
This turned out not to be the case and I suffered occasional singing auditions throughout my years of working in London. Moving to LA I performed stand up comedy and sang at the end of my act, with mime and found the comedy in my voice but nothing major, nothing tuneful and nothing along the lines of what the cabaret company wanted me to do for their show.
A 5 minute song in French. I took 6 weeks to learn it and had a crisis a few days before the first show as I really wasn’t sure if I could pull it off. I felt I could seriously be putting myself up for a major humiliation. Safe to say I was terrified. Press were coming, friends would be there…Not sure if people would be laughing with me or at me. Then watching an episode of I Love Lucy where she belts out off-key numbers bravely gave me the confidence I needed.
Now 6 months on, after doing the cabaret monthly and having amazing supportive feedback from the audience. I really resonate with the idea that yes fear can grow to cartoonish massive proportions based on one thing that was said at a vulnerable age. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity now, years after the fact, to sing in French in high heels and in front of a live audience and I pulled it off with aplomb. The thing I have really realized is that its so easy to have your life shaped by a word or a sentence that someone maybe said off handedly or when they were having a bad day themselves. Thus ensues years and possibly a lifetime of a deep rooted fear without questioning whether the person was right. I just accepted it. But nobody can say an absolute statement about you and your life. Its up to you to write your story, your script and not construct it on the shaky careless remarks made years prior. This is our one wild and beautiful life, what are you going to do with it? I for one do not want to spend another moment, let alone years limiting myself and basing my decisions on the offhanded word or comment. The fearful buck stops here darling.Tags: fear, Mhairi Morrison, singing, The bead movement