Every night after dinner, while my mum washed the dishes, I’d sing to her. Sometimes I treated her to a recorder recital or to a flute rendition of a Kris Kristofferson song – on the odd occasion I pulled her into another room to hear me play a chord on the piano, but more often I just sang – unaccompanied, right there in the kitchen.
I’d regularly force my parents to come to my ‘concerts’. “I’m having a concert at 6 o’clock. You’ve to come, ok?”, I’d say. “Mm-hm”, my parents would reply, rolling their eyes, bracing themselves. They would sit side by side on the sofa like a proper audience and I claimed the living room rug as my arena. Sure, they’d rather be somewhere else, doing something else most times, but come they would and listen they did – applauding in all the right places as I took my bows and curtseys. One time, on holiday in Spain when I was about 8, I convinced my dad that were we to haul the pull down bed out of the wall and lay the broken door of the wardrobe on top of the mattress, it would serve as a rather fine stage for me to perform on – much, much better and at least ten times more exciting than the carpet at home. After some arm tugging, my dad did as I asked. There are photographs of this particular concert hanging on the wall of my mum and dad’s living room. I can’t remember the details of my ‘set list’ now but I’m quite sure Al Jolson songs featured highly.
I do remember I invited my dad on stage at some point. I think we may have sang, ‘Who Wants To Be Millionaire?’ but since it turned out we only knew a few obvious lines, his guest appearance and our father/daughter duet came to an awkward and premature end. “You can sit back down now, Dad”.
As well as performing solo live shows for my parents, my sister and I held more intimate acoustic jams in her bedroom on weekends. Mostly we sang in her room but sometimes we’d sing in my room. My sister plays guitar you see, so technically I was in a band. Our repertoire included all the hits. Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, The Everly Brothers…
Lately, I’ve been thinking of joining a choir. Such is my urge to sing, I’ve taken to treating my journeys to and from work as snippets of musical theatre. I put my big green earphones on my head and I sing-along-a-Spotify as I bounce along the street in time to the music. The more fun I have, the less I care about who hears me or who looks at me funny. And people do, you know. Hear me. And look at me funny. But it’s London – so no sooner has someone glanced at me sideways, than some guy rocks past in a clown suit with a kitten on his head and takes the heat off.
I’m working up to turning the walk to the train station into full blown choreographed performances with chorus members and dance routines and everything… The other day, a girl sidled up to me on the pavement and tapped me on the arm mid-verse. I pulled my earphones off my head. I’d made a mess of my hairdo. “Are you listening to Camera Obscura?” she asked, smiling. “Yup”, I said, embarrassed. “I love that song”, she said and she skipped off. I put my earphones back on. Pleased.