This Is A Voice

Golden Nuggets 21st March - give us a job, singing auditions & pyjama days

March 21, 2022 Jeremy Fisher and Dr Gillyanne Kayes Season 4 Episode 8
This Is A Voice
Golden Nuggets 21st March - give us a job, singing auditions & pyjama days
Show Notes Transcript

Bestselling author and singing audition coach Jeremy Fisher on how to tackle singing auditions to get a job in London's West End.

This week's Golden Nuggets from the book Why Do I Need A Vocal Coach include the full process for singing auditions for a West End musical.

  • The Cattle Call - your best 16 bars or even less
  • The First "private" audition - what does the audition panel want to see
  • The Recall system - how to deal with each round of recalls to stay on top and get the role.

Jeremy shares the story of his first two West End jobs - The Sneeze with Rowan Atkinson at the Aldwych Theatre, and Les Miserables at the Palace Theatre

And there's a special guest for this week's Inspiration of the Week that involves Gillyanne's pyjama days.

The book Wintering by Katherine May is here:
 paperback https://amzn.to/3udylQq
ebook https://amzn.to/3L4gQIP 
audiobook https://amzn.to/3ubJnFD

The book Successful Singing Auditions by Dr Gillyanne Kayes and Jeremy Fisher is here: https://amzn.to/3woqLF6 

And the book Why Do I Need A Vocal Coach by Jeremy Fisher is here:
Audiobook https://amzn.to/3wsDman
Ebook https://amzn.to/3N5xEB7 
Paperback https://amzn.to/3Jt1FZD 


Go to the Vocal Process Learning Lounge for all the Successful Singing Auditions webinar videos plus 600 more videos and resources here
https://vocal-process-hub.teachable.com/p/the-vocal-technique-learning-lounge

Book a coaching session to repurpose your song repertoire for different auditions here
https://DrGillyanneKayesJeremyFisherInspirationSession.as.me/JeremyCoaching

Or sign up for the Vocal Process newsletter to read Jeremy's articles here https://vocalprocess.co.uk/build-your-own-tilting-larynx/

Jeremy:

