Last night I had the pleasure of performing a program of German art music with Stephen Trainor & Mardi Byers. This was a reprise of a program we first put together in February of this year.
However, there was one big difference this time around... I'm now 37 weeks pregnant! Breathing was definitely a challenge back in February when I was 27 weeks pregnant, but those extra 10 weeks of growth from Little Miss (as we affectionately call her) have compressed my respiratory system even more!
I have learned several things about breathing. Here are the highlights:
Be deliberate: every breath really counts! So make the most of each and every one. For me personally, I have had to focus on taking a really good breath with good expansion, every single time.
Be prepared: mark in your breaths! Never before had I had to be to prepared with my breathing plan, deliberately marking in every single breath (and places I can take an extra breath if needed)
Be flexible: find the give and the take in the tempo to accommodate breathing.
Be musical: the phrase "allow the music to breathe" has a whole new meaning to me now! For example, my collaborators & I worked together to use the form to allow me time to take those extra deep breaths I referred to earlier, setting up each new section with a nice musical breath (that allowed me the time to take a real breath!)
And don't be afraid to be wrong: Performing with a fabulous soprano has given me lots of encouragement! There were multiple times when Mardi told me I was "breathing like a singer" - snatching a breath here or there when I could! One particular moment which was necessary to plan, involved me breaking a tie and sneaking back in. Everything about it felt wrong... but as Mardi said, "Wrong, but convincing!" I needed to breathe and I could sell it. Perhaps, just as important is to be able to note when it's "Wrong, but NOT convincing!" There were times when I doubted my ability to make a certain phrase, so I snuck a breath and it wasn't convincing. In response, one of my collaborators challenged me to expand my capacity, encouraging me to expand the length of a particular phrase. So I reevaluated my breathing plan, and found a place that I could breathe and make the performance convincing.
And I'd say that the proof is in the pudding. At times during the performance yesterday, it felt like a real struggle. But I did everything in my power to convince my audience and the feedback I received from the audience was just so encouraging! Perhaps, the comment that I loved the most was the thought that our little girl will practically come out of the womb singing, since she's experienced so much wonderful music over the past few months!
Overall, I'd say that learning to perform while growing a baby has been a wonderful challenge. And I'm SO looking forward to see our baby's reaction to music outside of the womb and introducing her to all the instruments and pieces she's come to know!