I have always wanted to sing with a band. Anytime I watch a band perform I just want to be up on that stage. It looks so much fun! Yet, I’ve never had the chance. I never got to be part of a band during those teenage years when everybody else seemed to be doing it. Unless you count the time I played an Indian flute during the song Wild Thing for my brother’s band.
I have sung on stage…in school shows, but it has always terrified me. I grew up in Wales where everybody had incredible voices and mine was only okay. I have definitely forgotten both tune and words on more than one occasion whilst stood in front of lots of people. Because of this, I now mostly only sing in the car or when under the influence of wine, and my song repertoire is Disney.
My wonderful mother-in-law, Mandy, is an amazing singer and has regularly performed with live musicians (she could easily give Alison Moyet a run for her money). These days, she sings with a local Rock Choir. The choir leader recently advertised that she would be hosting a Big Band Workshop during which she would teach everyone to sing a couple of Big Band numbers. At the end of the event a band would be playing for anyone to sing along with. Mandy invited me to come along.
Anyone wanting to sing with the band was asked to chose a song from a set list. It was really hard trying to pick one. I had no idea if I could even attempt to sing most of them. In the end I chose Mack the Knife because I wanted it to be a bit of a Big Band number. I started singing it everywhere…in a variety of different keys. It took me ages to learn the words and I had to explain to the kids why I kept singing such a jolly song about someone who killed people in gruesome ways.
On the actual night I was very close to pulling out. The idea of singing on stage was making me feel very sick. When my fabulous father-in-law, John collected me, my lovely sister-in-law, Jo was there to calm my nerves with gifts of Pimms in a can. Lizzie had suggested that everyone should come in 1940/50s clothes to make the evening a bit more fun. Obviously I don’t need asking twice. You can’t see in the pictures, but my shoes totally matched my hat.
The men made more of an effort than the ladies with their costumes, but those that did dress up looked fantastic. I couldn’t believe how many people were there. Lizzie was brilliant at trying to teach us all the harmonies to New York, New York and It Don’t Mean a Thing. Occasionally we even got them right. Thankfully there was more wine to keep the nerves at bay and to loosen our vocal chords.
After learning the songs, Hayley Sanderson (from Strictly) listened to us perform and didn’t immediately leave. I take that as positive feedback. She then performed a few songs herself without any band rehearsals and sang it all perfectly. The talent of all involved was incredible. Following the performance we were able to ask her a few questions about her career so far. There were a lot of questions about Strictly. Finally someone asked if she would perform a song with Lizzie. They sang Summertime as if they had been performing it together for years. I was pretty glad I hadn’t gone with that particular number for my song choice.
Once the room was set up for the final part of the evening, Lizzie began calling names. The first girl begged not to sing first and I can’t say I blame her. The second name called was Mandy. I originally thought this was good because she knows what she’s doing. However, after Mandy’s performance of, My Baby Just Cares for Me, I’m pretty sure nobody else wanted to get up. Thankfully, the next few performers were not quite as polished and the rest of us could relax again. That said, everybody gave it a really good go. Yes mistakes were made, but all the performances were very enjoyable. Unfortunately for me, every time somebody really good got up to perform I had to close my eyes and hope that I wouldn’t have to be next.
After an excruciatingly long time, my name was called. I could barely walk up to the stage and immediately forgot everything. Thankfully, my lovely family cheered me on and Lizzie was able to help me get going. I know there is video footage of my singing, but I am choosing not to watch it. I’m already aware of some of the mistakes I made and I don’t want to find anymore. Instead, I will chose to remember my performance as something akin to the early shows of Idina Menzel. I’m sure that’s how everyone there would have described it. Afterwards a couple of very kind people came up to say how well I’d done and that is enough for me. Here is photographic evidence of me on the stage:
Even though I was very stressed about doing it, I am so very glad I did. I loved being on that stage singing, even though I was terrified. There’s something very special about singing with a live band, especially one that can help you cover your mistakes. Everybody should give it a go. I would absolutely do it again, but I would like to do it with more practise and with songs I know really well. Basically, I’m thinking about starting my own band. We’ll probably only perform on random Friday nights in my living room, but there will definitely be wine. We could call ourselves Forty Decibels, or For-tea Vicar, or Could be Worse. Who’s in?