We have all heard the phrase “The show must go on”. It means that you have to leave your baggage outside when you step on the stage and deal with things as they are in the present moment. Nothing less will do if you are a professional.
Many of us have had to perform under less than perfect circumstances. In fact, that happens a great deal of the time. We are tired, or slightly ill. We are emotionally down or struggling with a personal problem. We have to contend with equipment failures, with difficult people who work with us, we have to contend with issues that impact how we feel (like terrible food, dry environments or sudden changes that we must accommodate). Given that we sing, we also have to deal with our voices in all their human and “oh-so-not-reliable” idiosyncrasies.
We can forget lyrics, miss entrances, lose track of where we are in a song. We can crack, go flat or sharp, or yodel unintentionally. We can have trouble with monitors, with theater acoustics, with conductors or instrumentalists in terms of mis-communications. Someone else’s mistake could cause us to have one, too. The list is almost endless.
And then, there you are, in front of an audience who may have paid money to see and hear you, and you have to look and sound like everything is rosy and cozy. You gather your resources, use what’s at hand, no matter what it is, as if you intended to have it be there all along. In anything but a genuine emergency (the theater is on fire or there is an earthquake happening), you go on, doing what you do, and making it work with a smile on your face (or in your mind). When it’s over, maybe no one but you knew that anything was “out of balance”. If that’s so, you did your job and you deserve to call yourself a pro.
I have seen some of the most famous performers in the world make mistakes in a performance and deal with it uniquely in a way that works. It should be comforting to the rest of us that even those who are the highest level of the business are still human and can mess up. What makes them really professional is not that they don’t make mistakes but that they deal with them so well.
Blessings to all who perform live in any situation or who do a recording that can’t be done over. Bravo to all of you! If you make it work, however, you are a real professional and that’s the highest compliment that anyone can pay.