Mamma Mia! <br> (Here I Go Again) | Overstuffed Overstuffed

Monday, January 18, 2010

Mamma Mia!
(Here I Go Again)

I have a little problem.

Sometimes I cry when I am singing.

I'm not talking a little choked up, although that happens, too.  I'm talking full on tears, loss of control, inability to sing--the entire package.

This would be fine if it only happened in the confines of my own living room, but I do have a habit of crying during performances.  Ten years ago it was a rare occurrence, but then I went and had babies.  Now it happens on a much more regular basis.

I'm learning this aria for a concert with the Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra next month.  It's the Willow Song/Ave Maria from Verdi's Otello.  Obviously based on Shakespeare's play Othello, I'm singing the part of Desdemona just before Othello comes into the bedroom and kills her.  The story line is tragic enough, but the music is so beautiful that the first time I sat down to sing it I burst into tears in the Ave Maria and just sat at my piano bawling.

Something is definitely wrong with me.

And don't even get me started on what happens to me when I am an audience member.  I don't even try to hold it back in that case.

This past weekend I went to see the stage production of Mamma Mia! with some girlfriends (more on that later).  I was all set with my Kleenex because I knew I would cry during Dancing Queen and all out weep during the song Slipping Through My Fingers.

Yes.  I just admitted to crying during Dancing Queen.  Every single time I watch that dang show I do, and it's even worse when you see it on live stage vs. the movie.  I have no earthly idea what makes me cry during that song, except I can't even talk about it or I start, well, crying.


What is up with this, anyway?  Do I need Prozac or Zoloft or something?  Or am I just the ultra-sensitive artist, and there is nothing to be done?

For now, the best I can do is imagine the audience in their underwear as I sing the tragic tale of Desdemona and Othello.  Only, that doesn't really work when it's just me and my piano, and there really isn't anything funny about a piano in its skivvies.

I think that will only make me cry harder.


  1. I cried during Mama Mia too. Tears of sadness that that was what Colin Firth had reduced himself to.

    Have some pride, Mr. Darcy!!!

  2. I suspect the emotion with which you sing makes you a better performer. At least the song you'll be performing is supposed to be tragic so crying won't be the worst thing. If it were a peppy, happy song it might be more of an issue.

    I must be the OPPOSITE of an ultra-sensitive artist because I thought the movie Mama Mia was stupid. I kept screaming (in my brain) at Meryl to shut up already- that Church song dragged on forever. I hated the ending too. I know it's the whole Hollywood morals thing but it was weird nonetheless.

    I am clearly uncultured. Sigh.

  3. I also am a much weepier person since I had babies. It's like a whole world of emotion opened up. I think that's a good thing, but I bet is can produce some major anxiety when you're worried about it happening when singing in public. What do you do about it?

  4. I'm quoting Pearl Buck to tell you what I think. :) I just found this quote and I LOVE it.

    "The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanely sensitive. To them... a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death.
    Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create -- so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, their very breath is cut off...
    They must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency they are not really alive unless they are creating."

    You're not weird, you're just "abnormally, inhumanely sensitive" like me! :)

    Good luck on the aria. I bet you'll be AMAZING. Tears just add to the whole audience experience.

  5. Yeah, I'm pretty much a total loss over anything beautiful since the kid thing.

  6. Oh, I wish I could hear you perform. Even with the tears, it would be phenomenal. It is really weird how having children makes one a lot more weepy.

  7. Amen to Kristina P.!

    And I cry when I sing and listen to songs too. It's an emotional thing. I can barely make it though singing I Am a Child of God to Cadence!

  8. Aw, that just shows that you have a talent that you have fully immersed yourself in, and allowed yourself to become one with the music. Good for you!

  9. I know that these kind souls who are assuring you that tears just make it all the more evocative for the audience mean that with their whole hearts.

    But unless they're in on some physiological secret I don't know about, they couldn't be more wrong.

    And you know that, don't you? I'm a singer, and a pianist. And I gave up singing at funerals, as a ferinstance, several years ago. Because, unlike playing the piano (or the violin, or the bongos) any instrument that requires the use of your mouth and/or throat simply STOPS WORKING when you cry.

    It isn't just embarrassing. It can thoroughly disrupt an entire concert, given the right circumstances.

    And yes, hopping aboard the hormonal insanity train is what unhinges all but the most cold-hearted of us!

  10. Like Mother, Like daughter!! Except when I perform, I tell myself you must not cry. Now, I cry when I'm conducting choirs, and it was YOU who said, Mom you cannot do that, the choir can't lose their conductor!! Sigh

  11. Just read your mom's comment - ha ha! I have to say how relieved I am to have read this post. I have always been one to tear up easily, but ever since having kids, everything gets me - it's crazy. We watched "Up" the other day and I was all out sobbing during the first 10 minutes!!! A funnier experience was the first church talk I gave after birthing my first child - oh heavens - I don't think the audience understood a word I said. Anyhow, I certainly hope there is no need for prozac, I hope I just get to be weepy, and hopefully a little less with time.

  12. If you ever figure out a cure, let me know. I can't sing in sacrament meeting without sobbing anymore. I think I started being so weepy when I was pregnant with my firstborn. Hmmm...

  13. ME. TOO. It's gotten to the point that when my kids request a lullaby, they preface it with: "but don't cry, Mom!"

    If you find a cure, please tell me.

