Monday, February 13, 2023

The concert was great, so why do I feel like a failure?

Sometimes a performance is a blinder. There is a standing ovation and cries for more.

photo by svenwerk

And yet … it is possible to come away feeling that it’s all gone wrong. How is this possible?

performers and performance

Performing for other people is not a natural thing. For millennia, singing and dancing was carried out by whole communities. Singing and dancing was simply a way of expressing the feelings of a community. The whole community would come together for celebrations, to grieve, to mark particular occasions, to give thanks for a successful harvest, or simply to express joy.

There were no special ‘performers’ who sang and danced for another group called an ‘audience’.

But nowadays we are used to this separation. We pay money to be an audience for a special group of people who implicitly declare that they are good at performing. They are somehow ‘special’ and different from the audience members. They perhaps have more talent or more training.

With this pressure on performers, no wonder we worry that we’re not doing well or getting things wrong!

choirs and concerts

When a choir sings in a concert, the audience are experiencing the overall effect. They shouldn’t be noticing any individual. When things go fairly well (not necessarily perfectly), the audience will enjoy themselves. Any minor mistakes or imperfections get ironed out by the group as a whole.

However, from a performer’s or choir leader’s perspective, you are most aware of what you’re doing as an individual. It is hard from within the choir to sense what the overall effect is. If you make a small mistake, you will notice it. If you forget some lyrics, you imagine the entire audience will spot it. If you dry up or freeze, you feel all eyes on you.

As a choir leader, you may realise that one song went too fast, another was better in rehearsal, and in another, a whole verse was missed out and the harmonies went wrong.

Yet it’s almost certain that nobody in the audience will notice (unless it’s your mum or best friend!). They aren’t paying attention to individuals, just the overall effect. And they have nothing to compare it with, so they don’t know how the harmonies should sound or how well the rehearsal went, or which verses should have been sung. 

audience vs. performer experience

Which means that you might experience it as an awful concert and feel that you’re a failure because you got so many things wrong. On the other hand, the audience may think it’s one of your choir’s best performances.

The point is, how you feel is fairly irrelevant. It’s whether the audience has a good time or not.

(In fact, the opposite can happen too: you might have a blast, but the audience think the concert was rubbish!)

The solution is to just do the best you can, put the work in, and let the whole thing play out. By the time of the concert it’s out of your hands. And once it’s over, forget it and move on.

older posts

You might find these other posts of interest too:

Singers should spend more time in the audience

How audiences behave and how we respond

Not everyone experiences a concert in the same way

When audiences applaud – or not

Singing the wrong note is not the end of the world

What if the singing session is a success, but you feel like a failure?


Chris Rowbury


Get more posts like this delivered straight to your inbox!

Click to subscribe by email.


found this helpful?

I provide this content free of charge, because I like to be helpful. If you have found it useful, you may like to ...

... to say thank you.





Monthly Music Round-up: