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The Grade 5 Singing exam has been done! This is a photo of me and my teacher, the fantastically talented opera singer Madeleine Bradbury Rance, celebrating today. Not celebrating the result (which we haven’t got yet) but celebrating the fact that WE HAVE DONE IT.

Now, I’m not saying it went perfectly. In fact, I made a mistake that I have NEVER made in practice, not in 6 months of preparation. What are the odds of that? The nerves got the better of me and I forgot that one piece of music continued over the line, so I stopped half way through, and then managed to pick it up after a couple of bars and finish on time (which is, at least, something). I was also slightly disappointed that I didn’t sing everything as well as I know I can sing it, and I have done in the past. But my teacher told me that all singers sing less than their best 98% of the time. You have to wait for those celestial occassions when all the stars align, and – for some reason – the sound that comes out of your mouth is heavenly, all the way through the piece.

But, as Len Goodman used to say on Strictly Come Dancing, when one of the contestants inevitably came out and frankly, wasn’t very good, bordering on really bad – he’d say, “Hey, you came out, Week One, and had a go! You threw yourself into it, and it’s over now – onwards.”

I could have bailed on the exam completely (it’s only a hobby, after all). I could have decided to delete the recording and redo it next week. But no, I have had enough of the pressure and adrenaline/cortisol; I was building up to doing the exam today and today only (not next week or next month) and now I am having a break. So, for good or ill, it’s done. “The arrows are in the air” as my husband would say. I think I have at least passed, and hey, I don’t have to get Distinction in everything I do!

As I counted down to the time I was doing the exam today (1130am) I was conscious that the whole of the past 6 months had been leading up to this moment. In the final 3 hours (0830-1130) I did what I could do: final rehearsal, warming up, putting on my makeup, going to the loo, getting dressed in something comfortable (but fabulous, as you see from the photo) and I moved slowly but inexorably towards that 1130 start-time. As we say in broadcasting: we don’t start when we’re ready, we start when the Bongs go. And, no matter how it goes, it’s over at 1230.

Then after the exam, it was time for a walk with my daughter to the nearest coffee shop, a drink and a snack on their outside terrace, some bonding and chat, some exercise, some fresh air, then – onwards to the next thing. So I suppose my takeaway (terrible corporate phrase, sorry) from all this is: have a go, it might not be perfect, but at least you’ve tried, faced your fear, and achieved something.

As Nike would say, Just Do It.

But, as I have blogged about before, you do have to totally immerse yourself in the task, concentrate minutely on the detail, focus absolutely, and don’t allow yourself to start thinking about what you’ll do after the exam until it’s over. As I took a brief walk before the exam, I reminded myself to be completely present (in the case of singing that means: remembering the pronunciation of every word – which rrr’s to roll in Italian, which consonants to linger on in Swedish, which notes to hit cleanly and which to glide up to, the mood and emotion of the pieces, breathing correctly and hopefully silently). So, a lot to think about, and I am no expert but just an old ham doing my best and trying to forgive myself when I am not perfect. I’ll let you know if the examiner could see my inner Maria Callas amongst the slips-ups, or my inner Florence Foster Jenkins.

Update: smashed it!
Update: smashed it!

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