Lessons from the FA Cup silent-singer

OOH: how awkward was that? at the FA Cup final, there was a ‘silent-singer’; not through choice or design. A situation where the camera was focused on a gurning singer who WASN’T singing the national anthem. There was silence from her; the only person in the stadium not singing. The band were playing, the crowd were singing, even Wayne Rooney was moving his lips. But not the silent singer; for over half the National Anthem. Watch here…

The singer has said there was a technical problem: I am sure the AV company were thrilled to hear that. Naturally there is a slight possibility that there was a technical problem; occasionally these things happen, and how they react shows the quality of the performer (or speaker) as singing is more than singing the notes; it is about performing and working with other people.

In this instance, there were other cues the singer could have picked up on to start singing.

  • The conductor of the band was waving his hands around which she could see if she looked round
  • The band had started playing seeing/hearing (they were also had sound enhancement)
  • The crowd were singing seeing/hearing
  • She could have looked to her left and seen the players singing
  • She would be able to feel the noise – the vibrations of the noise of the crowds singing and the band playing
  • Even though she had an ear plug in, it doesn’t completely block out the noise of the crowd and band, and she would have been able to hear something going on.

The face is that a singer was chosen who did not have the experience to deal with a challenging performance. Whether you like them or don’t, Beyonce, Madonna, Katherine Jenkins, Alfie Boe et al  have the experience of dealing with the pressure, as well as the different cues to pick on, in order to start singing.

I mention experience, because this is a key part of performing. This singer was very inexperienced at performing live. She hadn’t reached the live stages of X Factor; she had made recordings in studios – which are VERY different. In a studio, the sound engineer will do everything to make her sound better: counting her in to start singing, to changing the timbre of the voice and the tuning problems..

But singing in a stadium is also a very different performing environment. It isn’t something I have done personally, but knowing colleagues who have performed at sports events in stadiums, they say you have to be very well prepared and they all welcomed the opportunity to rehearse AND to have performed at smaller venues first.

Also, speaking to AV friends, they constantly tell me that certain singers are not prepared and almost have to be hand held through certain performances – of which this is an example. The basics, such as how to hold a microphone and pick up a cue have to be taught. And in an event like this, the AV company have enough to deal with, without hand holding a singer.

This singer wasn’t ready to perform here. She should have practiced at smaller events and venues first. Got used to the whole experience and what to do if something goes wrong. There are other cues to get to start singing. I often see posts on Facebook about why a certain artist isn’t singing at the Rugby World Cup or other events; I am sure they will, but they don’t yet have the experience to deal with this occasion.

So why am I discussing this, when this blog is about speaking: well the same principle applies to speaking. If you step up to a big, scary event when you aren’t prepared or don’t have the experience (or both), with the best will in the world, you are less likely to be successful. I hate to say this because I am all for pushing yourself outside your boundaries and your comfort zones. So many people complain they are terrified of speaking in public. But if you develop your experience and skill set in small steps “Pole Pole”, you are more likely to be able to cope with the pressure of the bigger gig – and you will have gained more confidence.

You wouldn’t expect Andy Murray to play in the final of Wimbledon aged 19 “Because he’s a great player”, he built up his skill set which was partly his playing, strength, stamina and mindset. The same applies to performing.

I hope there are lessons learnt from the FA Cup silent singer; notably to prepare thoroughly and be READY for the big stage!

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Susan Heaton-Wright
About the author

Susan Heaton Wright is a former opera singer who works with successful individuals and teams to make an impact with their voices and physical presence. Using her experience in using the voice and performing on stage, she works with people to improve their performances in a range of business situations; from meeting skills and on the telephone, to public speaking, presentations and appearing on the media.

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