Tackling performance nerves

Anne Denholm

Photo: Timothy Ellis

Anne Denholm, official harpist to HRH The Prince of Wales, shares her tips for tackling nerves ahead of a big performance.

I have felt a lot of nerves and performance anxiety during my training and career to date, and so have a few strategies to deal with it!

The first is to be as well prepared as possible. Although time is always in short supply, even looking over your music for five minutes can make all the difference. You could say the words to yourself whilst doing the shopping or listen to a recording of the song you are singing whilst you travel.

The more familiar you are with what you are performing, the easier it will be on the big night! If stage fright is something you struggle with, it can also be a good idea to imagine the performance, including as many details as possible, beforehand. Take your time to mentally picture yourself getting ready, walking on to the stage, those who will be standing next to you, the conductor you will be following, the applause and the walk back off stage. This is just another way of making the performance as familiar and limits how daunting it feels. 

When it comes to the performance, everyone’s nerves respond in different ways! Some people don’t feel nerves at all, others struggle so much that it can really affect their performance. The one thing that can be helpful for everyone, no matter how you are feeling, is to breathe. It sounds so simple, but steady and calm breathing combats that instinctive ‘fight or flight’ mechanism that triggers nerves and their physical symptoms. Start it early on, maybe during the rehearsal, and that way you may prevent the nerves from descending at all!

After all the hard work and planning that goes in to a performance, you want to be able to enjoy it and get the most from it. One of the best ways to try and do this is to be as ‘present’ as possible in the moment during the performance, which can be tricky if you are feeling nervous. Try and really listen to the sounds that you and your colleagues are making, to enjoy the words, and to take in the gestures and instructions of the conductor. The more present you are, the richer your performance experience, and the more details you can remember and savour afterwards!

Anne will be joining us for the Sing Your Heart Out Christmas concert on Wednesday 6 December at Grosvenor Chapel in Mayfair, London. Book your tickets and get into the festive spirit!

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