“Get passionate or go home” was something my musical co-conspirator Robin Burton said in a recent rehearsal. He wasn’t talking about me (thankfully) but it was a phrase that got in my head and has been floating about there ever since. As a performance issue, it’s a really important one. We’d been talking about people who don’t put much feeling into what they’re doing.
When it comes to being an audience member, I’m often more moved by the enthusiasm of a performer than I am by how technically good they are. People can be technically very good, and just cranking it out in a way that leaves me cold. The ideal is a combination of technical strength and emotional intensity, and people who can do both are stunning.
I don’t know that there’s a great deal of point doing things I’m not prepared to be wholehearted about. How much I can put into something depends on how well I am, but the desire to give everything I have – both as a performer and as a person – is very much in me. One of the things I really appreciate about working with Robin is that he has that willingness to pour everything into a song, and to take chances and take leaps in the dark. I was one of those – he hadn’t heard me play viola when he suggested we might explore doing music together.
I don’t like me much when I’m being muted and cautious, although that’s a habit I’ve been in for some years now. I worry about overwhelming people, being too much and too difficult. But really, what’s the point of doing anything if I’m not prepared to be wholehearted and give everything I’ve got? One of the great things about performing is that it creates a space where being full-on isn’t a problem, and I’m keen to have more of that.
Get passionate or go home. Which also means not apologising for taking up space. Not making yourself smaller or tidier in order to fit in or make other people more comfortable. Not being afraid of whatever feelings emerge around whatever you’re doing. Not being afraid to engage, and feel and commit to something. For anyone on the bard path, it’s excellent advice. If your creative expression isn’t also an expression of your passion then at the very least you need to give that some serious thought.
What drives you and inspires you? What are you passionate about? What lights a fire under you, or in you, or gives you the feeling of inspiration? Does it blaze in your heart or in your head? Or both? What happens when you put that into the world, or let it flow through you to emerge in whatever you’re doing?