An anecdote from the road

Not too long ago, while touring in X, I had a gig at a fairly big and well established jazz festival in the city of ______ . A few weeks before the festival I was sent the paper work via e-mail: tech rider, stage plan, and holiest of holy - The Contract. I was going to be paid $_______, which would happen with the financial support of the Austrian Culture forum in the country, and, to my great delight, we were going to sleep in a ***** Star Hotel! Until the second draft of the contract arrived, with an apology and an amendment pertaining to our lodging arrangements. A mistake had been made. Apparently we were not going to stay at the ***** Star Hotel (!) but instead in a starless hostel in town. Fair enough, I thought, as long as there would be separate rooms for the musicians and it was going to be clean. The ***** Star Hotel was, of course, reserved for the well established jazz artist ____________, and a flustered assistant had sent out the wrong contract.
The actual festival gig in ________ was great. We played a solid show, the stage was lovely, well lit, good sound (I got a stereo mix all to myself!!!), and I received a beautiful bouquet of flowers. Afterward, as I was talking to the promoter, I found out that we would in fact NOT receive payment that very night (highly unusual, especially, if not cleared with the artist ahead of time), but that the money would be wired to my account by the Culture Forum. Bummer, but well, the Austrians are pretty reliable that way (They did deliver in the end). Upon arriving at our accommodations at 1am in the morning we were presented with the following scenario:
a) there were no single or even double rooms available for the musicians
b) we could choose between
Version 1: sharing a 12bed room with 5 Romanians
Version2: having 1 room to ourselves (the entire band), but having to walk through a room occupied by 3 Slovenians, in order to get to the (shared) bathroom.
What to choose? It appeared we had fallen quite far from the ***** Star Hotel in the first draft of the contract.
In all fairness I do have to say that after we called the promoter, who had just gotten home and was most certainly completely knackered, he arranged to put us up in a very nice upper scale hotel with a huge breakfast buffet and mini bar, picking us up from the hostel and driving us there at about 2am in the morning! Since it was the last day of the tour, we were able to do a sweet, comfy hang in one of the beautiful hotel rooms, with some decent vodka at hand to celebrate our good fortune. So, in the end, it all turned out well, and it gave me something to write about! Cheers!

363 Days

A voice teacher I knew many years ago once said, "you have about two days per year, when the voice is just soaring, everything feels right and is open, and you just open your mouth and SING. For the other 363 days you have vocal technique." I do love that quote, as I think it does sum up nicely one of the major challenges of being a vocalist. As far as I know, the voice is the only instrument that is synonymous with the human body. There is no separation, no "filter" or other tool that we need to study (although of course it helps tremendously to study, say, piano as a vocalist, but that's fodder for a whole nother blog). Now I don't know about you, but my body is definitely not a machine. It feels different every day, depending on amount of sleep (or lack thereof), the weather, what I ate, my mood, my workout regimen etc. There is the rare occasion when I start to sing and everything simply flows. It's HEAVEN. I don't want THAT to end, and I feel like I can sing forever, which, of course, I can't. So I continue to study vocal technique, to practice (albeit by far not enough!!!) and to prepare myself for every single one of those 363 days, none of them the same, each one of them with it's very own challenge posed to me: "Now, can you sing through THAT?"

To Warm Up Or Not To Warm Up - is that a question?

I have some singer friends, fabulous vocalists all, who don't warm up for a gig. I think that's amazing, but I also know that it doesn't work for me. In fact I hate singing when I'm not warmed up. This may be due to my allergy-infested and mucous-riddled upper respiratory tract, but it's also been like that since I started seriously working on my voice. To me it's a mental and physical opening and focusing, a letting go and tuning in. Releasing the wrong tensions and strengthening the right ones.
When I was on tour last September I played 13 shows in as many days in as many cities. The grind was grueling, to say the least, and culling a warm-up period out of our busy schedule became a matter of vocal survival to me. Four to six hours on the bus, lugging around and setting up a full PA each night (including those oh so handy sub-woofers), bad gas station food and unfamiliar sleeping quarters each night caused me a tremendous amount of neck and shoulder tension. I ended up putting in 30 minutes of yoga followed by 30 minutes of vocal warm-ups each night, starting with a very small sound, gradually working my way up to a more open, relaxed (tongue and jaw anybody?) body feeling.
So, singers: feel free to sound off! How do you get ready for a gig? What works for you, and what doesn't? Is putting on a pretty dress and make-up enough for you to get ready for a show? Comment away!!!
All the best
Elisabeth Lohninger