stage fright

CPDL topics that don't fit in the other categories
anaigeon
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Re: stage fright

Post by anaigeon » 29 Jul 2009 00:15

I also agree that 'sight singing' is obviously more difficult than 'sight reading' as an instrumentalist!
Well... as an amateur, it seems to me, however, that some key signatures are more difficult for instrumentalists than for singers ?!
(but I agree 100% that we are psychologically protected by this finger activity, while the singer is, so to say, naked)

CHGiffen
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Re: stage fright

Post by CHGiffen » 30 Jul 2009 15:24

Well, I (for one), am about equally nervous (or not) whether singing or playing. But then I'm talking about playing the oboe, which can be somewhat of a challenge at times (slave to the reed, etc.). Moreover, I've sung for many, many years - at least a dozen of which were with a group whose practice was not to use any form of keyboard as a learning aid when learning a cappella works ... the result was that we learned faster, better, and more in tune.

Chuck
Charles H. Giffen
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Early Choral Music? Zephyrus (I sang 12 seasons 1992-2004 with this group).

Mike Gibson
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Re: stage fright

Post by Mike Gibson » 03 Aug 2009 14:59

Many years ago, when I was a boy soprano, I was given some advice prior to my first solo performance. I was told that, before I sang a note, I should select a single member of the audience and sing to them alone. By concentrating in this way, the rest of the audience (and its intimidating effect) fade into the background. I have found this works for me especially if the selected person (usually now my wife) is someone I know to be sympathetic. Why not give it a try.

anaigeon
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Re: stage fright

Post by anaigeon » 03 Aug 2009 17:12

Interesting experience, Mike, that's probably why I feel more confident when my teacher is present.

vaarky
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Re: stage fright

Post by vaarky » 06 Aug 2009 22:24

That's helped in my case too, except the one time I forgot some of the words when singing at a recital my voice teacher held for her students to perform. I interspersed what little Italian I could think of on the spot to fill in the missing words--mostly different types of pasta shapes, I regret. Most of the audience missed it, I think, but I still crack myself up remembering the look on my voice teacher's face.

pml
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Re: stage fright

Post by pml » 07 Aug 2009 05:48

Grantallen wrote:I have been a professional performer for most of my life (40 years) and can honestly say that 'stage fright' has not bothered me one bit! ................ the reason? I have always ensured that I am 'totally confident' about my performance! And how do I reach this state of confidence? .....
Practice! (if necessary) If you are not confident about your performance of a specific piece then the only way to get confident is to practice it until you can play it. On the other hand, if you cannot play (or sing) the piece effectively, you must ask yourself whether you should be performing the piece in the first place!
If you are a professional performer you should not even consider giving a less than 'perfect' performance. If you are an amateur; then I am afraid that nerves are all part of the package!
Hi Grant,

Congratulations! Your last comment "If you are an amateur" is a wonderfully arrogant insult, that at a rough guess probably applies to 99% of the visitors to this website: the vast majority of choral bodies are comprised of amateurs. Moreover, if any significant proportion of amateurs do suffer from stage fright – and from anecdotal evidence, it seems it must be quite a number – then, again congratulations, for kicking them back down in their place, with such a put-down.

Perhaps as a solo instrumentalist, you might be permitted to have such overweening confidence in the strengths of one's performance, but ensemble work relies on the interaction with individuals other than yourself, to the extent where the quality of your own performance may suffer owing to mistakes, or inept preparation and rehearsal by people over whom you have no control at all.

Vaarky has also mentioned the issue of having to be brought in as a sub, which I can relate too. I had to conduct a concert last month on one day's notice, when the conductor went down with good old H1N1. (Likewise I had about five minutes warning that I was going to be running the scheduled rehearsal on that day.) For my part I know I gave as good as a performance as I could manage in the circumstances, but I knew in advance that it would be less than "perfect", largely for reasons completely out of my control. C'est la vie.

I've participated in a few professional* performances where rehearsals have been fraught, or in other ways have been somewhat inadequate (too much music, too brief time to rehearse), which has led to a certain "frisson" of excitement when it came to giving the performance. Would I call that nerves? I would hesitate to say, since you say you lack them. But professionals most certainly do get stage-fright, and they can suffer from it on the biggest stage of all: I recall a certain recent inauguration where a rendition of a well-known anthem began at the words "... by the dawn's early light".