This is a voice, a podcast with Dr. Gillyanne Kayes and Jeremy Fisher. Hello, and welcome to golden nuggets for the week of March 21st. This week, we have an extra long episode with a bumper bag of golden nuggets. In this episode, I'm sharing five excerpts from our featured resource because we think as theater opens up again, they're all needed. What are we talking about? The focus for the week of March 21st is [close up of an actor auditioning on stage, thinking that after the pandemic, the recession and the world reset, maybe this time, I'll be lucky]. Give us a job. I've got some advice for singers going through the whole singing audition process again. But first, since yesterday was world storytelling day, I'm sharing two personal stories about how I got my jobs as a musician in the West End, starting with Want to know what happened in my very first West End show? Here's the story of the first time I performed in the West End with Rowan Atkinson. We're going back a few years now, when I moved to London in 1988, I wrote 750 targeted letters on my brand new word processor. It was very exciting. I wrote to theaters, production companies and film companies explaining who I was and why they should employ me as an audition or rehearsal pianist. I actually got 49 replies, which I thought was pretty impressive. 48 said, thank you no, or maybe, and won the holy grail said come to my West End offices for a chat. Turns out the theater management had opened a show at the theater with Rowan Atkinson and Timothy West that had live solo piano playing throughout show. It needed precise timing with the stage every night and they only had one pianist. So they realized they needed an understudy. And my letter arrived on their desk that day. I got the job, My very first job was 8 months understudying on The Sneeze, a series of 8 Chekhov plays with a cast headed by Rowan Atkinson and Timothy West. I was covering the performances and doing the understudy rehearsals every week. I had told the producers very early on that they simply weren’t paying me enough money to sit in the theatre every night waiting to see if the pianist turned up. Instead, I would ring the theatre at 6.45 each evening, and 1.45 on matinee days, to see if I was needed. Well, the eight months came and went, and nothing happened. In the last week of the run, we had our end-of-run party on the Thursday night after the show in a posh West End club. It was Russian-themed with vodka and Russian food and was very exciting to someone newly arrived in London. The next day I was actually in the local sauna, and at 6.45 I thought I’d better get out and ring the theatre. “Yes, you’re on tonight, Michael’s got food poisoning”. At first, I thought they were joking – it was April Fool’s day after all – but they were deadly serious, so I threw on my clothes and ran to the theatre. Of course, the tubes were crowded and of course I arrived late, but they had held the curtain for me and made an announcement to the audience. I ran across the stage, into the box and started playing the show, too frazzled to be nervous. Apparently, Timothy West said “Oh, he’s rather good, isn’t he?” After all, he had never heard me play! All went well until the play The Sneeze, which is a silent play to Russian-style ballet music. I loved playing this music, and I did extremely well until the last two pages. Apparently, I took the music rather faster than Michael played it, and everyone on the side of the stage watched as Rowan had to fairly throw himself around the stage to fit in all the business. I’m glad to say that I got a big ovation at the end. In fact, some of the cast thought it was a setup between me and Michael to give me a chance to play the show before it ended, but as I pointed out to them, if I’d known I was to play that night, I wouldn’t have been in the sauna! which leads me to my next story. How did I, a classically trained accompanist get to work in the West End in Les Miserables for so many years? It's a weird combination of right place, right time and chutzpah. The mezzo wasn't amused though. Check out this excerpt from my audio book here AUDITIONING FOR LES MISÉRABLES Getting the job on the West End production of Les Misérables was another of those odd occurrences that have happened in my life. One of my mezzo friends had asked me to play for her Les Mis audition. She was singing “I Was a Constant Faithful Wife” from Walton’s The Bear and was doing auditions for Les Mis and for Phantom of the Opera. The piece is more suitable for Phantom, really, but she decided to do it for both. If you don’t know the piece, it’s got an oom-chah accompaniment with a few twiddles in it and lots of pompous, over-the-top atmosphere. We did the Les Mis audition in the Palace Theatre and the MD called up

from the stalls:

