We just finished our two-night run of the east-end edition of the Undone Cabaret. It was, literally, a full house both nights. Without suggesting that our performance was awesome, I would like to state that, in general, house concerts are a wonderful thing. The set-up is cozy, personal, and full of sparkle. It makes everyday living extraordinary, turning intimate personal space into a public performance space.
And houses are weird performance spaces. When Jen and I first performed the cabaret at a house concert in the West End, we were confronted with a space that simply couldn’t be set up as a traditional musical concert space, with audience over here watching the performers over there. Audience members had to sit all over the room, almost facing each other. We needed help to figure out how to perform in this space. Under the gifted direction of Fides Krucker, Jen and I stopped thinking of the house as a challenge to overcome and more as an opportunity to be inventive with how we performed this show. And so we sang in the kitchen. We sang on the stairs. We stood on sofas, and held on to basement door handles. By really using the house as a performance space, our little musical cabaret became a full performance that straddles theatrical performance and music concert.
And this weekend’s performance built on that work. I feel proud of what I accomplished. My performance wasn’t flawless. Man, dealing with performance nerves and production anxieties meant that my challenges were cut out for me. There were moments, though, in both nights, where I got to that sweet spot of just fully inhabiting the music in the space. Just a few moments. But they were there. The other moments were filled with the constant running internal narration, wondering if people were enjoying themselves, wondering if I should have reviewed the words to my next song, wondering if I could chicken out and not lie across strangers’ laps while singing. Does this happen to you when you perform? How do you move yourself out of that space to be more fully present in the performance? I found that a few check-ins with my body and voice structure sometimes helped. Like trying to keep my palate lifted and my tongue soft. Chin down. Soft knees. Another useful approach was simply to listen to what was happening. Pull my attention outside of myself, and really listen to Jen as she was singing, to Tania on piano, and Chris on bass. Truly listen and let the sound drop into my body, discover how it affected me. To be fully present in the here and now.
These weren’t fail-safe techniques, but they sure helped. I did have a fantastic time overall!
Thanks to everyone who came out to see us perform. Thanks to Chris and Tania: it’s such a blessing to perform with such accomplished musicians. Thanks to my family, including my mom who flew in from Edmonton and was affixing labels to CDs all day Friday, and my partner who took care of the food and the space and our boys AND me. And above all, thanks to Jen, my singing partner and friend. I never would have done this show without her and I never would have discovered as much about singing and performing without sharing this journey.
Stay tuned for the next iterations of the Undone Cabaret!
By the way, the pics here were taken by Matthew Piers at our dress rehearsal. (Thanks, Matthew!)
If you’d like to see a few more, check out “undone cabaret” on facebook and look for our August photo album.