I’m a little bit pissed. Just to get that out of the way up front. The fact is, I have been very careful on the alcohol units for the last four months (read – none, except for my birthday) due to various boring health issues (not alcoholism in case you’re suspicious) and today, TODAY (she shouts drunkenly) I sort of felt well fuck this, I deserve a bloody drink. And then I had four.
Four drinks equals pretty bloody pissed for me and my delicate constitution. I have to look at the telly with one eye closed so it doesn’t flicker, and it’s Q&A and I’m heckling that telly and getting very bloody authoritative on all sorts of important issues (which I may well forget tomorrow) while everyone else in my family is asleep. My husband kissed me and said he’s off to bed and I said, “What? But aren’t we having a party?” He chuckled and may or may not have rolled eyeballs. The dog disappeared somewhere into the children’s bedrooms. So I’m having a little party on my own. AND… What I want to say is, I think that last night I had a MOMENTOUS occasion. Here’s why…
About 27 years ago (I think I’ve mentioned this before so I’ll be brief), my Mum and Dad bought us tickets to the original production of Les Miserables in London. I was 13, starry eyed, impressionable, and I think yet to hook into anything with passion. That night, in the third row in a West End theatre, I found my passion. I fell in love with the whole thing – Cosette, Jean Valjean, Marius, Fantine, Eponine (particularly Eponine, the tragic figure – I had no tragedy or horror in my life and therefore had a weird sense that it was kind of exotic and cool) and of course, the music. Oh that music! Mum bought me the cassette and I knew every single bar, every single lyric.
Already I’m babbling on too much, bear with me if you can. I went on to do a school musical (Jesus Christ Superstar) and a few plays. And then I thought about how silly it would be to pursue a creative life, because it was so hard and so competitive and one needed so much talent if one ever wanted to make a living and be independent. So I went and studied science and left university with a nursing degree. I was adamant that I wanted to leave university with a job at the end. Back then, nursing was a sure thing. I was 19, and I thought it would be nice to help people, and to have a white uniform. I was right, in a way, it was nice to help people. The uniform was quite nice too – I even had a petticoat and a little chest watch – but it wasn’t long before nurse’s uniforms got chucked out by feminist ideals (not a bad thing either).
I will never, ever regret my nursing years, ever. I learnt more about life and death in those 8 years as a paediatric and trauma nurse than I have in the 21 years since. I mean that. There is stuff from those years that will keep on teaching me too; memories that won’t go away, waiting for their moment, I guess. I wrote a journal throughout those years. I still have them but haven’t had the nerve to read them thoroughly.
The creative drive niggled at me though. As a tired trauma nurse on night duty I applied for a job as a writer with a television station. And got it. No one was more surprised than me. The money was shit, but I was compelled. I moved from copywriter to producer to presenter for WIN TV Tasmania. Then a producer job in Sydney and the researcher and medical advisor for All Saints, that medical drama on Channel 7. I had input on story conferences, wrote medical scenes and every second week directed the actors in correct medical conduct on set.
Then I fell in love. I came back to Tassie, got married and had a bit of a floundery time swaying between video production and nursing and amateur theatre. I remember that during one season of a play I wished that we were singing. I wrote in my program bio that my dream was to sing on stage. I auditioned for a musical – Rent. They told me my audition piece was a good song choice and I never heard from them again. That was it, I thought, I tried and failed.
I had babies. I sang to them; they didn’t sleep well. As they grew I took them to musical productions, played them music, sang a bit more, asked a friend to teach me guitar, wrote some songs, recorded them, published some music, played around…
Then my dear husband suggested I get some singing lessons. I didn’t think at the time that this was an insult, perhaps it was in hindsight, but I ran with it. My dear Mum gave me some money for lessons and I signed up with The Voice Academy in Hobart, with Jude Elliot as my teacher.
These days I refer to Jude as SAINT Jude – the saint of hope and impossible causes. St Jude taught me about my diaphragm, my breath, my vowels, my placement, my consonants (not as important as vowels), about MY voice and how it doesn’t have to be like everyone else’s and most importantly, that I might have something to say, that I could maybe sing. Her teachings continue, I have only just begun.
She has also taught me about performance, because a little while ago she put me forward for a Festival of Voices show called Reckless Women. I accepted immediately, because I was about to turn 40, and it was time to accept challenges without thinking too much.
Last night, Reckless Women performed at Festival of Voices Voicebox, City Hall. There were 10 of us – 9 incredible, seasoned performers, and me. I was like a possum in the headlights. I was terrified, out of my depth, but so bloody uplifted by 20 strong hands – the singers, our drummer (best, most unassuming drummer ever with the coolest name in the world – Kat Diamond) and our beautiful creative director, whose trust I held in my bursting, pounding heart. The show’s premise was female empowerment (we performed for free to raise money for women in need) and those 9 amazing women just pushed me through like I was one of them. My harmonies were weak, I missed my key in my second song and had to start again, but it was like they knew how hard I had worked – in lieu of theoretical knowledge and experience – and how much I wanted it to be ok, and how my heart might stop if my passion proved fruitless. They made me feel at home, and like I wanted to do it again and again and again until maybe I could be as wonderful as they. They made my dreams come true.
So thank you, Reckless Women, all of you. Particularly St Jude and Lucinda (director) and my dear friend Monique Brumby who knew way back in 1989 how shit my harmonies could be but never once let on.
And thank you friends and family (mum, sister, dad, grandmother, sister-in-law) for being excited for me and coming to watch and my husband for caring for 3 sick children so I could go and be a diva for a day. Thank you Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, for your sublime yarra yarra yun song “Bayini”, and your permission to sing it. Thank you Festival of Voices, what a truly wonderful event. Get along to something if you haven’t already. And please, please, everyone else – because I’m tipsy enough to get all soppy and cliched – if you have the chance to jump at a dream, grasp it in your hands and ROCK IT, just do, please do, please be brave, even if it means working your butt off and not sleeping as much as is recommended. The world will seem so much nicer, so much more worthy of your attention if you do.
With that, I’m having a glass of water and going to bed. Holy God, it’s late. Love you all, love the world really. Oh dear. xxxx