Session Files: A Surprise Cure for Stage Fright

Here's a gig report with a twist:

The setup: A cameo classic guitar solo with a chamber ensemble and vocal ensemble for a friend's Master's degree recital

The music: Robert Shaw's "Many Moods of Christmas", lute solo (very nice)

The venue: A local, private academy

The complications: Five weeks ahead I got a cassette of the material (classical by ear!) and was asked to transcribe the lute part. A week later I was given a score and a second cassette, neither of which matched the original recording. I asked for clarification. The next week I received a second score which matched none of the above.

After transcribing and "cracking the code" of hand positions, etc., I discovered that the tenth through thirteenth frets of my thirty-year-old classic guitar had finally worn to the point that buzz-less playing was nearly impossible. No time for a re-fret. Okee...

Monday Dress Rehearsal: As we run down the score and bake under the lights, I notice that my guitar is detuning itself in the heat and needs a touch-up at a rate of about once every four minutes. I have set-up beside the cello and directly in front of the first trumpet. Cello player says, down her nose, "What's that you're playing? Oh, yes, a GUITAR. Ahem."

We resolved the score problems by my missing an entrance for a solo passage which had been deleted from BOTH recordings. O-Keeeeee...

The Gig: This is a real, swoop in and do your solo, do-or-die thing. After I get setup in the designated spot and retire backstage to wait, the territorial cello player shoves my footstool, mic, and chair around to make room. I sit through the Schubert Mass and it's time for my piece. The main challenge is to stay fluid because unexpectedly, the conductor (my friend, new at it) retards the whole gang at some arbitrary points (like on the second note of my solo). I make my entrances and survive the solos. No buzzes, a missed note, no clambake. Wheeww! The cellist, on the other hand, had a rough go of it.

THE CURE: Oh yea, about the stage fright thing. You know, cold, sweaty hands, etc. . On pop dates, I usually consider the first song a throw-away to get settled. Not at all conducive to this gig's quick in-and-out solos. What was the cure?

I had a rotten, stressful day at work. Around eleven in the morning I knew I was headed into a migraine headache but couldn't get the time to take my medicine (no lunch break) until 4:30. By that time, the headache was in full bloom with visual effects and nausea. I snatched a quick nap while my stomach rolled from the migraine. By the time I hit the stage at 7:45, I was so worried about the fact that at bar sixty (the end of my last solo), with both my hands on the guitar (and thus, no fingers in my ears), that first trumpet was going to blow full tilt from directly behind me and possibly blow my sore brains out my nose and all over my guitar, that I forgot to worry about the audience. The trumpet HURT.

Post Script: I love irony in most of its forms. The last time I went to the symphony (Handel's Messiah), my seat was directly in front of that cellist (who really is excellent and well respected in the area). She had a rough go of it again.


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