Or How Not to Cry at a Wedding. Or a Funeral.
Or at the End of Mahler's 2nd Symphony
Singing is an emotional venture. Listening to singing can be wrenching when you're emotional and it hits you right there--and it can be even harder when you're doing the singing. So imagine you're singing at an emotionally charged event like a wedding or maybe a funeral, or someone close to you has just passed away and you're on to sing Mahler's 2nd Symphony (known as the "Resurrection Symphony").
An excerpt from the German text
Sterben werd' ich, um zu leben!Aufersteh'n, ja aufersteh'nwirst du, mein Herz, in einem Nu!
translates roughly to:
I will die that I might live!Rise again, yes, you will rise again,my heart--in a heartbeat!
Moments like this can take your legs out from underneath you if you're already feeling emotional, that's for sure. It can also blindside you in a performance. Here are 3 few tips for creating an emotion-invoking performance without losing it yourself.
1. Lose it ahead of time.
If you have any amount of time prior to the performance, whether it's 5 weeks or 2 hours and you think it's going to be rough emotionally, allow yourself to lose it--just cry. Do it as early as you feel it. Even if it's a few tears 5 minutes before you need to stand up, shed a few tears. If you don't let it out, it will come out whenever it wants, and that will most likely be at the high point of your piece.
2. Breathe actively.
A lot of people are helped by the simple instruction "Just breathe." Frequently this is enough, however if you're having a hard time in your life and you have singing to do, it may not be enough. So breathe actively, be engaged with your own breath, and follow it in and out of your own body. Write in large notes or symbols for taking active breaths in your music.
3. Ground & Center
If you don't know yet what grounding is, click here. (It gets a little woo-woo, so just see what speaks to you and leave the rest.) Practice grounding and centering regularly before rehearsal, before and after practicing, and before concerts. The more you ground & center, the easier it gets. And during a performance, you may have an opportunity to flex and rotate your feet and ankles without anyone seeing. Or just wiggle your toes slowly and deliberately if you feel the tears come creeping up. Try to keep both feet on the floor; it will help you stay balanced emotionally and will help prevent you from getting light-headed if you have to stand up quickly.
What about you? What do you do to keep from getting too emotional in a performance? Comment below.