There's no glory in giving the only "perfect" effort in an imperfect performance, and no individual from the conductor down to the 4th percussionist sitting around to play one cymbal clash after 800 bars tacet should ever feel complacent. As a performer, I have total confidence in the things that I personally can do; as for the rest of the ensemble, that's their business, but one can be justified in having occasional reservations, when for example, a choral entry is always hesitant or reliant on a certain cue; or the conductor always seems to take a certain passage at a difficult tempo for the entire ensemble to match.

Regards, Philip

* Professional in the sense of, a professional orchestra and choir performing to professional standard, despite suffering from inadequate allocation of rehearsal time thanks to the supposedly "professional" orchestra administration. However I admit it's a delicate line to tread, since it is also easy to over-rehearse a work.

carlos
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Re: stage fright

Post by carlos » 07 Aug 2009 16:10

For what concerns me (being myself an amateur singer), Grant's comment was not taken as an insult; for me it sounded more like common sense, as I believe that what he said applies to every aspect of life. People who specialize in something will tend to feel more confident when talking about it (or performing it) than those who haven't.

nolinesbarred
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Re: stage fright

Post by nolinesbarred » 07 Aug 2009 21:36

I have found everyone's comments here interesting and instructive - including Grant's. It certainly didn't occur to me to take offence at what anyone has said. Some of us here are professional musicians, some not; it's interesting to hear what people think, and to appreciate how perceptions vary according to the different experiences of CPDL's members. It's all about the music.

Grantallen
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Re: stage fright

Post by Grantallen » 08 Aug 2009 00:02

Goodness gracious 'PML'
I don't know who you are or what you are, but I don't think I deserve a deluge of criticism from you!
Yes, I am a professional musician (and proud to be so) but I will not bend to your accusations of 'brow beating' (musically) or the denegration of the 'amateur' performer!
You, (presumably) are an 'amateur' musician and in such, you will hold aloft the rights of your fellow fraternity but; you are a million miles from the day to day life of a professional musician! Now; there is nothing wrong in that. I know that 'amateur' musicians give enormous pleasure to millions of people throughout the world and long may it continue!
I did not, and I never would 'denegrate' the role of the amateur musician but; you must understand that 'WE' as professional musicians GIVE OUR LIVES TO MUSIC !!!!!!!!!!!! We don't go to work as a plumber or bricklayer or an office worker and then decide to go to 'Choir practice' ..................... We (as musicians) spend our time rehearsing or practising for 8 or 10 hours a day!
Because of our 'expertise' we tend to perform with musicians of a similar 'ilk' and the professional standards of our 'co-performers' serve to make for a 'Professional rehearsal' and a 'professional' performance.
So; when you next perform with a 'Professional' orchestra, you may wish to deduce whether it is a failing on your part or whether it is a failing on the 'Professional' Orchestra! Mmmmmm That's a hard one!

vaarky
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Re: stage fright

Post by vaarky » 08 Aug 2009 17:48

I personally thought (and still do) that some of Grant's phrasing seems insensitive and sometimes even derisive, but:

1) text exchanges lack other cues such as tone of voice or facial expression that would provide additional context, so it's easy for people to write things that a small or large subset of readers will think is insensitive or such, when that may not have been the intent;

2) there are all sorts of writers, and a spectrum of the ability to anticipate "tone" nuances in phrasing, so a particular tone may or may not be what the writer intends;

3) over time, a reader gets more data to determine if a writer's pattern is to compulsively be contrarian (I know I sometimes engage a bit in the latter), or to make absolutist statements, or to write as if they're full of themselves, or to put others down; or whether they merely have a different way of looking at the world and language of thinking about it (such as the more all-or-nothing motivational school of Yoda: "There is no try. Do or do not").

I note that Grant did not polarize when I posted my many, many disagreements, so I appreciate that and believe there is true discourse to be had. But I did want to chime in to say that, like Philip, I too was struck by the phrasing of some of Grant's statements.

