That’s What the Wise Lady Said

In a few weeks we’ll be doing a concert for the senior citizens of Piteå and and the program ranges from jazz to musical to opera and back. Everyone will have a solo piece and a few of us will do duets as well. For my solo piece I will be performing “Memory” from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical “Cats”. This is one of my favourite musical pieces of all time and I would say that I have created a pretty strong connection to the song over the years.

We have been rehearsing for this concert for the last couple of weeks and this mostly involves working to get into some kind of character instead of just standing there, singing a pretty song. This has been one of my weakest points. I rarely dare to drag the emotions that I need all the way up to the surface and that means that my performances will be pretty, but they’ll lack that extra emotional “ooumph!” that would make them really special. I have been trying to work with this, but I find it extremely difficult since I don’t know where to begin. How do you practice getting into character and make it convincing?

Anyway, two weeks ago I experienced a kind of revelation… we were rehearsing for the senior citizen concert and it was my turn to work with our director. He asked me if I wanted to perform the song in character, or just sing it as a pretty song. I said that I wanted to perform it in character. He then proceeded to ask me a series of questions, ranging from where my character was, why she was there, what she was feeling, what the weather was like and so on and so forth. As the answers instantly poured out of me I realized that I had been thinking about all of those things for a while, trying to get an idea of what character I wanted to portray. It was strange, since I hadn’t really done that sort of deep concious thinking about a character before.

I went into character and began to sing, our director giving me small directions all the while, and then something happened. I can barely describe it in words, but I suddenly felt every feeling I wanted to portray. I could feel my character’s bitterness and sorrow. Her frustration and her longing… and it was heartbreaking. I sang with everything I had in me and at the end of it I just burst into tears. I felt drained of almost all my emotions afterwards and I see now why my vocal coach says that we should not sing ON an emotion… but I think it is extremely useful to do that every once in a while anyway, to get an idea of how far you can go, how far you can push your emotional state without breaking. When I’ll be able to push myself up to the line, without crossing it, then I’ll know that I have unlocked something vital. I did recieve part of the puzzle during that performance, but I have a long way to go still… but at least I’m not a completely lost case anymore.

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One thought on “That’s What the Wise Lady Said

  1. I loved this post. I’m taking an acting realism module this year and one of the best tips I had was take a risk, be free ;). Go for it. I love singing this song, I was Rumpelteser once too and my brother Mungo Jerry I had to somersault over his thighs trusting him to just hold my waist as I cartwheeled over, believe me that was risky!
    Listen to Elaine Paige sing this on You Tube if you haven’t already ;). Enjoy your concert.

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