Archive | April 2013

And B.R.E.A.T.H

I am going to the Edinburgh Fringe! What you can’t see is, far from doing cart wheels I have my head in my hands, staring at a piece of A4 paper and feeling slightly sick…I have just emptied my brain and created the ‘to do’ list. What is facing me is the job description of a small, hard working creative team: producer, general manager, assistant producer,  production manager, stage manager, marketing manager, marketing assistant, PR officer, stage hands, film director, income generation manager, accountant and roady. Presently the Diva Team consists of me, Ana-Maria (my fabulous pianist) and Nathan (a super hero with special powers who makes things happen on my web site). I re-visit my list and realise that at no point have I written the job description: singer or practice or oh and don’t forget to do the jobs that pay for the roof over your head and the food on your table. Added to this is the cardiac arrest inducing knowledge (kindly worked out by the Ed Fringe Society and Oliver Sykes of contact Manchester) of the potential cost of the ultimate Diva Gigs venture. That’ll be £5,000-£10,000 then…..yes that’s FIVE TO TEN GRAND! WTF!

Venue Hire £3,000

Ed Fringe entrance fee £393.60

Flyers £400

Posters £160

Public liability insurance £120 .00

Accommodation Rent and utilities £2,255.22 (plus deposit)

Fuel £260

Mini bus ? (still awaiting quotes)

Total £6588.2

And the remaining £3,411? The contingency budget, a fee for myself and Ana (the rent at home won’t pay for itself) oh and FOOD . Presently the Diva team are going to survive on air and the Diva Gigs tour is hanging on Ana’s good will….thank goodness she’s also a valued friend as well as an awesome musician….who unbelievably is supplying her skills without a fee (something I do not advocate). If I were a civilian and not an opera singer I would, at this point, crack open a good bottle of white (red gives me horrendous reflux) and drink it until the list becomes a big, fuzzy, manageable, grey blob. But I chose to be a professional classical singer and a night on the booze costs my vocal folds 2 days off work, and what self employed individual surviving in a recession can afford that? Being overwhelmed is a truly unproductive state of mind to wallow in, so I take a 20 minute break to laugh at an episode of Big Bang theory, then I reach for the huge red panic button (text, face book status, twitter) hit it…..and wait for the cavalry…..

And what an optimistic, up lifting, dynamic, enterprising, knowledgeable, helpful, determined, energetic, creative group of people they are! My family, my man, my friends, my audience; WHAT THE HELL WOULD I DO WITHOUT THEM?!?!?!?! ‘Give up?’ Like that’s ever an option. Subject/text/status reply to Sarah-Ann:

and B.R.E.A.T.H

Yes, success has to come from within, one must believe that one will succeed in order to prevent the thoughts that attempt to make one fail (why do brains do that??) but it’s bloody lonely and exhausting being your only cheer leader. Asking for help isn’t a sign of failure or shame. And the results of accepting the words of wisdom, support and ideas from a wide circle of people, even if it’s as simple a message as ‘ and B.R.E.E.AA.T.H’,  are astonishing.

 The Four step guide to preventing Sarah-Ann melt down 

by: her family, man, friends, and audience:

 Step one:

Bollock Sarah-Ann for being a control freak and remind her that she is NOT DOING THIS ALONE

Step two:

Keep her on the phone for hours downloading their knowledge, expertise and ideas whilst she frantically types until her RSI forces her to use a dictaphone.

Step three:

Private message and e mail because frustratingly Sarah-Ann’s phone keeps going through to her answering machine prohibiting said friends/family from imparting said expertise which they know will prevent an impending Sarah-Ann burn out.

