Tuesday, April 22, 2008

On Singing Countertenor and Loving Football

Part of the original intention of web logs was to form a massive public catalogue of the daily life of total strangers, in keeping with our generation's completely voluntary giving-over to the giant digital panopticon that is 'New Media' (for a great article on this phenomenon, please click here). Because of my reactive nausea to said phenomenon I've up this point tried to prevent this blog from turning into a confessional, but my experience this week I think is universal enough to lovers of football that it deserves a mention.

As I wrote earlier, I had to miss Toronto FC's home opener for a rehearsal for an upcoming production of Henry Purcell's 'The Indian Queen.' Nothing particularly of note there, except for the first time I felt a real conflict between my professional life as a countertenor and my life as a devotee of football. And no, not because of time conflicts, or because of the damage done to my vocal chords from all that screaming. It's a crisis of confidence.

I'm twenty-seven years old. In the grand scheme of things, I'm still very young and have a great swathe of life ahead of me, barring any unforeseen tragedy ('No way he could have seen that Dell falling from the thirty-second floor. I mean I know they're useless but that's just not right.') But in the world of professional singing, there is a stop watch that starts around your late teens and is set to stop around age thirty. Really by that age if you're still scrounging piecemeal with this little thing and that little thing, you can probably let the dream of a life as a professional soloist go.

What football reminds me is that I don't have the sort of passion and love for my chosen field as I probably need. Singing is something you have to do 'whole hog' to succeed; my footballism is already there a priori. There is a lot of fear, self-doubt, and humiliating obstacles to overcome in singing, and if you're not as passionate about some obscure Handelian aria as you are about the fate of Lens and PSG in the Championat table, chances are you're not going to have the strength to push through.

Being more passionate about football than your day-job is not unique to singers. I can guarantee that the 80 000 fans who show up to watch Schalke inevitably lose Bayern Munich care more about those two hour proceedings than they care about their well-protected and renumerated German day jobs. It's just not all careers have the luxury of being a 'day job,' and that is where my dilemma lies -- how do I achieve the same familiar spark of joy at seeing that big green pitch as I do walking onto a spotlit stage? Is there a way I can learn from football how to love singing countertenor more passionately? Are they so at odds? Both involve perfecting physical skill at the highest level (yes, singing is ultimately a very finely tuned physical exercise), both involve making potentially terrible mistakes in a very public way, and both involve a sense of occasion, of old-fashioned spectacle (although it will be a cold day in hell when I get a packed football stadium to hear Purcell's 'Come Ye Sons of Art').

Perhaps most importantly, both music and football involve a mysterious alchemy to work, one that reams of cash, talent and organization alone can never seem to produce no matter how hard some people try. In other words, both require an element of (hold on to your noses for the cheesy smell!) magic. My career as a countertenor is a continuing project and perhaps I will have to be content with doing a little bit of this and little bit of that for the rest of my life, god knows there are worse fates. But maybe it would make all of our lives a little better to throw ourselves into what we do with the same insane devotion we tuck away for football, to walk into our chosen professions like we're walking from out of the tunnel and into the glare of the floodlights. That feeling can never be forced, but only football reminds us of its power.

1 comment:

Georgina Best said...

The great thing about football of course is it brings singing into the lives of people who would not sing in other arena. You can go to a funeral or wedding these days and be one of a handful of people singing. Some people don't even bother to mime now. Yet I see those same people singing their hearts out at a football match.
You don't need me to tell you how good singing is for the heart and soul so if I loved the beautiful game for not other reason I would love it for that