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.