I have purposely maintained radio silence over the last few days. When you’re preparing for a solo recital, other parts of your life have to disappear for a little while… well, that’s how it is for me, at any rate. And after the event, you need a little down time to recover (or in my case, do an all day rehearsal for my bread-and-butter job. Argh.)
Let me tell you, it’s a very tricky balancing act, maintaining the bread-and-butter jobs that I have and trying to pursue something of a solo career. Having the confidence to step into the spotlight when up until now you’ve always been the person who’s just behind the spotlight, well it’s much more difficult than I would like to admit.
The night before I performed, I had a total panic-attack/meltdown about it. My lovely, supportive and extremely patient partner Glennda can attest to this. I was ready to cancel. I was ready to chuck it all in and get a day job like normal people have. I was certain I would be playing to an empty hall. I was doubly certain I would have a memory lapse. I would be tongue-tied and clumsy and unconvincing when I spoke to the (practically non-existent) audience. I didn’t really deserve the opportunities that I’ve had thus far because there are much better pianists than me, out there in the world. No amount of encouragement was going to help.
I got to work the next day, accompanying for little kids at our Sydney Children’s Choir “Saturday School”. I love this job!! The kids are so clever and so enthusiastic and it always fills me with great hope for the future of music in the world. Ordinarily, I come bounding out of the rehearsal room after a day of music making with them, all ready to take on the world. However, things didn’t go to plan.
I had intended to have something of a low key day, no conducting or teaching, just a little low-stress accompanying, a relaxed lunch break in the sun etc. But I ended up filling in for a colleague, conducting, teaching sight-singing and having no lunch break at all. By 4pm, I was completely exhausted, ravenously hungry and furious. How had this happened?? I ended up doing even more than I usually would on the very day I needed to do less!!!! Miscommunication? Admin fuck-up? Who knows.
I grabbed a bite at the markets and sat down, looking over the water to the Sydney Opera House. The waterfront was crawling with tourists, all relaxed and laughing and taking happy snaps. I’m sure I looked like a crazy lady, with my own personal cloud of discontent raining upon me. How was I ever to get my solo career happening if there was no practical support from my colleagues at work? I was incredibly grumpy.
I somehow summoned the energy and courage to get myself to the Conservatorium. And then things started to go right. My beautiful Glennda came up to the front doors, looking all butch and dapper in her smart, three-piece suit and shiny brogues. She carried my frock and brought me dinner and exhibited all the model-girlfriend behaviours that she usually does (I am the luckiest girl in the world to have her. Truly. She never left my side). Liz was there waiting in the foyer with a smile and her video camera, all ready to document the event. The marvellous Stuart piano was tuned to perfection by Vahé’s extraordinary ear. The staff at the Conservatorium were helpful and cheerful. Anna (who was doing all the organising) came into the room with a bunch of programs under her arm and the most supportive smile I’ve ever seen. My mum came and sat with me and Glennda for a while before I went on, which was such a help (the men of the family stayed outside *giggle* but I know they were in the dressing room with me in spirit!). My dearest and oldest friend Katherine came and offered me support when she could have been at home all weekend preparing for the biggest job interview of her life thus far!
And then there was a knock on the dressing room door. A man entered saying, “I was directed to give you these, from Lyn Williams”. She’s the big boss lady artistic director at Sydney Children’s Choir (officially Gondwana Choirs) and after she’d heard about the day that I’d had, she sent me special energy-giving treats from the Guylian chocolate shop. “Wow,” I thought to myself, “They actually do care!!” Somehow, she knew they were exactly what I needed (although I’m sure I put on about 12 kilos just looking at them!).
The recital went pretty well. I did play some wrong notes, I did fumble a few times when I was speaking. I might have used some body language that, in hindsight, may have seemed a little awkward… Like every other performer on the planet, I spend a deal of time worrying about what I did wrong *sigh*. But the audience response was really good. It was so interesting to see all my worlds colliding in that room, real-world and online-world, amateur and professional, gay and straight. What a mix of people! I got to chat to most of them afterwards, and sign a few more cds, until the Conservatorium staff threw us out *grin*
The next day, this is what I read on Lyn’s Facebook;
“Sally Whitwell made the piano create sounds I had never heard before; beautiful ringing in the Glass, glorious singing in the Tiersen.”
And that made it all worthwhile :)