It’s only seven minutes
“New choir is seeking singers” was the headline that caught my eye in our local paper in August 2016. As a self-employed person working from home, I was struggling to meet new people and this sounded ideal. I have always enjoyed singing and thought I was in tune; I hadn’t belonged to a choir before, but surely female four-part a cappella couldn’t be that difficult?
So on Wednesday, 21 September 2016, I turned up for a “free four-week course to teach breathing, harmony, posture and musical interpretation” and BackBeat A Cappella was born. They broke us in slowly. Our Musical Director, Jayne Roper, got us singing straight away, which was the easy bit. Then Performance Director, Chrissie Boden, made us do some physical warm-ups, which quite frankly I couldn’t understand as I am not a physically co-ordinated person. But the women I met that day are now some of my dearest friends.
In no time at all, our four-week course was finished and the founder members introduced us to their long-term aim for BackBeat – to compete at the Sweet Adelines Convention. They were open and honest about what that entailed: dedication to rehearsing, learning moves for the ‘uppy’, financial commitments, and hair and makeup. Rehearsing, tick; moves for the uppy, well with lot of practice, tick; financial commitment, tick; but makeup? There it was… out in the open… my huge hang-up – makeup. I have always been a bit of a tomboy and never wear makeup apart from a bit of lippy for very special occasions. Also, I have no idea how to put on anything more than lipstick, so this was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. I was hooked on singing with my new BackBeat friends but I just couldn’t cope with the makeup needed for convention. It was a step too far outside my comfort zone. I said I wouldn’t be going to convention.
I carried on singing with my ladies and performed at our singouts, but no, I definitely wouldn’t be going to convention. Then there was a buzz in the chorus, as people were booking for the 2018 Quartet of Nations Convention in Newcastle upon Tyne. It struck me that I should probably go along for a look so I could definitively state, with evidence, that singing at convention was not for me. Also, it was an excuse for a weekend away with the girls.
Watching the quartets and choruses, I quickly realised that I would only be on stage in that dreaded makeup for about seven minutes. Just seven minutes outside my comfort zone. I had such fun during the weekend that I reassessed my hang-ups and talked them through with the girls. In particular, my roomie, Nichola Mott, who is an experienced stage performer, assured me that she would help me apply my makeup. I had foolishly thought that I would be on my own, whereas, of course, the opposite is true: we are a team, each supporting the others in whatever way is needed.
Fast forward to May 2019 and the dawn of our big day. We had been so well rehearsed that I actually wasn’t nervous about performing on stage, just about getting my makeup right. Luckily, we had an afternoon slot, so there was no chance of my false eyelashes falling into my cereal during our relaxed breakfast. After an hour of practice in the hotel we were sent back to our rooms to get convention ready. Costume, hair, jewellery and makeup… crunch time.
Our forward-thinking convention team had provided us with a list of all the makeup we needed, including brushes, etc., and a step-by-step guide (with photos!) of what to do. I took a deep breath and, under my roomie Nichola’s guidance, I started the transformation. It felt strange, but it wasn’t painful, and so long as I didn’t look too closely in the mirror, I still felt like me. In no time at all we were in the traffic pattern, on stage smiling like mad at the audience and judges, and then singing. I never knew seven minutes to go so fast.
I was so proud to perform on stage in Cardiff with my lovely BackBeat A Cappella ladies, fully made up. How could I have ever thought of not going?