We all have our little rituals – this is certainly true of singers, whose live performances leave the door open to possible chaos. As I am currently in the thick of auditions, this fact is particularly apparent to me. Auditions are a vulnerable time, and it feels like any bit of extra snatched luck is imperative. So I have my rituals. In reality, of course, their good lies more in the comfort and confidence that “doing things right” imparts than in their power to stroke the Fates in the right direction, but this is not always easy to keep in mind.
The line between comforting superstition and functional necessity is a blurry one, and changes from person to person. Numerous are the accumulated dogmas of singers in “performance mode.” “A” swears that she cannot possibly eat tomatoes; “B” must have steak before a concert. A general list of rules for physical fitness is hard to determine, as each singer has a different relationship to his body, and each body reacts differently to foods or climates. So, the hard-held beliefs of singers are a constantly evolving list of discoveries. A young singer is told by teachers and peers what to do and not to do; over time, through trial and error, he comes up with his own list. Ultimately, which items are physical requirements, and which are purely psychological, is a tricky conclusion to draw…
As I have matured vocally and, more importantly, technically, I have pared down the members of my security blanket armada. When once the act of singing seemed like a high-wire act necessitating that all the elements of the universe converge in my favor, I am able now to rely more on the physical certainty of my body and my technique. I need fewer rules, and fewer rituals. I am less afraid of being sick: if I can sing without pain, so be it; if I cannot, I realize I will simply have to wait. I also do not adhere to any particular forbidden foods lists. In fact, most of my little rituals (because they certainly do exist) are not about fearfully avoidingperceived harms as if they were evil omens. Instead, they center on activities that make me feel more energetic, focused and at ease. But, lest I seem sickeningly pragmatic, I will admit two of my favorite irrational talismans: 1) I still hold my breath in cars when driving through tunnels, happily paying respects to this childhood relic of superstition. 2) I still love to hear my mother tell me “La peur n’évite pas le danger” (“Fear does not prevent danger”), which, although not a particularly helpful mantra, always brings a soothing surge of familiarity to my nerves.