Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Performance Diary

Here in the past month or so our group, with varying personnel, has performed for:

A volunteer appreciation luncheon at a local nursing home - 

An outdoor butterfly release benefit for Hospice of the Rapidan -

An outdoor rehearsal dinner -

An outdoor fundraiser for UVa Children's Hospital - 

A fundraiser for a community 4th of July event - 

A dinner given to Wounded Warriors on a stop between their biking from DC to Richmond.

For all these events we were background entertainment during various social and dining activities. One of the things I've learned is that if we get the volume just right, some people can talk and visit while those right next to them can pay attention to us and clap and sing along if they like. It's really more like a music therapist running a group activity than a straight up performance.

The key element to success at all these events was reading the mood of the crowd and choosing tunes and ways of playing them which added to the convivial atmospheres. I did OK with that, but always afterwards thought of ways we could have done better. I'm still a bit unused to performing with a group of talented musicians and tend to get caught up in performing and not paying full attention to the crowd and thinking through what would be the most effective music to play. When it's just me and the guitar I can watch the audience the whole time, with other performers I need to stay connected with them as well, and it's hard for me to do both.

At the Wounded Warriors event yesterday, even though I knew ahead of time it was well over 100 veterans, many with prostheses, who had biked from Washington DC to Fredericksburg on a hot day and were headed to Richmond today, their energy level from being so physically active caught me off guard. We started out with some upbeat songs, and I should have stuck with that. My usual tack of slowing things down a bit after some fast ones didn't work particularly well. Those guys were pumped up, full of camaraderie, and enjoying a meal provided by the American Legion and the slow tune just didn't connect.

If I could somehow maintain better mindfulness, as the Buddhist call it, the performances could be better tweaked moment to moment to be more fully responsive to the audience. 

The other thing I noticed was that the high energy of the Wounded Warriors got me to singing with more intensity than I can ever recall in a performance. Part of it was the moving Memorial Day performance by the community band the day before building the mood. But I think most of it was their ruddy complexions, boisterous talk and laughter and the full attention some were paying me as a singer. Haven't listened to the recording yet, so don't know how it sounded, but it felt as though I was making some sort of breakthrough in projecting my emotions via my singing voice. It felt as though my voice was complete with nothing hindering its flow.

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