Monday, July 04, 2022

What’s more important: your well-being or the next concert, rehearsal or singing workshop?

We’ve all been there: we’re feeling a bit rough, but we soldier on any way.

photo by Peter Reed

A big concert is coming up so we can’t let people down. But is that the right way to think?

Throughout my career as a choir leader and singing workshop leader, I have worked when I really shouldn’t have.

I’ve felt so ill, that a choir member has had to lead the warm up before a concert.

I have coughed my way through a whole day of singing then had to deal with the repercussions for the next few months.

I’ve led a men-only singing day where I had to sing all the parts when teaching. But I had a mild cold so subsequently lost my voice for a few weeks.

It’s very tempting to think that we need to “soldier on.” It’s part of our culture to step up, take the over-the-counter drugs and drag ourselves into work.

It’s even harder for those of us who are self-employed as we don’t get sick pay and we often don’t have anyone who can replace us.

It’s easy to feel that we’re letting people down if we prioritise our own well-being. Especially if the thing we’re cancelling has been a big event that’s been a long time in the planning.

Yet in the long-term, our well-being must trump everything else since if we don’t look after ourselves we won’t have a choir or singing business to come back to.

We need to get a sense of perspective.

It’s not the end of the world if a rehearsal gets missed. There will always be another concert coming along. The world is full of singing workshops. In the greater scheme of things, nothing is that important.

This applies as equally to singers as it does to choir and workshop leaders. If you drag yourself along when you’re not feeling well, you may end up missing far more than just one rehearsal or concert. You may also end up infecting your fellow singers, and even audience members. Especially important in these days of Covid-19.

I was rehearsing a piece of site-specific theatre years ago in a field in Italy (don’t ask!). Everyone was struggling, things won’t going well, we were all tired and it was getting dark. The stage manager (who was lying in the grass watching us) said “Stop getting so stressed. It’s only a piece of theatre.”

We were outraged that he was belittling what we were doing! But then we soon realised he was saying we should just get a little perspective. So we stopped and came back to it the next day after we’d rested. Then it went well.

Of course concerts and rehearsals and workshops are important things, but they’re never that important that your own well-being must suffer.

Chris Rowbury


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