Friday, June 25, 2010

Performance Readiness

I’m back. When I write I find that my focus is so internal that I should be wearing a sign–one of those reversible “Open”/”Closed” signs–and I ought not be allowed to drive.

My focus for the last month has been on the revision of my public speaking book. Which is more or less finished (I’d love to tinker some more, but . . . ), so my mind is more or less “Open” again and I’m back in the world.

I was late starting my monthly column (, didn’t even pick the topic–performance readiness–until yesterday.

And then I got a call this morning from a former student that dropped that subject neatly into my lap. She had sung at a wedding last weekend. I asked her how it went.

“Not well,” she said. “Something strange happened in the ceremony and I was so startled that I forgot the words and had to make something up.

“I’d written a new song for them, and it wasn’t in my bones yet. I should have rehearsed more.”

Lack of rehearsal, wasn’t the issue. When she explained what the couple had done, which was so odd that trying to explain it would take an hour, I saw 2 other performance elements at work.

First, she couldn’t have possibly been prepared for such a bizarre happenstance.

Second, she was too emotionally involved in the ceremony. She wasn’t thinking of it as a performance.

Weddings are like that. Funerals, too. We have to think of them as performances, have to put some emotional distance between ourselves and the event.


  1. I've had the experience of singing at several funerals for family friends who died young. That is the hardest thing to do. I have tried, on these occasions, to maintain composure and "performance readiness," but sometimes feel insensitive or guilty for doing so. I guess though, that the contribution of my steady voice does more for grieving families than my allowing the emotion of the event to really sink in. . .

  2. Funerals, weddings, any occasion where the performer has a strong personal attachment are terribly difficult. I remember sobbing through a couple of songs at my brother's wedding. The only solution is to become "a performer," as you did. Raw emotion is unpredictable; we need some distance from it, need to perform from a memory of our sadness, rather than from the immediate sadness. You were absolutely right in making the choice for a steady voice rather than tears.