Nerves and the Art of Singing


I’ve got less than a week until my quartet takes the stage at our Sweet Adelines Regional Competition. We are not competing against the other quartets but are singing for evaluation only. I think it’s less nerve-wracking than it would be if we were competing but I’m nervous regardless. There are apparently going to be around 30 judges-in-training in the audience this year. So in addition to the four actual scoring judges we have 30 others who will be watching us with critical eyes and ears. Awesome.

I’m not nervous about the chorus part of the competition. I’ve been there and done that. Sure I’ll have butterflies before going on stage with them, but I’m downright anxious about the quartet part. Mostly because if I make a flub in my singing there are no other women who sing my part to cover up my mistake. I am fully accountable for my tone.

For anyone who thinks that singing is merely opening your mouth and having sound come out, you are very, very wrong. There are so many things that go into singing and singing barbershop is very unique. You’ve got to think about the stance of your body when you sing. Have to make sure that your upper body is straight but not tense. Breath from your diaphragm. Use your air wisely, and put more behind those notes above your vocal break. Don’t forget to form your vowels correctly and in the exact same fashion as the other three members of your quartet (or, in a chorus’s case, the other 33 or so members) or your chords won’t lock and ring. Think about what you’re singing. Make sure you are smiling, that your eyes are bright and you are putting a character into your song. Don’t forget to flip those diphthongs! P.S., are you making sure to use dynamics to make sure the Cone is upheld?

Those are just a few of the things one must think about while singing barbershop. You have to constantly remind yourself of all these things without looking terrified and like you’re in a battle of concentration, because this is supposed to be fun! It is fun. But it’s also a lot of hard work. Anyone who says differently is mistaken.

I’m really excited for this weekend. I’m also really ready for it to be behind me. I am looking forward to a weekend with my singing sisters and to be perfectly honest, I am looking forward to a weekend where I get to be a full-time Sweet Adeline and pass Baby Duty on to someone else (my mother in law has graciously accepted to take Nellie for the duration of the contest to make things immeasurably easier on me). I get two entire days with no spit-up, bottles, diapers or hunger meltdowns…. Unfortunately this also means I have to endure two entire days of no gummy little grins or contented sighs and snuggles. No adorable little coos, grunts or idle baby chat. Two entire days without the company of my sweet baby daughter. It’s very strange how I can be simultaneously looking forward to the break, and feeling anxious at the separation. Such is motherhood, hmm?

I have a lot to do this week, including a dress rehearsal on Tuesday where we will be in full costume and makeup. I’ll be covered in blue glitter and pancake foundation. Everything I own will also be covered in the same blue glitter.

Such is the life of a barbershopper….. And I really and truly love every second of it.