A cabaret venue full of people witnessed something on Monday night that I wouldn’t have believed was going to be possible a couple of days earlier.
We had the concert and among about 20 singers, there were a few of us taking our first small steps in serious public performance.
Among the aspiring and professional singers, there were several artists who have successful careers in the world of cabaret and music theatre – including a cast member from the hit show ‘Wicked.’
But there was one woman whose singing was the most memorable and meaningful for me – and she had no experience whatsoever.
The concert was the first time she had sung in front of more than two people.
Stricken with an intense phobia of singing in front of people, this woman ‘J’, had for years only sung in her car where there was no risk she might be heard by anyone.
Determined to beat her phobia, J started singing lessons. But so great was her fear that her former teacher had to hide his face behind a folder so that she could cope with lessons.
J managed to progress beyond that when she started training with the same vocal coach whom I have been working with for the past year.
Up until just prior to the concert, he was still the only person with whom she felt comfortable to sing.
Given my own fear about singing publicly, our coach brought the two of us together so that we could support each other.
At my house two nights before the concert as she tried to take another small step on the ladder toward her goal of singing at the concert, J struggled to face singing in front of me.
Even as I encouraged her, I did wonder whether the hurdle was going to be too big, too soon for her to conquer. I was ready to support her if that was the case.
I had underestimated J, her courage and her determination.
She turned up at the cabaret venue when she could easily have found an excuse to stay away and she bravely battled her way through a sound check in front of at least half a dozen people.
Then each of us had to perform in front of the guests as well as the other performers – a total audience of more than 60 people.
The fact that people had paid to see the show and the calibre of the performers put this into a very different league to my previous karaoke experiences.
As it happens, the need to focus on J and give her support proved to be a great distraction from thinking about my own performance.
My number was early in the night – Skyfall by Adele. I would never have dreamed of being able to take on such a challenging song prior to training with my current coach, so that felt like a big milestone in itself.
While I’m happy that I met most of my objectives – simple things like remembering lyrics, hitting the high notes, remembering to breathe – it was all a bit of a blur for me.
But I enjoyed every moment of J’s performance later in the evening. She did the Amy Winehouse version of Valerie. Yes, she did it!
The audience was told about J’s phobia, and the guts and determination she displayed had them leaning in to clap and sing along. I don’t know about others, but it brought tears to my eyes.
When she was finished, the room erupted in applause and cheers. We had all just witnessed something special. Something incredible.
Those things that we have to work the hardest to achieve, or where we overcome the biggest obstacles, can deliver the greatest satisfaction for ourselves and offer the most inspiration for others.
A little later as we said goodnight, standing beside the car where her singing had once been confined, J shared something that I found the most inspiring of all:
“I did this to stand up and beat my fear, but now I want to really learn how to sing.”
I would pay to see her next performance.
“I believe I can fly” by R. Kelly (Quite fittingly, one of the guest artists performed this song as part of the concert finale)