Nursery rhymes. Utter abandon. Twinkle twinkle little star. Then Disney (every single word to the Sing-along Disney video cassette with my older brother). Later, Nintendo 64, and idle humming – the soundtrack of concentration when zipping along, jumping for coins and racing racing racing (I always came second; I think this was my most relaxed). My favourite was Goldeneye, best game ever, though I don’t think I sang along to that – too scared; my younger brother could jump from behind a wall and shoot me at any moment if I didn’t hold my entire body taut or if I blinked.
Singing in the chorus of Orpheus & Eurydice. ‘Do not listen, Eurydice; Eurydice stay.’
Relentless a capella versions of Destiny’s Child’s Emotions in Design & Technology (the teacher wanting to encourage, but also wanting us to shut up). A 60s-style miniskirt (so short; I still have it) sewn with wild thoughts of becoming an internationally famous girl group (my friend was posh enough to have actual singing lessons at her house, which I was welcomed to once or twice when I was at her house after school. We sang two part harmonies which I can still remember to the T. She had a deadly serious idea that we could compete for the title of ‘most roly-polys in one minute’ and made us practise on a garden mat. She sucked a dummy. Her Mum served desiccated coconut with pitta bread at dinner time; I thought it was incredibly exotic. She is now, I think, an actual singer.)
Being in the original line up of ‘Soul Band’, a school group that is still hauled out to play at every single village bonfire night (and still has the same repertoire).
Being in bands throughout school; sometimes vocals (still don’t remember any self consciousness at this point; not sure exactly why or when it kicked in so totally) and playing the drums. I was the only girl drummer people knew. Kudos enough to fit in with the boys in the year above; Greenday covers, mostly. Bit of Nirvana. My drum intro to Smells Like Teen Spirit was rather good.
Doodling and crooning with some friends, silent with others. Some have never heard me sing. I can’t imagine how to break the barrier now; to suddenly sing would be weird.
More, more, more.
That time I was taking the piss out of Britney Spears at university while walking to a lecture with a friend, and she turned and said, ‘Um, that actually sounded really good.’
Having my make up done at a photoshoot in Ireland by a girl my own age who sang without hardly noticing; a beautiful voice. I envied her lack of self consciousness and utter freedom of voice.
Karaoke in Vietnam. I hate karaoke. I loved karaoke in Vietnam. I was drunk and didn’t hide, at least not with a cloak of bad singing. Told I should ‘join a choir, or something’.
Hours and hours and hours in my car driving to photoshoots and home from them again. Adele, Raghu Dixit, Joni Mitchell, Rae Morris, Beverley Knight; female singers preferred (Raghu aside) – I wanted to blend in, but also be the star of my own vehicle. I made melodic suggestions; you take this line, Bevs, I’m just gonna add a little something to the next bit. My car an intimate, bedazzled arena; no care.
A semi-obligatory self-made recording of my own voice speaking a poem I’d written, to be published (and tweeted) by The Ashmolean Museum. The ongoing question; have I got a lisp? I don’t think I have, but have I? Sometimes, so slightly. Oh well. Trauma is trauma.
My first group ‘Aum’. The hilarity of it and the embarrassment, then the togetherness of existence; the whole point; the letting out of breath and voice. Total face to face-ness; this is who I am, this is the sound I make.
Joining a choir. Weekly therapy. Laughter and a new friend who is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. We hear each other sing, nextdoor neighbour comrades, and compliment each other on remembering the parts we ourselves had completely forgotten; she reminds me what page we’re on when I’m not properly paying attention; I (reading music) speculate well enough on upcoming melodies/harmonies.
A horizontal expulsion/expression of everything I didn’t know I still cared about; something let out via seemingly endless tears on a bed in Indonesia; my own voice admitting things and (gently guided) forgiving things and, afterwards, learning a new song with someone I consider not only a healer but an angel.
Learning to play a miniature stringed instrument, just slightly; just enough to remember to use my voice, and enough to play with a friend, who wants to record us and who disappears and who comes back again and then disappears. Posting these videos online, then walking out of the room.
Being asked, on a date, for a secret, any secret. Spilling out something I didn’t know was a problem; the fact that I get sad sometimes, when I think of the fact that I’m not a singer, but that I couldn’t be anyway; would struggle with all the eyes. Sadness at unreasonable times; a nostalgia that falls through my heart disgracefully; makes me think: it’s way too late, and I’d have to re-tell everyone who I am, and no one would understand, and…
A poem performed with a song inside it. Singing, at a reading where people only expected words. Only a few lines. No big deal (a massive deal). Watching the video recording later and hearing how my nerves made my voice sound uncertain and too soft, but being glad I did it anyway.
Auditioning for a solo. (The horrific thrill of it; the mind vs body experience; one propelling the other, often not sure which. Explaining to a friend, beforehand, that I’ve got a mousy, soft voice [the under-the-breath, public one] and a cool, agile, private one [the car], and wondering which will come out). The endless wait to hear if I’ve got it or not. Shaking throughout, but alive (this is living!), the time passing somehow as I pretend there is no one else around me (the room is full; no privacy). The unreserved grin of congratulation at the end, and shocking, total praise that leaves me high and humming down the street. Still, the wait.
More sadness. Festival sadness. One of the lives I have neglected; one of the people I have forgotten to be. Letting go of some big possibility having left room for another possibility. Knowing so many worse people than me put themselves out there. It doesn’t matter if I’m a total fool. Putting an advert out. Receiving 4 replies in about an hour.
Today, asking a man who is creating a life-size sculpture of me what he is afraid of, and hearing him answer ‘Painting.’ I laughed out loud. He looked stressed at the idea of having to paint; flushed, almost, like he’d been found out. We both know he is perfectly good at painting. He thinks it’s funny that I’m so scared of singing (he sings along to Madonna etc. while he shapes me, and I just smile). He says he can tell me for a fact life is too short to have regrets – especially regrets about not having done things. I tell him I think I agree completely.
An interesting article: http://upliftconnect.com/overcoming-fear-seen/