It all started in primary school.
It was a typical audition. Dear "Miss" Lavender, our teacher, played the piano. It was in the days when, with no keyboards available, her back was necessarily to the class.
I did my song.
No-one told me to stand up, so I didn't. Being a law abiding student.
When the person who went after me was singing, the teacher turned round half way through and asked her to "STAND UP YOU SILLY GIRL. HOW DO YOU EXPECT TO BE ABLE TO SING SITTING DOWN?"
I wanted to put my hand up and tell her that I too had been sitting down.
But I didn't.
I sat quietly, like a mouse, and accepted my fate when I was told that my voice wouldn't make the choir.
I knew it to be the case of course anyway. My father, who has a lovely singing voice had told me that I wasn't a singer. My brothers 8 and 12 years older than me, constantly reminded me that I couldn't sing.
I never understood it though.
You see, my speaking voice has been my trademark. Throughout my life I have been praised for it, have acted with it, passed exams that needed "speaky type" things for it, and have been paid many mars bars worth of cash on occasion to use it for voice overs.
I used to say to my Dad. "I don't understand why I can't sing, when the same instrument provides my speaking voice."
"We can't all do everything." He would say. "You have a beautiful speaking voice"
I have sung of course over the years. In my way. I sing loudly at the children's Harvest Festival Services and Carol Services to the annoyance of my children. I sang children's songs when acting with my Theatre in Education Company, and I sang dozens of nursery rhymes to the children when they were little.
Well. What a mistake that was. Every time I got up to sing a song that I THOUGHT I knew, to a backing track that I definitely didn't know, I failed dismally, and of course reinforced my opinion and everyone else's that singing was just not my thing......
I recently started going along to some acting workshops. As my last dramatic exit off the stage in March had made me vow never to return again to an Am Dram Society, I took a brave step. I dusted off my Equity Card and got in touch with some kind people at the theatre in Cheltenham who run courses for professional actors. I sent in my CV, half doubtful as to whether or not I would have had enough experience to be accepted. But they did. Accept me that is.
And it has all been going very well. I have really enjoyed myself over the last few weeks.
Next on the list was the singing workshop. "How to pass a singing audition".
I quaked with fear. I had to prepare a song.
This was "Singers Anonymous" BIG TIME.
I had to do it. I had to overcome my fear.
I chose one.
"Maybe this Time", from Cabaret. Brave choice considering it was made famous by dear Liza Minnelli. But, in my wisdom I decided that I would and could do it. I grabbed my singing teacher for ten minutes in the break at my Stage School on Saturday. "You can sing. " she said. You just need to learn how to support your voice. She got me to belt it out like no tomorrow. I wasn't sure that I could do it......
Then in the afternoon, I grabbed another singing teacher, who said that
I could sing too, and that ideally that for the long term I should work on it in a lower key..... And that I should sing more....
Singing teacher number one very kindly offered me a lesson prior to the workshop. I set off, backing track in hand, determined to crack this singing thing..........
And in true Sally style, Hubby had the new car so I was driving ED's mini...And.... um... the clutch started slipping.
I rang Hubby. My singing teacher happens live in place where Hubby works. "You'll be fine he said. Carry on, and we can swap cars, and you can go home in the new one...."
I struggled on for a few more miles and then......... made the decision to return home, before I couldn't. Bar having to drop it back down a hill, so that I could get it going again, I managed to get it as far as our house, where the clutch went completely, just in front of our door......
It was fate.
But I didn't get my singing lesson.
Hubby got home with the other car, in time for me to get out to my workshop.....
The first two hours were brilliant. We had an amazingly "tolerant of 'non proper singing actors' " MD running the evening, and he got us to sing notes that we didn't even know existed..... He said that he very much likes actors singing, because they put across songs well, and people can understand what is being sung. He said that on the other hand, when opera singers sing, you need sub titles, even when they sing in English...
Then it was solo time.
My heart was in my mouth.
We had almost got through the group. It was 9.20, and the workshop was due to finish at 9.30. Maybe there wouldn't be time for my song after all... In fact, I could walk out with my head held very high, and everyone would have known that I COULD sing. I had just sadly, run out of time....
"Sally?" said the the MD.
I stood up. I was shaking. I dropped my music. I dropped my backing track. Not that I needed it of course, as we had pianist. I picked up the music again. I walked over to the keyboard.
"I need to have the melody line" I said. "Otherwise I have no hope."
"Shhh, said the MD. Don't tell them that" (Them being 'the others'. "Tell me. I'm your friend."
I whispered, in a stage whisper. "I need the melody line..."
I announced to the audience before I started that like many others in the room that night I too was a recovering non singer....
And then I sang.
Then he made some suggestions, and he dropped it down three keys for me.
And I sang again.
He told me to "belt" the last bit.
So I did.
I sang the whole song for a third time.
And VERY loudly. Incredibly loudly. I shocked myself.
I got a big clap.........
They said it was brilliant.
It was of course a room full of actors, so we are habitually overly nice to each other......
But I did do it...........
And then then I shook for the next three hours.
4 months ago