Step four: Tell her: If anyone can do this, she can

The next week  is a hub of activity and several things happen:

  • My man turns the penciled scrawl into a business plan with achievable mile stones.
  • Kate from the Birmingham catalyst recommends that I contact Graduate Advantage about an intern.
  • Ana demands that she be given a funding research project which she undertakes in such depth that it takes a 2 hour meeting to impart all the knowledge.
  • The Diva Gigs audience send their 40 word descriptions for the Ed Fringe programme.
  • Gee has me researching Kick starter, pledges and social media (at which point my brain nearly explodes with information over load…he reads A LOT and doesn’t sleep much)
  • Tim offers to record a few songs from Diva Gigs so I can offer it as a pledge reward.
  • Tastiresources agree to meet to talk about a manga/cartoon diva marketing campaign.
  • The artist Tina Ashton tweets about a Diva Tree.
  • And I take a breath…

Diva’s journey to the Edinburgh Fringe continues…


Make mistakes, take risks, never limit your potential

Hi my name’s Sarah-Ann Cromwell and I am a renegade opera singer. From Summer to Winter of 2012 I took a secret side step from the Operatic world by undertaking a mini tour of my recital: Diva Gigs ‘in your face, bloody funny, operatic cabaret!’. Normally when I perform I am whisked away during the interval to drink spring water, rest my voice, check  my sheet music and EAT. Determined to break the norm I bravely headed to the  bar to chat with my audience. To my surprise I discovered that they were not a group united by their desire to tear apart every aspect of my performance and leave me a gibbering wreck of self loathing, but friendly, interesting people who were equally surprised to discover that I, what with the posh frock, diamante earrings and operatic voice was, well, normal. They were incredibly supportive and stated: ‘so you are off to the Edinburgh Fringe after this!’. I responded ‘well,  ermm, no’. People are polite, they don’t wish to offend and though their mouths replied ‘OK’ their faces said ‘why not?’. I thought about it. Diva Gigs, go to the Edinburgh Fringe? As in the largest international arts festival in the world…temporary home to 40,000 performers from 47 countries? Which launched the career of the Mighty Boosh and stages performances by the Royal Ballet and BBC service? THAT Edinburgh Fringe? Are you kidding? I’m just a singer. I’m not some big well established opera company or arts organisation. I studied at Birmingham Conservatoire and the last time I looked in the mirror I wasn’t Natalie Netrebko…

And there’s the problem with being an artist, or maybe just being a grown up. Self imposed restrictions. As children we are free from limits. If a child wants to spend the morning being a fairy, in a rocket ship then that’s exactly what it does. And when an adult says “what are you doing in that empty washing powder box and why are you wafting that dubiously coloured bog brush around the kitchen?” The child will gleefully exclaim “I am a fairy. This is my space ship. Do you like my wand?”. And as the adult begins to cite 100 different reasons for why this venture will fail, the child pulls a face of utter disbelief and interrupts by exclaiming ‘you’re stupid’ and rushes into the garden, which of course, is child speak for ‘’Your world is boring my world rocks…oooh fairy dust 

So, back to the question, why is Diva Gigs not going to the Edinburgh Fringe? During a recent reunion with my home-town drinking buddies I was mulling over this quandary in the pub. One of them raised his pint of real ale and announced ‘Well Sarah, you always did look at the world somewhat idealistically’. I frowned and thought: ‘Used to?’. When did I become cynical? Is it idealistic to want to aim for the worlds largest arts festival? It caused a ‘red rag’ > ‘bull’ inner thought catalyst. I’ve never been great at being told ‘why would you want to do that?’. My mate actually did me favour and by the time he’d finished his pint I’d rationalised: I can’t very well teach, coach and mentor: ‘make mistakes, take risks, never put limits on your potential’ if I’m not prepared to leap into the unknown scariness myself. I’ve been training to be an opera singer for 7 years and paid as an oratorio soloist for 10. I’ve spent years attending coaching, master classes, lessons and workshops and the only feedback I’ve had from unsuccessful auditions is ‘we already have too many Sopranos’. Last year, despite the risk of having the Operatic door slammed in my face thanks to my  fingle fangle operatic cabaret, Diva Gigs 2012 came home with a happy audience, a few awards, a diary full of new bookings AND the offer of a role. Fear, excuses and self-imposed limits are preventing me from applying but I do not have a single, solid reason not to take Diva to the Edinburgh Fringe. I thought about every coach, every singing teacher, every workshop leader, every friend, my family, my man, and the wonderful people who supported Diva Gigs last year. My world is not boring, my world can rock. Diva’s journey to the Edinburgh Fringe 2013 has begun.