On Friday, I was involved in a music competition for school. In our school, we have five ‘houses’ and on Sports Day and other such activities, we compete to see who will win – which my house never does. I never got involved in Sports Day by doing sports because I’m lazy as hell; I only volunteered this year to help the younger years with non-sport related activities. As a result, I didn’t have much involvement with the house system before this year. For the second year in a row, a House Music event was held; it was the first I performed in and it couldn’t have gone better.
Although I sing, I hardly ever sing with school or in a group of people at school; I used to belong to chamber choir but I quit and because of that, I haven’t been asked to perform at concerts. I didn’t use my initiative to volunteer even this time: one of my best friends, Pine, who has been friends with me since the very start of year 7, is a music leader – a sixth former who helps organise concerts and gets things in order. She, along with the other music leaders from my house, suggested that I get involved because they knew I had a history of singing and performing. Without them, I wouldn’t have had the guts to want to be part of it.
When I was in choir, rehearsals were a weekly event for me; ever since I left, I had all days free. However, with house music, one day a week – mostly – was dedicated to rehearsing. I tried to turn up for every one and thanks to the house leaders’ brilliant organisation, things ran smoothly except for one piece – Skyfall – that had to be scrapped which was really sad. We had three other pieces apart from the song I was in, all of which I hadn’t heard before the day of the show.
You may be asking, “Yeah yeah but what was the song?” If you’ve ever heard of Walk Off the Earth on YouTube, we did a similar thing to their Shape Of You cover but instead performed Locked Out Of Heaven, using instruments that wouldn’t ordinarily be used as instruments. I was the main singer and another girl did some beautiful harmonies (she has a wonderful voice). The dynamic (excuse the pun) in the rehearsals was amazing: we laughed; we joked around; we tried things and if they didn’t work then they didn’t and we tried something else. It really instilled confidence in me because nobody thought I was shit. I also knew a bunch of people who were performing – Pine, Laurel and others from my year to name a few.
When the day of the competition arrived, I didn’t feel nervous. I had told my parents three days before and all my friends knew but I didn’t make it into a huge deal because if I had, I would have been terrified. In the last lesson, we went to a sound check and I heard the other performances. Along with Pine, I chatted to a friend in another house and I’ll call her Coral. We used to sit next to each other in music last year and that day and evening, we got so much closer – it made me happy. I was stunned by a girl in year 10’s voice; it took about an hour to run through our house’s pieces which all sounded incredible. The excitement I felt after the successful rendition of our song was nothing I can describe; I felt empowered. What made it better was that I found out that the blogger who goes to my school was going to be there. She’s a percussionist and I briefly spoke to her when we went out to see if the xylophone had broken. She’s the only person who I feel happy with calling me Elm in real life and so I always know it’s her. It really made it hit home that I was doing this and that someone who read my blog would also be hearing me sing.
Coral, Pine and I went back to Pine’s house to get ready: I hadn’t been to hers since Prom but I absolutely love her house and family. We ate pizza, bitched about people and cried with laughter; her sister did my makeup because I’m utterly useless and would end up looking like a walrus if I tried. Pine’s sister and I bonded over the fact that Pine shrieks when her sister tries to put eyeliner on her and is even more resistant to fashion and beauty than I am and that is why she’s my favourite thing ever. I got incredibly angry at one point whilst recounting a shitty situation that had happened to me and they were so supportive AARGHH I LOVE THEM SO MUCH! Sorry, I’m getting emotional…
As soon as we got to school, around 6:15, I started to feel jittery. As we’d gone into a random technology room, it was filled with people who I didn’t know, playing and singing and warming up (I may have done a cheeky bit of screeching – erm I mean singing – just to get my vocals vaguely in gear). After Pine and Coral had gone to tune their respective instruments, I did some breatheing and then talked to my ‘blogger friend’ for ages. It was so nice just to speak to her about everything and anything – I had heard from Pine that her piece was fantastic and so was excited to hear it because I’m a weird person who fangirls over music DON’t JUDGE ME!
