For many years, I battled with a lot of stress from performing. It’s quite common among musicians to feel anxiety before and during performances, though the methods of dealing with this stress vary hugely. When I lived in the US, my eyes were really opened to how common the use of beta blockers were, not even just for big performances or life-changing auditions.
I was lucky that my friend introduced me to Nicholas Pallesen, who helped me think more logically about what the issues were and to deal with them with hypnotherapy and coping techniques that I still use today. There are so many lightbulb moments in life that can change your path, way of thinking and way of being so dramatically. I recently had another one to do with understanding my stress regarding performing. The bulk of my worry comes from being concerned about having a memory slip, not from being in centre stage. Recently, I performed Ginastera’s Harp Concerto with orchestra, and we’d only managed to have one rehearsal together before the concert. I had been away previously celebrating a friend’s wedding and had to rely heavily on mental practise to prepare. On the day, I decided that I wanted to enjoy this performance more than I wanted to perform from memory, so I used the music. My fiancé commented that it was the most relaxed he’d ever seen me on stage and that I seemed to enjoy the performance so much.
There are certain moments in life when it’s simply not possible to use the music, such as in a competition where that is stipulated. There is also a huge difference between performing using the music and performing reading the music. There is a lot of pressure on certain instruments (such as piano, violin, harp) to perform from memory, but I’ve decided that enough is enough. It’s not shameful to play with music if you can give a better performance because of it, and whilst I still enjoy the freedom of performing from memory, I think all of us should be able to use our own judgement to decide what is right for that particular performance. As one of my teachers, Cathy White, said to me, “if Catrin Finch can do it, why can’t you?”