Lessons from Recital
Nov 13, 2014
Days afterward, I woke up hearing in my mind the perfect Russian lyrics I had such difficulty keeping in my head for the recital. Like an athlete preparing for competition and working to peak on that occasion, I guess I have missed the mark. It has been a while, like many years, since I had a full recital and I am extremely humbled by the experience because there were things I could have prevented from falling through the cracks. Hopefully, this checklist shall help as a reminder for my next performance when I am ready to take it on again.
Scheduling self practice time.
Simple, eh? Every day coming up to the recital there is an intention and desire to practice. Yet life sometimes have ways to catch our attention, either making us hungry for food or getting us caught up in family life, taking us away from our perceived priorities. Fortunately for Google calendar, scheduling is only a few taps away. In this way, it also becomes a record of commitment. To increase the dosage of dedication, work at setting and sticking to a consistent day and time each week.
Practice effortless mastery.
This is where we pick one area of focus and sometimes a combination. For example, putting the attention on musicality and letting go everything else such as diction can really hone in on the flow of the music and the overarching feel you wish to capture. Another focus can be the mindful attention of each note, the quality, tone, and being aware of the physical production and location of origin. Another is the words themselves of course, learning the pronunciation and connecting the words' meaning as soon as you can through funny associations (stories) in your mind, for instance. Then the big test is putting all the components together.
As a performer, there is a clear distinction between the energy of performance and the energy of learning and preparation. It is advantageous to bring out the performer earlier on to get a better insight on what areas are in need of attention and return to the drawing board. The fun part is definitely embodying that performer mindset and allowing all your hard work to be delivered in fluency.
Follow your curiosity and explore one thing.
This is more of an extension of the last point and also the magic ingredient of discovery. An important mentality to adopt is accepting what is and using curiosity to drive you. In the innovative world, they called this "fast fail prototyping." You have all the time to change something to your satisfaction up to the time of performance. Being curious and in wonderment opens the doors of opportunity to creativity. This is fed by asking questions that invoke experimentation and fun. Knowing that it is your recital and that you are in control of what and how you want to give to your audience give you a lot to think about in terms of the experience you wish to impart to your audience.
When learning the lyrics, especially the Russian song cycle, I found myself feeling overwhelmed. Yes, one, I started memorizing the words a little too late, especially in a language that I am quite new at. Two, I did not allow myself the sufficient mindful attention that was needed to CALMLY implement the text into memory. It can be understandably overwhelming when a song is one page long of lines, thereby making it literally too much for the mind to chew at once. However, when I finally calmed down, which is very important, and chunked out the sections, using the energy of wonder to seek out patterns and similarities, telling myself stories that somehow linked everything together, then did things start falling into place. This is also a much more intelligible way of memorizing, using all your focused attention to good use.
Remember that the skill needed in performance is being able to accurately and timely access the information from memory, either in mind or body. There is a point when one has to "forget" in order to allow the body to take over, or what people call, "muscle memory." It is also wise to take the time to link up the last word of a line with the first word of the next line and be free to use your body, arms, eyes, gestures anything to establish that connection. It is like using training wheels until you earn your independence.
Use social media (i.e. Pinterest) to search & save potential recipes and images.
As a producer, I love to cover all bases including making people happy, and because I am so passionate about food as well, this would have helped me cut time out of searching for the perfect reception snacks I wanted to make. By having all recipes in one place and taking the downtime to explore and be inspired, it reduces the stress felt when it comes to dividing the time between focusing on the music, and everything else. I would have made more snacks safe my concern for my language accuracy.
As part of the recital preparation and deciding what to put on the program, a very inspirational activity would be to seek out words, images, sounds that stir your heart. Google has been a very supportive friend indeed! Creating a vision board also helps to bring articulation into your end goal. I ended up deciding on projecting the translations of my recital as opposed to using more paper by printing them into the programme. Based on making things as simple as possible for the one operating the translations, it was decided I limit a song to a slide if possible. Therefore, I found myself spending more time than I had imagined searching for suitable images to accompany the songs. If I had already spent the time earlier on in the creation stage, selecting images would have already been shortlisted.
Maintain a list of people interested to attend the performance.
