In this post I’m going to talk a little bit about the significance of my musical theatre adventure, explain what it involves and give you an idea of where I’m at with it right now.
You might look at the four adventures I’ve chosen for 2019 and think that my musical theatre adventure is, somehow, the odd one out. Of course, when I follow an adventure impulse, I’m not really thinking logically; I’m not really looking for a connection. And, to be honest, if I try to look ‘consciously’, sometimes it isn’t easy to see the connection. But the connection is always there!
When I’m out on my long runs, I usually run myself into a place where insights come thick and fast. Only trouble is, I’m all out of long runs since starting my track adventures. My mind is taken up with counting lengths in the pool, so there’s no ‘idling’ time – no crack for the insights to squeeze through. And powerlifting, for me, is all focus: 100% of my mind-body is 100% on the job.
Where I am getting idling time is between sprints. It’s not much time, but it seems to be time enough for the message to be transmitted and received. Last week, during an early morning session, I was (literally) idling my way back to the start line for the next repetition, when I had the thought that my musical theatre adventure holds the essence of all my adventures – and it holds an echo of the original ‘call to adventure’ I had in my teenage years. Let me explain 🙂 .
In order to sing, you have to have full control over your instrument: your voice. Your voice is supported by your whole body, both physically and emotionally (and, yes, the more physically and emotionally fit you are, the more control you have over your instrument 🙂 ). It takes a while to master your instrument: you have to learn how to move your voice around your body, how to pull emotions out of long-forgotten places, how to be ‘in the song’ and connect ‘through the song’ at the same time. It isn’t easy! But once you have control, you can really start to play your instrument. And that’s the insight right there: I’m remembering how to play and I’m playing full out! I’m playing the life out of myself. I’m playing as if my life depended on it – because I think it actually does. When I’m singing, I feel fully alive, connected and ‘all in’.
So playing full out is the connection between all the adventures – and that spirit of play drives the impulse for adventure. For all my physical adventures, I need to have full control over ‘my instrument’ – and that’s starting to happen as my body and mind respond to the new training loads. As my mind-body responds, I’m able to experience a kind of play. It’s not easy to explain exactly what’s going on, but the more I ‘show up’ for each of my adventures, the harder I play. And the harder I play, the more the world around me seems to play right back and I find myself in a perpetual state of playfulness (more on this in another post!).
I think the musical theatre adventure was the first to announce itself because the part of me that’s driving these adventures is a part of me I heard, but ignored, a very long time ago. Music was my thing right from primary school days. When I was at secondary school, I was in all the school plays and loved being in the musicals, often taking the lead role. The thing is, I never took music to be a serious thing. I thought it was too easy. I thought that academic study had more value, and so when I went to 6th-form, my focus gradually shifted entirely to academic subjects, and I eventually stopped my music lessons just before going to university. (I should add that the singing part of me must have been pretty desperate for me to carry on because it made me teach myself the guitar just before leaving home, so I could keep on singing if I needed to!)
From a Hero’s Journey point of view, I’d had the call to adventure and that call was loud and clear. Up until just before I went to university, music was my life: when I was performing on my own or in an orchestra or a choir, I felt ALIVE and CONNECTED – and it felt so easy and natural to me. I knew what the call meant. I knew it would mean ‘ditching’ the academic path (which, by the way, was also a brilliant and adventurous route 🙂 ). I made what I thought was the sensible choice and ignored the call.
Now in my 50s, I realise the call never stopped. I just tuned it out and now I’m tuned back into it again. And I’m listening. And I’m hearing it properly. I’m letting it in, and I’m following it this time. And there is still time. There’s always time. And, somehow, I think if I follow this call, then everything else will follow 🙂 . (I’ll keep you posted about that theory 😉 ). What that everything else is, I don’t know – but I do know that something is there waiting for me and that it’s been waiting a very long time! And I also know (don’t ask me how!) that the other adventures are part of a readying, a ripening, a quickening – and that’s a thrilling feeling. I’m getting read to play my whole self full out: my life-concerto.
So where am I at with my musical theatre adventure at the moment? Well, I’ve entered the exam (grade 8) and I’ve chosen my pieces. The exam will be in mid-March and I’m at the stage where I’m having to let go of the manuscript and make each performance my own. For the exam, I have to perform 4 pieces (and talk about them) and a piece of libretto, and I have to sight-read a piece of libretto too. If you’re interested in the nitty-gritty, you can find out more about what the exam entails here.
Here are the pieces I’ve chosen. My aim was to build a balanced programme and to sing pieces which meant something to me. First up is ‘Lili Marlene’, which I’ll be singing in German. This piece reminds me of my grandparents who used to tell me stories about their experiences in World War 2. I think of them when I’m singing it.
My second piece is ‘Send in the Clowns’ from ‘A Little Night Music.’ I chose this because I’m old enough to have regrets and to know that I’ve been a fool (on many occasions)! The first time I heard this I was a child and Bruce Forsyth was singing it. I really loved the song and I understood the clown-sadness behind his performance (there were even pierrot dancers). But the song is really not about that kind of clown at all.
My third song is full of yearning passion – and it’s from an opera (‘Marie Galante’) that completely failed! I’m all for standing up for brilliant failures: in fact, I consider myself an expert in the field of brilliant failure 😉 . The song is called ‘Youkali’ and it’s sung by a character who is a prostitute. I’ll be singing this in French.
My last song is a Gilbert and Sullivan classic from the Mikado: ‘The Sun Whose Rays are all Ablaze’. It’s really playful. It’s a bit panto-mimey and it’s a bit show-offy. So, really, it’s very me! (My required piece of libretto is from this too.)
I’ll keep you posted about this adventure as things develop. My next posts will be about what my physical adventures entail.
I’m just going outside and may be some time.