Friday 29 May 2009

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Flying Solo

© John Sawyer – May 2009

It must have been back in 2000, probably December. He rehearsed the song on the plane as they flew across the Pacific, on their way to New York, “House of the Rising Sun” it was.

He hadn’t actually rehearsed as in passing air across his vocal chords and having it resonate around his body for the whole economy section to hear. No it was more like an elite athlete rehearses sitting on the sofa, a footballer visualising the jump onto the back of his opponent and soaring for a specie; or the goalie stopping the ball in a penalty shootout in the World Cup final or the sprinter walking to the top step of the victory podium to collect her gold medal. The song just resonated through his brain, he added some special heart rending emotion for “… mothers, tell your children Not to do as …”

Yeah they were still in New York for the Presidential Election where the Supreme Court and Jeb Bush helped GW steal the election from Al Gore. Two bloody terms, four years each. So it must have been 2000 and the concert was just after they got home, so December. Yeah, end of term.


It was his first solo performance. Well the first since he was a toddler, proudly standing in grandma’s lounge room and singing “Soldier One, Soldier One, So…” emotionlessly, repeatedly and endlessly to the delight of the extended family.

His singing teacher has organised an end of year performance, just her students, each singing a solo piece of their choice and unaccompanied. A safe environment where everyone is a novice, scared for themselves and very encouraging for the others.

It’s an old wooden church, now a scout hall in Brunswick. Ropes and spars stand ready in case anyone needs to build a bridge across the hall.

Half way through the performances. His turn. He stands on the stage, looks at the expectant audience. Are they smiling encouragement or laughing? He is actually going to sing on his own, on a stage. This is mad. Suddenly his knees start to tremble, increasingly more violently. He’s sure the floor is starting to resonate in time. Is that the walls shaking? Is his singing going to bring the house down? He hasn’t started yet. He can’t reach down and grab his knee; that will only jam up his diaphragm and make him sound worse. Oh god, this is awful.

He starts. Is his voice trembling in time to his knees? He finishes, just an instant after he’d started. Had he left out any verses or had he sung them in the wrong order or had he just mangled the words together? Had he repeated any verses like he did in “Soldier One”? It’s almost as if he hadn’t been there.

People are cheering, the hall is still standing, his teacher smiles benevolently, proudly as she hands him down the steps, he’s glad for the support, he’s still weak at the knees and stumbles slightly at the bottom.

His first solo performance and he’s missed it.


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