“Thank you very much. Nice playing.” I was quite surprised, because the piano part isn’t exactly spectacular, but I thought I’d make the most of the comment. So I stood at the stage door and wrote him a note… I’m the pianist of whom you said, “Nice playing”. I’m a superb sightreader, so if you ever need a rehearsal or audition pianist, just let me know. Here’s my phone number. Well, 6 weeks later I had a phone call from the company manager -CM: Did you mean it when you said you were a superb sightreader? Yes. CM OK, we’d like you to play for a rehearsal of the show on Thursday. I presented myself on Thursday [having picked up a score and read it through beforehand] and delighted the director by knowing where the Cart Scene was before he even told me. There are two morals here for budding professionals. Do your research [read the score and learn the story], and take advantage of anything that offers itself [keep a pen and paper handy for on-the-spot letters of introduction]. this is a genuine, true story. What I don't say in this excerpt is the same thing happened in her Phantom of the opera audition too. I got the job and she didn't. Sorry, Helen. As an audition, pianist and coach in the West End, since 1988, I've seen a lot of good and extremely bad auditions. And I know what makes them work. So if you are a singer and you want to get into West End musicals, what stages do you have to go through? Here's the first obstacle, the Cattle Call. If you want to audition for musicals on Broadway or in the West End, and you don't have an agent, you need to go to the open call known as the Cattle Call. This article describes the Cattle Call, what you need to take and what you need to do to succeed. There are new musicals being written every year and long running shows being recast regularly, but there are thousands of actor, singer dancers seeking work in musical theater. You want to be heard for the roles in these shows, but you don't have an agent where do you start? Every year production companies run open calls. They are particularly useful. If the show is new or in an unusual genre, grunge, folk, rock, Tuvan throat singing, if there's a serious lack of actors with the relevant casting requirements, ethnic casting, or tightrope juggling, or if the casting directors simply want to know what's out there at the moment, open calls are usually advertised in the theater press. The stage newspaper in the UK is an example. The open call can be quite a demoralizing process, not for nothing are they called Cattle Calls! So this article will help you prepare for them. The first thing you'll see when you arrive is a long queue, depending on how popular this show is, the queue could be three times around the block or just a small crowd. Be prepared to stand in the queue for several hours. Even 15 years ago, professional singer friends of mine were kept waiting for seven hours on the auditions for nuns in The Sound of Music. What should you carry with you? Your resume or CV, and a photograph are essential. If the photograph is not attached, make sure that both the resume and the photograph have your name and contact details on. Photographs and CV details often get separated and it would be horrible if the panel remembered your face, but then couldn't find your contact details on the photo. A bottle of water is vital and either a book or an MP3 player is useful to while away the hours, you'll give your name to the auditions, usher or stage door manager. And the audition begins. If you are lucky, you'll have about two minutes to get on stage, introduce yourself and do your audition. if you're unlucky, you'll have 16 bars. If you are unlucky, they will ask you for your best single phrase. How do you deal with this? Remember that the purpose of this audition is not to get the job. If you're up against a thousand people or more, nothing you can do will make you stand out enough to be offered the job on the spot. Your mission is to get asked back for the first call, the first invited call, as opposed to the Cattle Call. Therefore your task is to appear professional, calm and focused. If you're focused, you will be able to sing your piece to the best of your ability and lock into the character immediately. Being focused, really reads well on the theater stage. So the panel will notice very quickly how well you do. When I'm coaching for the 16 bar audition, the key is to practice everything. The walk-in, the hello, the piece announcement, giving the pianist the music or the backing track, the getting into focus, the 16 bars - decided beforehand, please - and the exit. Everything matters including the way you talk to the auditions usher. I work to help you choose song that show your best, and it's not necessarily your loudest or highest, and to sing those extracts to the best of your ability. Notice, I haven't said what you should sing. Ultimately in a Cattle Call, your choice of song is less important than how you sing it. I've been on Cattle Calls where actors singing the weirdest songs have been called back for the next audition, simply because they sang it very well. In a situation like this you want to stack the dice in your favor as much as possible. Take a piece you know well. That way, if nerves strike, you'll still feel secure in your song. Panels find Cattle Calls just as horrible as you do. And believe me, they breathe the sigh of relief when someone professional, calm and focused turns up. There's usually three piles in front of a Cattle Call casting panel. Yes, no, maybe. The only pile you want to be in is the yes pile. And if you give clear, focused professional performance and follow the rules in this article, you are much more likely to get to sing in the next round. And stay in the yes pile The number one tip I can give for the Catholic call is to research the show and understand what your job is for this type of audition. It can be demoralizing. If you go into show your all and you don't get the chance to that's because they don't want to see your all know, put it away. They just want a very quick snapshot of what level you're are at. They'll make their casting decisions later. Once you are past the cattle call, what happens next? The