Yesterday I was honoured to be asked by a friend to sing at her father’s funeral. It was a very last minute gig, and I was somewhat apprehensive as I have been hacking and coughing for over a week, and lost my voice over the weekend.
Determined to be able to do it, I did a load of gentle sirening exercises and managed to rehab my voice enough to be able to sing Panis Angelicus during the service. Although it was more of a struggle than it would usually have been, I was pleased with how it went.
Us singers go through all kinds to be able to do the job. We stress and we worry, we go without regular meals in order to pay for singling lessons, scores and courses, and frequently wonder why we put ourselves through it and dream of a nice stable job.
Yesterday, I was reminded of why I sing. In my younger days, it was all about me, about the buzz that I got from standing on stage and being the centre of attention. But yesterday, several people came up to me, thanked me for my performance and told me how it made them feel. Some said that it really felt as though something special was being added, that it was part of giving the deceased a good send-off. Some said that it allowed them to be able to drift away and take their minds off the stress and worry of the funeral arrangements, or even just that it took them to a place where they could just think and remember.
I don’t pretend to be the most fantastic or highly trained singer in the world, and I think that the comments could apply to any live vocal performance. However, I think that there is something really special about listening to a live singer, I find that there is something really primal, uplifting and “human” about it all. And I feel privileged to be able to give that experience to other people.
I think that I would really like to sing at more funerals. Having lost both parents in my early twenties and being able to remember the sadness and the vulnerability of that particular time, it would give me great satisfaction to be able to bring comfort to other people in that situation. There is never a right time to lose someone close to you, and no matter how old you are, nothing really prepares you for it. I will always be grateful for the fantastic funeral directors that we used, and being able to do my part to help other people with whatever skills I have would make me feel as though I’m part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
So yes, time to get back on the horse and get cracking. I have ordered some new business cards advertising my services as a singer, and once my voice returns, I’ll get learning some new repertoire. I think I’m going to start with this beautiful setting of Ave Maria by Schubert