25 November 2011

Eat. Sleep. Sing.

The month of November has dissolved in a haze of train journeys, cough syrup and rehearsals. For the second year running, the DEB and I are participating our village Music Hall, which is great fun, but also a massive undertaking. At this stage in the proceedings, I start to lose the will to live, and begin to question why I have forced myself through this grueling routine.

The major difference in this year’s experience is the fact that I am now more actively employed (yeah!) than I have been in the past, so my energies are occupied across a variety of fronts; and I have far less “recovery” time.

Music Hall is a great joy, I have rediscovered my love of musicals and singing. And, it’s all for a good cause, but my god, the time and commitment it takes! And, I think, the harder we work, the easier it appears to be, which is such a contradiction. On the surface it seems a doddle: two rehearsals a week starting in late September, with a few more sprinkled in as time goes on. But, it truly is an all-consuming endeavour. And, then, the cold kicks in. The Music Hall equivalent of ‘kennel cough’ starts at the end of October, and works its way around the dressing room for the next month.

Both the DEB and I have had thrice recycled version of the “Music Hall Cold” since the beginning of November, and we are still hacking and sneezing as we progress to the last two performances this weekend.

I amazed myself during opening weekend, last weekend. Blurry-eyed and feverish, I rose from my bed for the 8:00 PM call. Somehow, sufficiently doped with cold medicine, I made it through the opening song. Coming off stage, I looked and felt like death. But I pushed through. By the interval, I was spent. “You should go home.” Our director Wendy, advised. “No way!” I said. I’d worked too hard, to just walk away from it now - especially not my solo number, “Adelaide’s Lament” – which is the second act in the second part of the show. “Okay,” she said. “After Adelaide, go home.”

I struggled into my nurse’s uniform and blonde wig, went on stage and gave Adelaide all I had. And, of course, it felt fantastic. I’m sure I sounded like I had a cold, but thankfully, that fits the lyrics of the song. The minute I came off stage, I had a massive coughing fit that nearly caused to retch. All the girls gathered round to pat my back, hold my hand and my hair.

“You need to go home!” my chum Chris, ordered. “I’ll do your line in Les Miz, for you.” When she said those words, something in my performer’s brain snapped to attention. It’s a kind of killer instinct that I used to train my acting students to develop. “No, thank you, I’m going to do it.” I said.

And I did. Immediately after, however, I surreptitiously lost myself in our onstage Victorian crowd, slipped off stage, and ran to the loo to be sick. I came back, and in eased myself back into place to re-join my section of the chorus, without anyone even noticing. My students would be so proud!

It’s a great way to flex ones artistic muscles, but I must say, it does seem that we utterly miss the Autumn altogether. It’s September, and then suddenly, it’s Christmas, with a blur of eating, sleeping and singing in between.

I had actually forgotten that Thanksgiving was this week! My BADA students reminded me in class on Wednesday.  That’s how lost/tired/ill I’ve been! But, it has not been a time with some real high points, too.

Last Wednesday, I attended the service to celebrate 400 years of the King James Bible at Westminster Abbey. When I read the dress code details on the invitation, urging all ladies to wear hats, I had very high hopes indeed, and I was not at all disappointed! Her Majesty the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales were all in attendance!

The service was absolutely wonderful. A real Anglican/Episcopalian love fest! Both Archbishops present, with the Archbishop of York reading the Gospel, and the Address being delivered by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. * SIGH *

We held a smaller, but equally extraordinary celebration the following Sunday here at St. Peter’s with a Choral Evensong using text from the 1611 Book of Common Prayer. Heavenly.

Two more nights of Music Hall, and then, I get my life back. Now that really is something to be thankful for.

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