Luckily, Coral and I went into the audience to watch some of the acts. On the way there, I bumped into Laurel (one of the two people I have feelings for, I don’t even know). We hugged and she grabbed my hands when I said I was nervous; I totally overreacted afterwards and then told Coral I might have a ‘crush’ on Laurel. Coral was totally cool with it (turns out she may be bi too so we had a bonding moment over that). I saw Laurel at various points throughout the evening too, most notably backstage where we sat together and just talked.
Everyone was so brilliant in their performances! My blogger friend’s piece was genuinely so lovely; I smiled the entire way through and cheered especially loudly at the end. Other great things included a fantastic guitar solo by a guy in my english class, someone singing who had the exact same range as me and a girl with the most adorable voice ever. Seriously. I was mildly sobbing. None of it made me feel intimidated; I just enjoyed people having a good time and I revelled in the atmosphere.
By the interval, I was a wreck. If you’ve ever seen me in my real life get nervous, I was rubbing my hands together and trembling like a leaf (again, excuse the pun). Because we had to be backstage whilst the house before us was performing, I was standing with some people like Laurel (we touched hands, hugged and sat near each other) – who had a break from organising things – when Willow turned up. I hadn’t seen her in months: she’d left last year to go to college and so when we saw each other, we screamed and ran at each other. She updated me on everything that had happened in her life within 15 minutes and at one point I screamed “NO NO NOOOO JUST DO IT DO IT!” and tried to convince her to do various things I won’t repeat; it ended with us practically sobbing and telling the other that we loved them. Lots of hugging was involved, too, until we had to stop because she had to go and sit in the audience. Even then, we hugged one last time: I love that girl; she’s amazing.
The buildup was horrible. I was listening to the first act in my house perform (I didn’t get to hear any of the performances really in the house before us). Standing behind the door of the stage, I tried to keep my eyes focused on the lights and listen to the drums to focus myself. Either that or I thought about Laurel and how much I was confused just to get my mind off of shit. If anyone says I’m confident I’ll laugh in their face.
Up on stage, all my worries seemed to flow out of me. It was bright and noisy and beautiful; I sang as if I couldn’t have cared what people thought of me. I had to check the position of the microphone a few times (I can’t see it because I’m almost completely blind) but apart from that, I was utterly enthralled by the sounds and feelings around me. I’d been singing this song quietly before but with a mic, I felt like I could do anything. Nothing went wrong and when the applause came, I think I smiled – I felt happy.
“You have a beautiful voice, Elm!” said Laurel when I was guided off stage. It’s a blur as to what happened then – I know she was with me and had her arm in mine, saying that I was shaking but seeming so pleased and as happy as I was. I emerged into the backstage area and grinned, giddy to the point of gasping. It’s been so long since I did any of that. Coral was there and we spoke for so long after, telling each other we were talented but refusing to believe it.
There were four categories in which we were judged – best solo, best duo and trio and best ensemble. We won 2nd place for the latter AND I WAS SO HAPPY!!! Granted, I was incredibly confused when I was pulled up onto the stage, blinking in the light. Previously, I had been talking to Coral and the blogger friend, not knowing what was happening because we couldn’t hear, cramped at one point in the backstage area with a bunch of people screaming and the music teachers yelling at the screaming people.
Also, we won overall??? I have no idea how that happened either but our music leaders were fucking amazing. I’m irritated that the xylophone group – in another house – didn’t come first for ensemble because they deserved to but I will always remember how amazing that was. That night was about talent, beauty and showing people you could really get out there.
I got home late but the sleepless night was worth it. The next day, I went and saw L, going on the train by myself and having the best time ever which I needed after a stressful week. You can read all about our misadventures here because he’s a much more articulate writer than me. All in all, I’ve had an amazing weekend where I’ve felt like myself. L very much helped with that because I hopped on a train with very little nerves and travelled across London without falling over or screaming.
Coral said something to me that evening. “There are so many powerful voices but sometimes, people need to hear the pretty voices. You need to get out there and show them.” She’s right: when I did, I felt beautiful, alive and like I had a purpose.
It was one of the best days in recent memory. Do you have days like that?
From Elm 🙂