first private audition has rules of its own. Listen to this audiobook excerpt on auditioning for musicals, what to do in the first audition and target your singing auditions with confidence. Auditioning for musicals is a way of life. But what if this is your first musicals audition, how do you behave? What do you have to do? And how should you prepare? This article focuses on the first private audition in the process of auditioning for a musical. You've got an audition for a musical theater show. What do you do? And what do you aim to achieve? First? Let's explore what an audition is for. For the casting panel, it's an opportunity to see new people or to remind themselves of familiar people. It's a chance to see who and what is out there to make decisions about casting and to match up different actors, to make a company. For you, it's an opportunity to let the casting panel get to know your performing ability, hear you sing and see you in your choice of character. Now let's explore what a first audition is. Not, it's not a true performance. The audience doesn't applaud. They haven't paid to see you. There are no lights, no costumes and no make up other than what you've brought with you. It's not a complete show either as the panel will expect to watch you come in as yourself. Then change into character in front of them. And finally, the first audition will not get you the job that may sound odd, but in reality, West End auditions and Broadway auditions can go on for up to nine recalls spread over several months. And on large scale musicals, you won't be cast on the strength of your first audition. Remember that the company wants to know how skilled you are. How well you inhabit the character, how well you deal with being on stage and whether you are the appropriate professional level for the production. The key points are to appear professional well prepared and confident with your material. And for the first audition, it's vital for an actor, singer, or dancer to use song material that's suitable for their casting, voice and abilities. Let's examine some of the common mistakes that auditionees make. Singers might be confident of how they sound, but don't think about the character or story in musical theater. This is a complete no-no. Yes, you might have a lovely voice, but we're interested in your character's journey through the song. Musical theater differs from opera or song recital in that the music serves and heightened as the text and characterization is vital. Conversely, actors might be very confident of their subtext and characterization, but might not have a solid Vocal technique. While strong character decisions can carry an actor through dodgy vocalizing, remember that this is a musical genre, and usually you'll be performing eight shows a week or more. For your own sanity and the sanity of those around you, it's imperative that your Vocal technique is strong and clear enough for you to sustain and repeat what you're doing accurately. And without strain, if not a single cold can knock your performance sideways. For dancers who are used to expressing themselves in movement, using words and music can be a real challenge. And since many dancers start very young learning, a solid technique in a new discipline can seem like a mountainous task. It's important for dancers to find teachers of voice, text, or singing who can adapt their teaching styles to the dance-trained body and mind. Choose repertoire that you have a physical connection with pieces that you feel they can play with. And don't be afraid to move during an audition. You don't have to stay rooted to the spot. When coaching a singer actor dancer for the first call, my sessions usually focus on choosing repertoire that suits your physical and energetic casting and helping you find and maintain your best performance of it. We also deal with the various problems surrounding auditions using your own choice songs. Present your version of the song to the pianist in 15 seconds or less, how to find the focus of your song and get into character instantly. interacting with the panel, even altering your performance of familiar repertoire to suit the style of that particular show. Sometimes you can alter the subtext or storyline of a song to fit the show that's currently casting. If you must sing just a 16 bar excerpt or a cut version, your storyline will be different. Anyway, it's not a good eye idea to try to play the full song journey. If you're only singing half the song. You might focus on the one aspect of character that appears in that extract or impose a journey on the music or bring an event that happens later in the full song into that particular musical moment. If you're using the same song for the Cattle Call and the first full audition, also known as the privates, you will almost certainly need more than one mental map of the song. Once you've found good songs, a session from a qualified coach can help you find your own version of the material and lead you to create living sustainable characterizations that use your best talents and assets. With songs that match your casting, good performance skills, and a professional attitude you will definitely be noticed. And what do you aim to achieve in the first audition? To get the first recall. I have coached so many people through the first private audition over the last 34 years, I've had so much personal experience of working in the West End with some of the top production teams. I know the sort of thing they're looking for and how to get each singer to shine at what they do best. It's all about showing who you are, your skill set, and then acting, singing, and staying in character for whatever song you're offering, unless it's a to the audience audition. Panto cruise ships or any of the X-Factor voice, Britain's got talent type shows. In which case you need to polish your charm So you get the recall. Does that mean you've got the job? Well, no, they could be anything up to nine recalls and they all have different approaches. Check out this excerpt from Why Do I Need A Vocal Coach to find out more? When an actor or dancer auditions for a show, it is very rare that they're cast on first hearing. With thousands of