Nerves of steel
|By Anabelle Craig - Contributing writer | May 17, 2018|
Nerves are something everyone has. I don’t mean the network of neurons inside your body, I mean the annoying part of your brain that has the power to turn you into a powerhouse or a puddle on the floor. As a cellist, I am always preparing for a performance …or to be precise, always getting nervous about a performance.
Two weeks ago, I had an important music festival. I felt prepared and ready to play until my moment came. Then I was a mess. A sweaty, clammy, clumsy mess. It’s like I forget how to function like a person and instead could only sit and stare into the crowd like a deer caught in the headlights. The moment never lasts forever but it will return with a vengeance the next time I step onto the stage.
What’s with these nerves? Everyone gets stage fright I am told. And if they say they don’t they are lying. Paul McCarty, of the Beatles, almost quit numerous times from his crippling nerves.
Barbra Streisand uses a teleprompter so she doesn’t ever again forget a line. And the lovely Adele in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine said, “I’m scared of audiences.” But where does that leave me?
Haliburton County is a mecca for musicians, actors, performers and speakers. I am lucky to be surrounded with great friends and performers who I can go to for advice on this matter. My friend and fellow cello player Wendy Evenden suggests addressing the nerves directly. “Oh, you’re here today, okay.” With that she feels she can deal with the shaky hand and anxiety a bit better by not fighting it.
Being goofy or saying something to get a laugh from the audience is another trick to help performers feel more at home under the bright lights. A few musicians I know have mentioned this strategy to me.
Brigitte Gall, an actor, producer, performer and writer who resides in Minden has been on a stage since the early 90’s. With her start at Second City, to her show Me, My House and I, to her stand up performances, Gall is no rookie when it comes to nerves.
“Performing is exhausting. Your expenditure of energy, if you’re really connecting with the audience, is intense. So, knowing how to preserve and generate the energy and focus needed is as important as knowing your set or speech.”
She uses what she calls, 'the math of the day”. Taking her start time and counting backwards to figure out the point of no return for eating without barfing or when to take that power nap. And then about an hour before her set, she would run (mumble) through the set as fast as she could, complete with arm and facial movements. “Sure, I looked like I was channeling the ghosts of mime’s past - but I found that if I didn’t have time to mumble through the set, I’d often forget bits that were links to another part of my material.”
I have been trying to battle my nerves since I started playing in front of people and, spoiler alert, it’s not working so far. Luckily, I am not alone and every great performer has to deal with these crazy butterflies. I just need to figure what my net looks like and how to wield it.