I remember the day I was first introduced to a book about a child wizard named Harry. I was rehearsing for a concert at Damascus College in Ballarat. Prior to the rehearsal commencing, a group of us were chatting about great books we'd recently read. Accompanist extraordinaire Wendy Rechenberg offered up Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone as a book in which she had delighted.
A story about an eleven year old who goes to wizarding school?
And it holds appeal with an adult audience?
Little did I know that years later, one of most iconic elements of the Harry's new-found world would play a fun and effective role in my singing teaching studio.
It's an all too familiar moment for any singer.
You can see it coming a mile away - that awkward octave leap that scares the pants off you, or the register change in the middle of the verse which feels like the 'grindiest' gear change that ever did grind.
But here's the thing - you managed to get it right once before....maybe twice.
And you fear that you'll never be able to do it again.
Well, here's where Harry's world can help you.
If you have no clues about the above photo, read on (and if you're a self-confessed "Potterhead" like me, you can skip the next paragraph!*).
The Hogwarts Express is the train which takes all students of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy from King's Cross Station in London to the picturesque grounds of Hogwarts. You catch the Hogwarts Express from Platform 9 3/4, and Harry is informed to get to said platform by "walk[ing] straight at the barrier between platforms 9 and 10. Don't stop and don't be scared you'll crash into it. Best do it at a bit of a run if you're nervous".*
It's the last part of Mrs Weasley's advice to Harry which I find very useful to singers.
Don't be scared.
In my mind's eye, I can see Harry running towards the wall: eyes squeezed tight with a look of "oh, please let this be OK" etched across his face.
I can also see the look on his face when he reaches Platform 9 3/4 - pure joy!
Sure, it was basically blind faith that got him there, but hey - IT GOT HIM THERE.
So, when you're facing a "holy heck, not that bit again" in your song, don't stop and don't be scared. You won't risk physical injury to take a breath and give it everything you've got.
Right about now, any "Potterhead" worth their salt is possibly seeing a little hiccough in this approach. Looking forward into Harry's second year experience at King's Cross station in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, events ran a little differently at the barrier.
"Both of them bent low over the handles of their trolleys and walked purposefully towards the barrier, gathering speed. A few feet away from it, they broke into a run and -
Both trolleys hit the barrier and bounced backwards".**
Harry knew how to get through the barrier, and approached the wall with full confidence, knowing and expecting it to give way and let him through.
But the clock had struck eleven, meaning the barrier had resealed and no one could get through.
Sometimes during singing practice or even in a lesson, we have the knowledge that a certain approach to a technical challenge is totally within our ability, and yet, there are times when the elements don't align - what worked for you last time is presently elusive.
But it won't always be so.
Keep returning your mindset to being Harry in first year.
Just give it a go.
Run at it.
Don't be scared.
*Rowling, J.K., Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. London: Bloomsbury, 1997.
**Rowling, JK., Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. London: Bloomsbury, 1998.