actors, singers, and dancers looking for work. The recall system is a necessary evil. One of our clients in the UK had to go through nine recalls all at her own expense before being cast in the show. This article describes the different stages of auditioning and how I coach performers through the system. I'm assuming that you have either succeeded in or bypassed the preliminary stage of auditioning, the open call or Cattle Call and have completed the first full call. Getting a recall means that the company has decided you might fit the part and are at approximately the right level for them. They want to find out, add more about you and how you deal with the material in the show. They will usually give you music and script for the roles they want you to audition for. If the production company hasn't given any music or instructions, but has asked you to sing your own choice for them again, my advice is NOT to take new songs "to show something different", but to polish the same songs that were sung in the first audition. I also advise wearing the same clothes after all. It's that song, that performance and that clothing that was appropriate enough to get you the recall, so why jeopardize your chances? During the coaching session for auditions we focus on the song, the character and the story. What's the package that we're selling? This technique used for first auditions with your own choice of song can be applied to the recall. We'll explore the songs the casting panel has provided, identify the style elements of the show and incorporate them into the song and your voice. We'll also nail the personality aspects of the character and experiment with dialogue and scenes to carry the character through singing and speaking, to produce a cohesive performance. That's the first major hurdle. But the second recall is different again. By this time you will probably have been given not just the music, but also some clues or advice on how the company wants the character to be played. In coaching for the second recall, we might experiment with different readings of the song based on different subtexts. It's important in the secondary recall that you give a clear performance, but can remain flexible as an actor. The third recall is usually a more flexible event. You know that you're at the right level and appropriate for the role. Often in the third recall the director and the musical director will work with you in detail. This is the time to listen and experiment. Occasionally other auditioning actors will be brought in to match up a potential cast. My coaching sessions for the third recall are much more focused using information and hints given by the panel. For example, working on auditions for the musical spring awakening recently, one of my clients was looking at three different roles and had been given very specific instructions from the directors for all three songs. We worked on more aggression and bite in the consonants for one character, a more fluid lyrical feel with some musical style tweaks for the second and a hypnotic sexually dominant feel for the third. Another client was working on recalls for Mama Mia and was up for two of the three leading ladies. We worked on the dialogue for each character, identifying and shaping the differences between the two roles, finding the essence of their speech patterns, speed of delivery, pitch range, and characterization. Then we carried those differences into the songs to give a complete identifiable package for each of the leads. By the time you get to the fourth, fifth, sixth, recall you will have a relationship with the casting panel and they have more time to discuss what they want to experience from you. You should be able to find out if there are any weaknesses in your presentation and what you can do about it. Experimentation is vital here so know your material. Occasionally at this point, it's less about you and more about the casting panel disagreeing about what the role requires. Perhaps a show originates on Broadway and comes over to the West End or vice versa. In these cases, there is often an American casting contingent who might have very different ideas. Just stay calm and do what you do. Be prepared to change everything that you have done so far. Stay focused and open and listen very carefully to what you're being told. In the rare event that you receive, conflicting information, follow the advice of the person with the highest authority. And if you don't get any further in this particular journey, remember that the casting panel in country has already approved your performance and will remember you for other shows. Auditioning for jobs is a fact of life for the actor singer dancer. Once you become more successful at singing auditions, casting directors start to see you in other roles and you can bypass the first stages of auditioning. Although even for the stars, auditioning never goes away. "Would you like to pop in for a chat and a little sing?" Landing a role in a Broadway show or getting a West End lead can be incredibly rewarding. Working the recall system in this way can help you understand the process and get you there quicker. In the next chapter, we're going to eavesdrop inside my studio on actual coaching sessions. I'm sharing what each singer wanted to achieve. I identify the actual problems, not the symptoms and the techniques used to get that singer back on track. the recall system is needed, but boy, is it stressful! You need to know what you are auditioning for, where you are in the process and how much feedback you can get the further through the process. You are, the more feedback you'll be given. So weirdly it becomes easier. We've had people go through a, up to nine recalls before getting or not getting the job. It's the same in the film industry. Although usually without so many recalls, you just need to know how much of the process you are in charge of quite a lot and how much you aren't and therefore you can do nothing about it. So stop worrying. If you want to find out more about how to ACE the audition and give more of what the panel are looking for, check out our two books on the topic. Successful singing auditions and Why Do I Need A Vocal Coach.

