Last night was the first rehearsal for Sound of Music. All of us nuns together in a deserted office building, surrounded by torn down wiring and nondescript walls.
I was anxious going in because I had auditioned as a mezzo only because none of the other sopranos would move down. I am not a mezzo. I am a soprano with rusty pipes. Meh.
Our director had us self-select parts first, but there was only one of each of the other parts and the rest of us divas classified ourselves as first sopranos. Then began a meticulous process of determining people’s voices by singing as small groups, pairs, and solos.
Since Mother Abbess is a first soprano (and boy, is she good—she stood next to me in auditions and her voice is tip-top), there were only two other slots. I made it to the final three. The other two women were about 20 years old and clearly in the music school. I am not. On either score. Each of them could sing two or three whole steps above my highest comfortable pitch. There was no way—I was going down.
He asked if I’d hate him if he made me be a second soprano. I made a joke but then told him I’ve never sung second. I’ve been thinking about that ever since and I do believe it’s the absolute truth–I’ve actually sung alto twice and even tenor once, but never soprano II. Regardless, I’ve been trained since age five to listen for the highest line. I don’t know how to hear chords—I’m much more of a “line” person.
Anyway, I said I’d never sung mezzo and he said, “But you auditioned as a mezzo.” Rather than say the more appropriate, “That’s because you asked me,” I just said, “That’s the first time I ever sang it.” So he still thinks it was a totally voluntary decision on my part. I am still kicking myself over that.
Regardless, away we flew. My sister seconds are twenty-something music school types with nice voices. (Anyone reading this should book tickets now for the show—if the nun’s chorus is any indication, there’s going to be some phenomenal talent in the show overall!) And there I sit.
Rebecca, my voice coach, had actually worked with me on the pieces that afternoon and we’d done the SII line just in case. Even with all that prep, the SII’s were the weakest link in the chain last night. We made the most mistakes and needed the most assists. Almost everyone else in the room can sight-sing. I certainly can’t, and definitely felt the lack of it.
Augh, I am sinking into a pit of humiliation as I write this.
What complicates things is that I know the soprano lines on most of the songs. So I’m constantly pulled to SI because I know it and have sung it for 25 years! Augh!
What’s killing my voice is that the range of the pitches on the SII line goes right back and forth over my passaggio and it’s killing me. It hurts my voice. Rebecca says to keep it breathy and only practice the songs ten minutes at a time before giving my voice lots of rest.
I have no idea how I’m going to get through a whole show.
Oh GODS I’m depressed. What’s killing me is that I feel that I won’t be able to give the performance I’m capable of. I won’t sound as good as I know I can. I might even jeopardize any future chance of working with Cardinal because I’m so bloody stupid and I sound like crap. My fear walking in last night was that I’d be the weak link, and it looks like I was right. I don’t sight-sing—I don’t even sight read—so it takes forever to get a part down if it’s difficult. And as easy as these songs are, the lines are really difficult for me for all the blathering reasons listed above.
I can’t help but feel like a failure. Being consigned to mezzo-land means I couldn’t cut it as a first soprano. For the first time in my life, I’m not the star. Hear my ego get pummeled. Ow ow ow.
I’m so thankful for Rebecca, who’s making extra time to do an additional lesson with me next week. Plus she gave me two big pep talks today. I just need time to get through this and get used to the humiliation of screwing up every rehearsal. Because this really is all about me. The production itself is outstanding.
I can only hope that, when it comes to staging, I’ll be brilliant at things like gliding across the stage.
Oh Gods I pray I’m good enough. Let me be good enough.