Saturday, 22 September 2012

Caroline Robson performs Leaning on a Lamppost - and talks about stage fright

I didn't see Caroline's first performance at the September meeting of the George Formby Society; I was tucked up in my own little pit at home, feeling sorry for myself. She had an attack of stage fright. You'd hardly know; she dealt with it so well... but for the benefit of anyone who loves to share their music but suffers form this, she talks about it.....

"The weekend of September 15th and 16th saw me attend my third consecutive George Formby Society Convention at Blackpool. I've been a member of he GFS for less than a year but made a lifetimes worth of friends. One of those is Lesley Fowkes, the author of your regular Life's a Ukafrolic blog posts. We met in June and became firm friends straight away. The uke connection does that. Anyway, this weekend we had planned at the very last minute to perform a song together on stage but due in part to Lesley being ill and her having touch of stage fright we put it off until next time. Lesley had arrived too late to see my debacle of a performance on Saturday afternoon otherwise she would've run a mile when I suggested a duet! Stage fright appears to be one of my areas of expertise. I could teach her a thing or two!

I first performed at the GFS in June on the Sunday night when there are fewer people about and its a lot more relaxed. First time ever behind a microphone and my throat closed up, voice went, my legs shook but I just about pulled it off. However, I struggle to watch the YouTube video of it. The singing is so strained.

I couldn't understand it. I am normally so calm. Even when the world is falling around my ears I stay cool. Well, I look like I'm cool even if inside I'm terrified. Remember that bit for later.

So despite the terrifying experience I vowed to try again in September.

I learned two Formby songs. Correction. I thought I'd learned them. I got up on stage on Saturday afternoon in front of a packed room (400+ people) and proceeded to forget all the chords to Leaning on a Lampost and then play a completely different solo to that played by the backing band. As if this wasn't bad enough, I then had to carry on and do a second song when all I wanted to do was run away. The only bit of the second one I remember is singing the same line twice!

It was horrible. I was so disappointed. I felt like you used to feel after an exam that you knew you'd done really badly in. I'd put in so much work then on the day I messed it up.

I know it happens to the best of them. I'm not alone.
Now there is always something to be learned from any performance, no matter how bad it is.

Here are my pearls of wisdom learned from painful experience.

Before you get up on stage...

1 Learn the song. Then learn it some more. Learn it so you can sing it the all way through while you are concentrating on something else. Same goes for the chords.

2 Try to stay calm - my best performance followed me chattering away maniacally to a friend just before going on stage. I was still nervous but not terrified. It's a fine line.

No matter what happens when you get up on stage you must do two things.

1 Keep going. Never stop.

2 Keep smiling. I have discovered that the audience will warm to a winning smile. If you look nervous the audience will get nervous too. When the legs turn to jelly force a smile or crack a joke. Most audiences want you to do well. None more so than the GFS audience.


1 Accept compliments graciously (I'm not good at this) and seek honest feedback from those with more experience whose opinion you respect.

2 Learn and move on. Don't beat yourself up.

During the weekend, a couple of people told me I have very good stage presence. This performing lark is all new to me and I didn't know what it was so I looked it up. I think it basically means when you get on stage the audience like you, warm to you and forgive you for your human mistakes.

So I'll be working on the words, the chords and the stage presence!
Finally, remember that you never get better by not doing something. After my terrible experience on Saturday I got back up on Sunday night and did just fine. A few mistakes but that winning smile got me off the hook.....I think!

Til next time....Caroline"

Thanks to Caroline and also to Peter Pollard for sharing the video!

Post Script...2015
Caroline is now Caroline Stewart, and is now Chairman of the George Formby Society! Those GFS folks know a good thing when they see it!

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