Or book a session with me:

https://DrGillyanneKayesJeremyFisherInspirationSession.as.me/JeremyCoaching. I'll put the link in the show notes. So I have a special guest for you now. Gillyanne is back with inspiration of the week. Now Gillyanne, uh, remind me how long it is since you had the work done on your heart.

Gillyanne:

Well, it's less than three weeks.

Jeremy:

Okay.

Gillyanne:

And I am doing well.

Jeremy:

How are you feeling?

Gillyanne:

I'm fine. But this morning I'm in my pajamas,

Jeremy:

which is why Gillyanne's not on camera for those of you watching on YouTube. We wouldn't want to inflict that on you.

Gillyanne:

Absolutely not. Everybody should have a jammy day every so often.

Jeremy:

Um, so tell me what your inspiration of the week is.

Gillyanne:

Yeah, well, something that's been really useful for me at this time of recuperation is reading a book called Wintering by Katherine May.

Jeremy:

Okay.

Gillyanne:

And it is described as the power of rest and retreat in difficult times.

Jeremy:

Nice.

Gillyanne:

And actually, I think what's interesting about this book is as far as I can gather, I haven't finished reading it yet. It was written before the pandemic, but it's so appropriate in these. Let's hope kind of, we're not post pandemic, but in pandemic times. Now you might be wintering because like me, you are in a period of recuperation after an operation or, um, during an illness or maybe you've had an injury and you can't use your body in the way that you are used to doing.

Jeremy:

Yep.

Gillyanne:

Maybe you are suffering from, uh, a mental health challenge at the moment, or maybe you've lost a loved one. All of these are times when we might go into wintering.

Jeremy:

So what do you do in wintering?

Gillyanne:

Well, you have jammy days regularly for starters.

Jeremy:

I'm completely sold already.

Gillyanne:

I love this, uh, from the book, "when I started feeling the drag of winter, I began to treat myself like a favored child, with kindness and love. I assumed my needs were reasonable and that my feelings were signals of something important. I kept myself well fed and made sure I was getting enough sleep."

Jeremy:

That's really nice.

Gillyanne:

I mean, these are such simple things, aren't they?

Jeremy:

Hmm. But also it's about giving yourself permission, isn't it?

Gillyanne:

Yep, absolutely. And I know for me, because I'm feeling well, it's very tempting to come out of my wintering and I'm having to remind myself every morning after my meditation. Well, it's less than three weeks this week. Yes. And next week it'll be less than four weeks.

Jeremy:

Oh, listeners, I also have to remind Gillyanne that it's less than three weeks.

Gillyanne:

You do indeed. And cellular healing in my case, we know takes twelve. There's some more stuff I want to share with you from the book, " doing these deeply unfashionable things, slowing down, letting your spare time expand, getting enough sleep resting are radical acts these days, but they are essential. This is a crossroads. We all know a moment when you need to shed a skin." And I do not think there is sufficient recognition in the way we live our lives, even now during the pandemic.

Jeremy:

I think you're absolutely right about radical, radical thinking.

Gillyanne:

Yeah. Um, and, and in a way it's, it's so simple, you know, whatever happened to the word convalescence, then the last thing I want to quote is this "Life meanders like a path through the woods. We have seasons when we flourish and seasons when the leaves fall from us, revealing our bare bones, given time they grow again"

Jeremy:

that's very nice. It's very poetic. . Uh, in a way you are doing wintering in its most extreme form.

Gillyanne:

Mm-hmm

Jeremy:

I do wintering a lot, but I do it in very short bursts.

Gillyanne:

You have mini winters.

Jeremy:

I do. So I'll take an hour off or I'll take a couple of hours off or an afternoon off. And I, because I know at that point that I don't have much left to do or I don't have much energy left to deal with. And, uh, so I'll go and read a book or go for a walk or, and I think I'm better at it than you are at the moment.

Gillyanne:

Much better, much better.

Jeremy:

I think I'm more experienced at it.

Gillyanne:

Yeah. I think, I think you are. And you know, I think the final thing I want to say before I disappear and continue with my jammy day is that if you know someone or you are someone right now, who kind of can feel that there's a, a personal winter encroaching, I encourage you to read this book. It's really comforting. It's very useful. And it tells you that, without sounding really, gooey and cheesy. Beyond that winter, there is a spring, there will be renewal and that good things can come out of that winter. And I'm looking forward to those good things.

Jeremy:

Lovely. And we'll leave a link to the book in the show notes. Thank you. Gillyanne lovely to see you back. This is a voice, a podcast with Dr. Gillyanne Kayes and Jeremy Fisher.