Singing

    There's a famous quote, "Singing are for the birds". I recently had the opportunity to sing like a bird on stage. A full three minutes with a four piece band. Okay, so it wasn't a full orchestra and it was not at the Rogers Arena, but it was still singing live on stage in front of an audience. Now I know most people, especially my friends and colleagues and even listeners of my radio show think singing should come easily to a person who is used to being in the public eye. Speaking well into a microphone hardly translates into singing well into a microphone! Most people admit to singing in the shower or in the car, me included. These people are called closet singers. There's a great line in the movie Working Girl starring Melanie Griffith and Harrison Ford, "Sometimes I sing and dance around the house in my underwear. Doesn't make me Madonna. Never will." My sentiments exactly! Nonetheless, I had agreed to this adventure and was determined to see it through. [photo:1349447404128]Not wanting to make a fool of myself or being a disappointment to the paying guests, I decided to take some singing lessons with a local voice coach and singer, Winnie Ko, where she is based in Vancouver. An appointment was made and for our very first lesson she talked to me about my song and how I should project an image. The song I had agreed to sing was Moon River, but I had no idea what image I was supposed to project. First, my voice coach had to help me find what key I should be singing the song in and with a little help from the piano we established it. Winnie asked me to sing the song to her once and she listened attentively making mental notes. As a voice coach, Winnie has a fine tuned ear and was able to hear exactly where I was or wasn't singing or breathing properly. It turns out I sing like many non-professionals, from my throat, which means after a short while you become hoarse. That was not exactly the sort of sound I was hoping to produce singing the romantic ballad Moon River. From the first lesson on, Winnie instructed me do breathing exercises which included standing with feet slightly apart, hands gently pressed on my diaphragm, and breathing out 'huh' without using my throat. Yes, I know – it's hard. I practiced this technique whenever I could remember. I had singing lessons with Winnie over the course of several weeks prior to my performance. Here, in a nutshell are some of the things I learned from Winnie. [photo:1349591921589] Breathing properly for singing, which is the opposite way we breathe normally, took some getting used to. I then had to learn when and where to take a break and sneak in a breath or two. I also had to learn where to put feeling into the song. I feared that was the hardest part for me! Moon River or not, I just wasn't feeling very loving about it. Winnie also taught me which words I should utilize my hands and gesture. I learnt how to look at the audience and when to move forward to engage them. You do this during the break in the song by moving towards your audience a couple of steps. One very important lesson from Winnie was not to stop if I made a mistake. She told me not to draw attention to it but to just keep on singing. Part of the singing lesson involved singing into a full length mirror at the studio. I found this incredibly hard to do as I felt very self-conscious. I asked Winnie if I could face somewhere else to sing instead. So, she decided I could hold the microphone and sing out to the street. One time, after the song, a group of construction workers across the way stopped and applauded me. It was sweet, funny and embarrassing all at the same time. But, I remembered to take a bow. Might as well get in some practice while I can! [photo:1349592018160] Not only did I receive singing lessons from Winnie but she also helped prepare my image for the song by selecting the outfit and accessories to set the perfect tone for this romantic ballad. The most important thing Winne said was to just forget everything and have a good time on stage. That's exactly what all my fellow performers said since not all of us were professional singers. Just as Winnie had warned me, the very minute I stepped on to the stage, everything she had taught went out the window. I'm pretty sure my mind went blank. Fortunately, I remembered to open my mouth and sing. After awhile, when my eyes had adjusted to the bright lights, I was able to relax into the song and even remembered to point my hand into the distance and press it to my heart for parts that we had rehearsed. This lasted until someone jumped on stage and presented me with a bouquet of flowers which meant the end of all hand gesturing. Winnie did teach me what to do when that happened, but knowing me, I probably clung onto them for dear life as my security blanket! [photo:1349592125570]The whole thing was over in the blink of an eye. One minute I'm singing, the next minute it's a ladylike courtesy and time to exit. The whole thing was short but exhilarating. My ego and pride certainly received a boost from the warm, friendly and very forgiving audience. I doubt I did the song justice but I sure gave it a jolly good try. My experience tells me, it's not enough to have a good voice or even the right clothes to perform on stage, although it does go a long way in helping to set the tone. What I feel makes the biggest difference is that indefinable thing, that magic appeal, 'oomph' or plain charisma that makes the difference. That's what sets the singers apart. That certain 'It' factor so many TV shows, record companies and talent scouts are looking for. I have a whole new respect for the people who enter singing competitions and have to be critiqued in public and sometimes very harshly, too. I marvel at their bravery! If Simon Cowell took a stab at me I'd probably be reduced to tears. Taking singing lessons with Winnie turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made. Although, I doubt I will ever be a singer, her invaluable tips on how to sing and how to present the song and oneself will remain with me until the next time I have the opportunity to sing. So you have been warned. This bird will sing again!