  14. You know, I have always ALWAYS wondered about this. Being a violinist has its perks, because if I decide to bawl, it doesn't (usually) effect the way I sound. I've always been grateful I'm not a singer, because I would never, ever make it through anything!

    And as for weepy, I routinely cry during the "Hello Everybody" song at Music Together. So embarassing.

  15. I love the idea of a piano in its skivvies. :) Thanks for making me smile.

    I saw the movie, Mama Mia with my own mama when it came out. We both laughed, we both cried.

    I wouldn't worry too much about the tears. I think I'd call it a case of being a woman. :)

  16. I get choked up over things which shouldn't have that effect too. Dancing Queen is sooooo liberating and full of girl power! I think crying over it makes perfect sense. I would love to hear you sing in person. THAT would make me cry... in a good way!

  17. I hate to say it, but is it part of getting older? I cry too! I feel like a nut sometimes!

  18. OK, so I'm a total lurker on your blog. But I want you to know that you're not alone in this. I was a primary teacher for five years (!) and loved every minute. But when we got to sharing time and the songs came out I cried every time. It's not manly to cry, so I try to choke it back to varying levels of success. I still cannot sing primary songs without getting emotional. Whenever I even think of the line "We are children, holding hands around the world - like an army, with the gospel flag unfurled" I lose it. I just lost it. Man, your blog is definitely not safe for work... Good thing I'm in my office alone!

  19. I just sang at a funeral last week and nearly lost it. I didn't know the woman who died, or the song, but I let my eyes wander to the family for a moment....and quickly realized what a rotten idea that was.

    I am usually in pretty good control of my emotions, but "Families are Forever" gets me every time.

  20. I cry way more since I have had babies; I think it just comes with the territory. I think that you are just very connected to music in a way that it touches you; I think it's sweet!

  21. I'm a crier, but luckily not a performer, so it works for me. Hopefully your imagining doesn't make you start laughing during your performance. :)

  22. I just dug out DH's ABBA collection to find this quote (from Agnetha):

    "My favourite song is 'Dancing Queen,' period. I love that song. And I loved it from the very beginning when Benny brought home the backing track without any vocals on it. I don't remember if the lyrics were done. They had been in the studio all day and they had recorded the backing track, the instruments. And it was so beautiful I started to cry. I mean, even without lyrics or voices on it, it was outstanding."

    So you're not the only one. :)

  23. Wow. Crying to Abba. That's a lot. Were you young and free only 17 once? Maybe you wish you were 17 again?

  24. Oh how I hear you my sister!

    And yes, it's gotten far worse post-babies. I cry when i sing in church 99% of the time...and I always cry 100% of the time in the opening overture of any stage performance.

    OH, my trick is I picture simon cowell critiquing me at the back of the chapel. Works sometimes.

    (slipping through my fingers?! can't handle it & I don't even have a daughter yet)

  25. And now I just love you more. To me, this just says that you truly are a connoisseur of the beautiful.

  26. I LOVE that your work/your passion effects you so strongly! That is a good thing. And just so you know....every time I was running and heard Dancing Queen on my little Shuffle, I found myself tearing's okay. And that wasn't the only song that did that to me. :)

  27. When I see Mama Mia (on stage) I have a similar reaction to those songs, only it makes my heart palpitate and my feet go crazy.

    You are a beautiful sensitive artist and you do not need to get a grip.

    (Are you coming to the CBC blogging conference this summer??? I would so love to see you, and we could hook you up to perform somewhere...)

  28. LOL, sure you're not pregnant? This sounds JUST like me when I am. Although I do often get emotional even when I'm not. But no, definitely don't need medication. Music has the ability to do that more than anything else for me...that's why it's so amazing.

  29. Lara, the mark of a true musician is to be able to take emotion from one thing and put it into another thing. For example, sometimes if I am singing a song about a failed love relationship, I cry, even though my relationship with my husband is as great as ever. But, I can take other problems that I'm experiencing and the emotion from those problems, then transfer them to the song I'm singing. Then I feel a whole lot better about my problems because I've let go of that emotion. Something similar may be happening to you.--Amanda B.

  30. glad to hear i'm not the only one! i cried once when i sang "o divine redeemer" at a mission conference once, and i cannot sing "mary's lullaby" for the life of me without bursting into tears. must be hormones...

  31. ok, i always cry at slipping through my fingers, but Dancing Queen?

  32. You have to go read this:

    It's one of mine . . . about crying while playing.

    I cry a lot, too -- when it comes to music. I can hardly go to the movies without being moved to tears. Usually by the soundtrack of the opening credits. Of a Disney movie. It's a bit embarrassing, but I think it's evidence of my musical overexcitability and an indication of depth of feeling, and overresponse to intense musical and visual stimulus. So no Zoloft, I think.

    Also, I cried during The Office last night when they did the little montage about Jim and Pam. Such a sap, I swear. I can't hold it together through anything!

  33. Well, I haven't seen Mamma Mia, but my jaw just dropped when I read your email because I DO THAT, TOO! I'm a fairly average crier when it comes to movies and things, but music? I lose it all the time! (In fact, a friend of mine witnessed me falling apart while listening to Arvo Pärt, and later gave me a copy of the CD for my birthday, with the words "Warning: Jerks Tears" written on the card!) Crazy!

    And now you're telling me it gets worse when you have kids?! Oi vey, I'm in for it, I bet. Well, at least it's good to know that you and I are not alone!