Marketing is like an art because no matter what day you choose for your performance it is never a good day for someone out there. I remember during conversations when people tell me that they would love to hear me sing and attend a concert one day, and these words end up lost in time and space because they may not have been informed. Technology is amazing in that it enables us to connect more efficiently than ever! There's no need to have a pigeon do your work for you because it is now just instant clicks away. I find collecting business cards also may get lost in the shuffle. Therefore, saving a Gmail/Hotmail/Yahoo draft of emails of people voicing their interest would serve perfectly! That is if you have a smartphone handy during your travels. Also having a Facebook following of people on your page would target the interested audience for your particular offering.
Be guided by your passion and also listen to your coach.
I found it fascinating the journey this recital took because I have allowed it to organically take place trusting in the universal energy of all that is to guide this process. There were songs and cycles that were added and taken off, but in the end it came together perfectly! I love creating new experiences so I was very excited to add Russian to my repertoire and was very grateful for the suggestion of the Hebrew song cycle by my teacher Tina Torlone. My sincere appreciation goes to my coach William Shookhoff for his wise words and outlook on life. It is naturally difficult to let go of anything really, especially when you have already established a relationship with them, in this case the songs I have spent time giving life to through my voice. So to have an amazing coach like Shookhoff advise actions in the best interest of all those involved is invaluable.
Sell tickets in advance.
One uncertainty comes in the form of selling tickets at the door because despite how many people who tell you that they will be there, they lie! All joking aside, things happen outside of people's control, traffic, scheduling, family, health, etc. Selling in advance helps ease the stress of expenses that come with producing a recital. Luckily, with technology, we have websites such as Eventbrite, that allows you to sell tickets online that you can integrate right on your website. There are now also readers you can order such as Square, that enables you to accept credit card payments on your smartphone or iPad! This is also a good exercise for introverts like me to get out and talk to people, with your tickets in hand of course.
Other promotional tasks would be to perform samples of your recital, sing a song or two at events, and record a taste of what to expect at the performance and uploaded it to your website.
Ask for help!
This is one of my life lessons I have to learn to graciously accept. At least for me, I feel more comfortable giving than receiving and having a recital without delegation is an impossible task! It is also a reminder for us introverts to come out of our comfort zone once in a while and be social and connect with others! Life is finding a balance of give and take, of growing and experiencing, of connecting and learning, and of collecting the many memories along the way.
Can you sense your resistance in certain actions or even the thought of doing such actions? These feelings reveal areas of potential personal growth. I remembered the day I gave myself an exercise to ask individually each person to come to my recital through text and messaging. It was interesting to see my reactions and perceptions of how I felt toward a person, how I imagine their disposition toward me, and the emotions that ran its course as I pushed the send button. I found it encouraging when I read that, "we yearn to be accepted but we can never be rejected." The thoughts we allow to roam may create illusions of separateness, in which the ego perpetuates such illusion, thus watering fear, anxiety, and perhaps grief to grow unwarrantably in addition to bringing up childhood memories of uncertainty. Each attempt at doing something in the face of fear is like flexing the muscle of inner-strength and confidence. Certain emotions and different parts of ourselves simply need the love and patience to bring up the courage to take the steps necessary to earn its position, like a baby learning how to walk.
I am so happy and grateful for my friends Gilles Neplaz and Jonny Caines for helping me record and video edit my recital, Katie Klein for helping me with operating the translations in French, German, and Russian as well as my language pronunciations and making those yummy empanadas for the reception; George Ossipov, Rachad Feiz, and Sergiy Prygara for the Russian lessons; Anna Bartniki and Wendy Cladman for working the front of house, Haiyashi Lin of Sushi Xtra for the sushi, Reverend Majed El Shafie of One Free World International for giving me the opportunity to serve a cause, and the many other unnamed friends that helped make my recital so memorable.
There are also many other considerations and factors that contribute to making a recital successful. I welcome your suggestions. The biggest reward of doing a recital is to see all the souls we positively affected. It is also a way of seeing how much we have progressed since the days, for me the shaking nervousness of my grade 6 self singing "Memory" from the Cats musical at my school's concert.
Tsu-Ching Yu is a multi-talented performer, lover, dreamer, and student of life. Her mission is to live life to the fullest and each day through the lenses of love, compassion, and understanding. She believes in creating miracles and it all starts with each and every one of us.