And now, at the expense of further taxing Grant or other readers, some more disagreements I had with Grant:
On the other hand, if you cannot play (or sing) the piece effectively, you must ask yourself whether you should be performing the piece in the first place!
My point is that stagefright is often not related to whether you can perform a piece effectively, but to the meta-thoughts a singer generates and the physiological response the body has to those thoughts. That's why performances almost never end up the way one frets it might. Professional singers who perform effectively nontheless feel stagefright. That's one reason it is quite common for musicians to take prescription medications such as Propranorol (a brand of which is Inderal) for stage fright for big auditions or major performances, and why opera houses and professional orchestras make sure to stock bananas (sometimes by contract!), a natural beta blocker. I'm told this isn't limited to situations that involve vocalists.

Also, some people by nature, regardless of musical advancement, still focus on what was not exactly perfect. As one gets more advanced, one becomes more sensitive to nuances of performance. A friend had an insight when he got to perform with some world-class professional musicians and heard them talking backstage afterward and kicking themselves about small (to him, imperceptible) imperfections much the way we were mortals would.

The brain can take tiny facts and give them more weight than perhaps is warranted to support whatever emotional reaction we are inclined toward. I'd love to hear more about any Behaviorist approaches people have for shifting how the brain weights the data to focus less on gloom-and-doom, more towards reassuring.

Grantallen
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Re: stage fright

Post by Grantallen » 08 Aug 2009 21:07

Thank you for the above post Vaarky.
I think you make some very valid points, not least of which is the fact that different people perceive the tonality of the written article in a different way.
I strongly believe (as I would) in the value of my comments and would never insult the intelligence or ability of other musicians.
I'm sorry if some of my statements seem somewhat 'cynical' (or are perceived to be so) but I genuinely believe that 'the story has to be told'!) There is no malice in my mind or statements. I am merely taking part in a discussion about 'stage fright' ........ nothing more, nothing less. I believe that this forum is the vehicle for discussion and as such, all participants have a right to air their views!

I have to say to 'PML' that; Should you wish to participate in a forum (any forum) where only your views are taken into account (or correct) then the whole meaning of the word 'Forum' is brought into disrepute! I am aware that you are some sort of 'official' in this forum but that carries no extra weight when discussing matters with other participants.(save for insulting/swearing/being rude etc!) Niether of which I consider to be guilty!
I would respectfully suggest that you read some of the most recent posts (after your attack on me) and you will find that many of the postings are not at all critical towards me!
Finally, if I may offer the following: Try not to be so 'Precious' about amateur performers feelings. You must understand that they thrive on information and knowledge. That is how they improve! Don't wrap them up in a cocoon of misguided protectionism, it doesn't help them at all. If you are an amateur musician, then accept that fact and get on with giving others pleasure by your performances. Don't go down the road of 'them and us' It doesn't wash and is certainly not helpfull!
It remains for me to convey my kind regards and best wishes,

Grant.

CHGiffen
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Re: stage fright

Post by CHGiffen » 10 Aug 2009 22:14

Quite a number of years ago, I was the bass aria soloist in a performance of Handel's Solomon. The orchestra was made up of 80% Juilliard musicians and the rest culled from the local (Charlottesville Virginia) area - all professional. The conductor was also a professional. I was not quite (indeed this was the first performance at which I had to wear "tails" - and I was the understudy for the Solomon role). Thanks to union restrictions, I was only permitted to rehearse one of the arias with the orchestra - the others were rehearsed with the continuo player (a consumate professional) and the conductor. In the performance, there was a lapse, apparently by the conductor, who failed to allow for a vocal cadenza near the end of one of the arias - with the result that the orchestra (which didn't pause) botched the accompaniment; fortunately, the continuo player was on top of the situation and salvaged the performance, even though there were some errant string notes before the strings dropped out for the cadenza (after the conductor tried to cut them off, realizing the mistake). The mistake was not mine (the lone non-professional) but rather one made by a professional.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus... and sometimes, even though he is a professional, he just might make a mistake.

Chuck

PS I've heard botched notes at professional orchestral performances as well as in professional recordings on many occasions. I'm talking about major US and European orchestras. It happens. Amateurs are not alone in being fallible on occasion. And I won't even begin to deal with opera...
Charles H. Giffen
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Manager of ChoralWiki
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Early Choral Music? Zephyrus (I sang 12 seasons 1992-2004 with this group).

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