Grace Notes: How to survive playing in the summer heatwave.

If you’re in the UK, you may have noticed that we had a little heatwave a couple of weeks ago. I would have loved to be outside enjoying the sunshine, but instead I was stuck inside from 2.30-10.30pm every day doing the Trinity Laban Opera. Not only was I missing the sun, but I was in a dark windowless room, which about 30 stage lights pointing in all directions nicely heating up the place. It was almost unbearable! So in case you ever end up in a situation like that, I decided to write down some tips of how to survive playing in hot conditions.

  • Dress sensibly. I wrote a whole post on concert dress here, but you have to be sensible when it comes to dressing smartly in the heat. We had to wear floor length black (which I think looks the smartest), but that doesn’t have to mean a super thick concert dress. Go for something like a one-layer maxi skirt that is cooling and loose. Comfort should come first rather than wearing than your brand new skin-tight jumpsuit and the performance suffering because you’re so uncomfortable.
  • Drink lots and lots! I have a really bad habit of not drinking enough water throughout the day, but I make a point of making myself drink if it’s hot. It’s even more important if you’re having to concentrate for a performance that you don’t find yourself getting all faint and woozy, so drink as much as you can and if you’re allowed take a bottle of water on stage with you and drink in your rests!
  • Try not to dwell on it. People all around you will be complaining about the heat, but the more you think about it, the worse you’ll feel. Try and focus on the performance, and get lost in the music, not bogged down by the heat.
  • Don’t count time passing. You won’t (or shouldn’t) have your phone on stage with you, but if you wear a watch, or there is a clock in the room, don’t watch every second. As the saying goes ‘a watched pot never boils’, so the more you can restrain yourself from wanting to look at the time, the faster the performance will feel and the sooner you can get out into the fresh air.
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The NYOW in action in Berlin! (I don’t own this image)

Hopefully if you ever get stuck playing a concert in a stupidly high temperature, these tips may help. I’m currently back in Cardiff preparing for my last ever NYOW course which starts in less than a week! I still can’t quite believe that my time with the orchestra is nearly over!

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Grace Notes: Concert dress dilemma!

Getting the correct attire for a concert can be tricky, especially if you’ve never had to do the ‘all black’ orchestra dress before. From a very young age my county orchestras all instigated very strict concert dress rules, so I think I have a fairly good idea of how to dress appropriately. Here are a list of points that might help you if you have an upcoming gig and are having trouble with finding something to wear. (This is only really applicable to girls as I’ve not had much experience wearing a tux…)

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The National Youth Orchestra of Wales in concert. Floor length black is required and we all look very smart!

  • DON’T wear a skirt that’s too short when in an orchestra. Try to keep it below the knee, and if any leg is showing, then wear black tights. It makes the ensemble look messy otherwise.
  • DON’T show any midriff or back if the dress is all black. It looks more like you’re going to a party and again, you won’t blend in with everyone else.
  • If the dress code is ‘long black’ then trousers should be fine (always check as some people get funny about this), just make sure they are smart ones and not jeans or leggings.
  • If ladies can wear coloured dresses then DO make an effort to show yourself off. In this case, (again, so long as it’s floor length) it’s more acceptable to show a discreet bit of flesh (shoulders, back etc) to make yourself look more ‘glam’.
  • DO make an effort. If you feel good in yourself, you’re likely to be more comfortable and so play better.
  • If it’s a quartet or small ensemble gig, then shorter dresses or skirts are acceptable, although (especially in the winter) I’d personally still wear tights! I constantly have pale skin, so at a gig I’d rather people were focussed on the playing, rather than my luminous white legs.
  • Heels or no heels? If you can walk in them, then go for it, your calves will look great! If however, like me, you have trouble walking in flat shoes I’d give it a miss. Tripping up on stage is never good (and yes, this has also happened to me.)!
  • Discreet jewellery is fine, just don’t go too mad! There will be other occasions for your huge sparkly earrings and chunky necklaces. Again, it looks like you’re on a night out, rather than playing a nice Beethoven symphony.
  • SMILE! Although this technically has nothing to do with clothing, you still wear a smile! When you stand up at the end, even if it couldn’t have gone any worse, smile and the audience will go away with a much better impression of you. Nothing is worse than a grumpy orchestra!
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At a concert earlier this year.

I hope some of these points have been useful! I’ve found it helps to feel good about what you wear and in the end, it’ll improve yours and the audiences concert experience.