Access All ‘Arias’
Today is Monday, June 28, 2021 at 6am and my iPhone alarm interrupts my recurring dream (on stage + just in my underwear + I can’t remember any lyrics = performers’ nightmare). I reach for the snooze button as I have done for the last 500 or so days since we found ourselves in this global predicament, but this time,my eyes ping wide open, I pull my hand away and find myself jumping out of bed, skilfully avoiding my dog who has made herself comfy beside me.
Today is THE day of my first headlining concert since the pandemic. I am performing tonight at the much-loved Crazy Coqs in Central London with a brand-new show I am calling “Access all Arias”.
Stealthily, I sneak into the kitchen trying to not rouse my snoring hubby and start my pre-show routine. Yep, even at this charmless hour where the baby sparrows nesting in our gutter chirp for their morning grub, I use the 13 hours before showtime to get ready. To put that into perspective that’s the length of the entire Lord of the Rings extended editions back-to-back with a bit of time still to spare.
First item on the agenda is a steam. I’ve used various electric steamers over the years, but I still get on best with good old ‘Dr Nelson’s new and improved inhaler’ which is 1) ceramic 2) about 150 years old 3) looks a bit like bong.
However, being the good girl I am, the only substance I use is steaming hot water which I inhale deep into my lungs to clear any respiratory ailments. It’s a smashing piece of kit for any performer with the only downside being that one sounds like Darth Vader when using it. My husband, James, now awake is disappointed not to find a light sabre showdown happening in the kitchen. We move onto breakfast, discussing the show.
Singers are told that milky products are best to avoid as it stresses the vocal cords, however, I honestly can’t start the day without it, so breakfast for me is a strong cup of tea and toast. Trying not to make too much breadcrumb mess, I chat with James about my hopes for the show…
This is how I HOPE the morning of the 28 th of June will go.
With England expecting to “return to normal’ on 21 st June, this concert is just one week later so I hope it provides a great opportunity for fans, friends, family and the classical crossover community to come back together once more, enjoy a few drinks and FINALLY watch an actual live concert.
I’ll be accompanied by a brilliant pianist, Joel Goodman, who arranged and performed my hit charity single, World in Union, along with special guests who will perform with me AND a new approach to the performance itself. Entitled “Access all Arias”, I can’t wait to launch this show, with a journey through music, singing a variety of popular arias and selection of my own tracks but all set to a narrative which I’ll explore through storytelling.
But back to the 28 th of June…
Breakfast and chat sorted, it’s time to jump onto social media and start knocking out excitable tweets, Instagram photos and Facebook posts about the concert ahead, but there’s not much time to reply to comments as I have the next preparation task to complete…the daily dog walk. Normally I listen to a podcast or call a friend when walking Eevee, but today my mind is fixed on my setlist for the concert. Whilst doing my best not to fall flat on my face on my Epping Forest walk, I sing inside my head every song I’ll be covering with the main purpose being to test my memory of the lyrics. I also rehearse the narrative I’ll be saying out loud, much to the bemusement of fellow canine trotters and their doggies.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, let’s get Bach to Business..”
An Afghan Hound owner gives me an awkward side glance at my terrible pun.
“Hands up, who here has missed Pu….”
Sarah, the local Shih Tzu, gets into position to do its business upon hearing what they think is the start of an order.
Sarah, clearly a fan of Madame Butterfly, resists her urges for now and once again goes back to chasing its stick.
Walk done, songs memorised, words rehearsed I return home, have some lunch and make friends with my dressing table.
A present from my mum, I love my dressing table. It’s pink, has lightbulbs all the way round the edge and is multi-purpose with the ability to fold it all up into a suitcase and take with me on tour. However, for the last year I’ve had it positioned stationary in our bedroom, crammed full of make-up and hair accessories. Like many others, the need to get all dolled up hasn’t exactly been top of my priority list so I’m a bit out of practice but comfortable with the result. This allows me to move onto the next stage of preparation, something I like to call “please don’t hate me, neighbours.” – My warm up!
With a jamboree of gliding scales, loud breathing exercises, hammy yawns, high and low pitch hums, siren noises, lip buzzes all topped off with insane jaw loosening exercises, “please don’t hate me, neighbours” is my unwanted gift to my local surroundings. Whatever room I do it in, my windows simply can’t contain what sounds like a cacophony of disturbing cartoon effects. Dragging James’s head out from under his pillow I state that it’s time to make our escape, pretend it never happened and head into London.
Being so close to Central London, we can jump onto the underground and end up near Piccadilly Circus in about 45 minutes door to door. As the show is in early summer, I’m less worried about my hair frizzing up in the rain and instead marvel at the fact that I am actually back on the tube.
Despite our new found ‘freedom’, I’m sure people will still have some reservations about mingling again but I’m so happy that the venue is perfect for such an occasion; there’s great space between tables, it’s well ventilated and so bodes tremendously for a fantastic night. Arriving at Crazy Coqs, a surge of emotion overwhelms me. I’m standing on the stage picturing the night ahead and seeing all of the incredible classical crossover supporters together….in the flesh.
For my soundcheck, I have the freedom to do as many songs as I wish in this venue and so on top of ensuring the perfect blend of piano and vocal and on occasion backing track, I also try out my song for the fans. Last month I asked Classical Crossover magazine readers to vote for a song for me to record. There were so many votes, but the overall winner was “Don’t Cry for me Argentina”, so a deal is a deal, and a recording is on the way for you!
As the soundcheck ends for this most perfect Lloyd Webber composition, I myself feel a wobbling of bottom lip and a slight watering behind the eyelids.
The doors have opened to the audience and peeping from backstage I see what feels like a mirage of smiling familiar faces. Is this really happening?