It seems to have been quite a week here - my best friend and husband (the same person, I might add) Keith celebrated his 70th birthday on Friday 1st February. It does sound very strange saying that number out loud, since he does not seem that old to me at all - yet I know he must be since I am now 47 and he is 23 years older than me!!! Anyway, he didn't want a party or a big fuss, so he opted instead to spend the time with our immediate family at our closest Michelin Starred restaurant, The Pipe & Glass in South Dalton. Keith's sister, Lesley, and her husband, John travelled up from Gloucestershire on Thursday to stay with us for the long weekend and as we knew we would be having a slap-up meal on the Friday night, we settled for simpler fare on Thursday evening, and dined in with delicious steak pies from the village butchers/bakers. I gave Keith a Google Nexus 7 tablet for his birthday - he did wonder if he should take it with all his other tablets at first, then when I'd stopped laughing he apologised for the poor attempt at a joke. He was obviously pleased with the gift I gave him, since he's been using it nearly non-stop ever since. Out meal out on Friday evening was absolutely superb. The staff were very courteous, our food arrived almost as if by magic and every course was delicious. In fact, I was so full of lovely food that I had stomach pain - but I was not going to refuse the dessert was I? We had a taster of olives, bread and "sausage and mash" before the meal began, all of which I enjoyed. Then I had a starter of butter-nut squash soup with sage pesto and a slice of bread. The portions were a very healthy size, not the nouvelle cuisine I was expecting, so little wonder I was struggling at the end of the night! My main course was Chicken Coq au vin with marjoram mash and seasonal vegetables. The cinnamon infused red cabbage was gorgeous, and the chicken was so tender - it tasted divine. My dessert was a chocolate and hazelnut tart with a fruit sorbet (I've forgotten what the fruit was, but I think it may have been orange). I could not manage a coffee, but I've heard that it was as good as the rest of the meal!
Saturday, we all stayed in during the day, chatting and doing crosswords - my parents visited in the early afternoon and Keith's grand-daughters, Matheea and Evie came round as they hadn't yet seen him for his birthday. We spent the afternoon playing connect 4 and doing a bit of decoupage before I took them back home at tea-time. Saturday night we had one of our favourite Italian meals - Chicken Parmigiano. It went down well with John and Les, too - I must remember to send them the recipe! We finished the meal with cheese and biscuits, did some quizzes (we all love compiling and trying to solve quizzes) that Keith and I had prepared for Christmas, and I think I fell asleep on the settee at some point!
I hadn't had much time to think about it, but Sunday evening was looming - the time for the show I'd been preparing for with my singing teacher for months!
Sunday morning I was ill. I think my body was just reacting to all the rich food and drink I'd consumed in the past few days - my stomach was not at all settled and I was worried that I wouldn't make it to the show in the evening. John and Les went home in the morning (it always seems to pass so quickly) and I tried to have a bit of singing practice, but felt terrible and had to take some tablets before I left the house in the afternoon - didn't want to be ill for my debut solo singing, now did I?
I arrived in Barton shortly after 3pm, where I was soon met by a fellow "crafter" Debbi Bain - her hand-made dolls are beautiful. She just happens to be the mother of my singing teacher and was helping out back-stage. I did my sound-check, pinned up a few running orders back-stage and got changed before joining all the children on stage for a warm-up. There were only a couple of adults performing, since the show was initially just going to be for Steph's Showbiz Theatre students, but it also included several of her private students as well. I can honestly say that I have never been so nervous about anything in my life. It was on a par with the audition I did when I first joined Hull Musical Society 4 years ago - only that was over with quite quickly. The nerves began for me on the drive over to Barton - since I was going for a sound check in the afternoon, and the show didn't start till 5, I went on my own and Keith came to watch it with my parents. As I was driving, I was physically shaking, I could feel my heart thumping in my chest and I thought I was going to stop breathing!!!
My first piece was the solo rendition of "Maybe This Time" - made famous by Liza Minelli in "Cabaret". Singing over a microphone to a backing track was a first for me, and it sounded very odd at first. However, even though I was shaky, I didn't go wrong, sang in tune all the way through and even acted out some slight movements. I wasn't entirely happy with it, since I know I've sung it better, but I'd done it - achieved something I planned to do when I first started having singing lessons earlier last year. I was now actually looking forward to singing my duet. Unfortunately, the other Helen was taken ill with flu so couldn't make it, but Steph stepped in (not for the first time either) and sang it with me. I thoroughly enjoyed singing "I Know Him So Well" with her, and we even got a cheer at the end! I feel so much more confident about my singing ability now, and hope to audition for parts in shows this year with Hull Musical Society. My parents and Keith were all impressed too, which helped boost my confidence - they wouldn't lie and Keith said that he could tell I was really nervous in the solo, but he was really moved by the duet!
I've had my weekly singing lesson today and we are now planning another duet together, since it seemed to work so well. This time it will be in Hull, some time in July. In the mean-time, I've got my first rehearsal back at HMS tonight - so hopefully will find out when our Spring concerts are planned for - I may even be auditioning for a solo in them if I'm able to.
I now feel a great sense of achievement, and am so glad that I plucked up the courage not only to join HMS, but to have singing lessons - I would never ever have had the confidence to attempt a solo in a concert without them!