62. Disaster

I have always thought that I was a pretty okay kind of singer. Like, I won’t be selling any albums, but my singing voice isn’t unbearable either. I mean, I sing for church – how bad can it be, right?

So yesterday night proved me wrong.

I had the opportunity to put a performance together with 3 others for a church (not my own) event, and all they asked was that we prepared 3 songs to sing for a 10-minute slot, and 1 more for an encore if they called for it. So we had rehearsed our parts, getting together to match voices and tones 3 times before the actual performance.

The last rehearsal ended on Thursday night at 10P.M., and it was revealed that the event organizers invited us to go over “anytime in the afternoon” to get our sound mix done. The event starts at 8.30P.M., so we agreed to go at 5P.M. It’s just a simple sound check to get the right mix – can’t take too long.

I guess that was where all the trouble began.

Because at 4.30P.M., I was still figuring out how to convert the video files into mp3 so that we could fit it into a flash drive. Then halfway to the church, I received a call telling me that the church did not have a USB port, so I had to turn back and get my laptop so that they could get the sound through my laptop’s audio output.

I eventually arrived on location at 5.30P.M., which was when I found out that the final member of our group was running late, and she showed up at approximately 6.30P.M. By that time, another group was running through their performance, so we had decided to be polite and let them finish. By the time it was our turn, it was about 7.15P.M., and so we thought that we’d do a quick run-through for the sound man.

We picked up our mics and sang.

And it was horrifying.

It was at this time when I recalled the words of Ms. Suwito, who had said concerning the art of singing together, “If you’re going to sing together with mics, practice with mics, because you’ll sound very different singing with and without them.” Our rehearsals so far had been done without any sort of audio equipments, and we had relied on natural acoustics in the shaping of our tones and voices.

But dear God, when our voices came through the sound system and out through the speakers, it sounded like the wails of demons echoing up from the pits of hell. It was too sharp, too bassy, too muffled, too loud, and too soft all at the same time. I don’t even know how it was possible to sound that bad – but that was how it turned out.

Also around this time, the event organizer came and requested that we keep the volume down, because there was a service going on in another part of the building, and the sound might interrupt the service. Running out of time and in desperate need to salvage a show, we had to quickly shuffle things around – if we’re going to sound bad, at least we don’t sound TOO bad.

A few other things happened after this, including awkward stares from the people on the floor, and a particularly nasty white-haired man. Details I’d rather not go into (because it would make my blood boil), but to put it in a few words: the actual performance was really no better than the disastrous run-through. The crowd (which mainly consisted of men and women in their 60s and 70s) just stared on at us, wondering whose idea it was to invite us over to perform, as we sang the best we could.

I won’t try and pinpoint what went wrong with the performance, because this will only lead to massive arguments and finger-pointing; but let me just say that it was one of the worst experiences I have ever had singing.

(the worst was when I was casually singing to a song that was playing, and a fan of the song told me to shut up because I was ruining the song for him. This happened twice within the span of 15 minutes, from the same person)

It was awkward as hell for the entire duration on stage, and I was really just glad to leave the place without having to talk to anyone after our segment was over. I really, honestly have never felt so crushed as a singer, to have to look upon the disapproving faces in the crowd, and even some smirking ones.

We had driven to a nearby mamak to have a drink to chill after hastily leaving the premises, but when I had parked my car, I found that I couldn’t find the willpower in me to step outside of the vehicle. I just needed some time to hide in the shadows and just be alone for a little while. I just couldn’t face the outside world at that moment. Just couldn’t.

It is said that we learn much more through our failures than our successes, so I guess a diplomatic way of concluding the matter is to say that it has been a great learning experience. Except that nothing about the experience felt great, and the last thing on my mind was to learn from it. What I want is for it to be erased from history, for the performance to have never happened. For the invitation to have never reached me, to begin with.

One day I will look upon this event again with clearer vision, through the lens of retrospection – but all I can right now is that I will never want to have an experience like that ever again.

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