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June 2019
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2005-12-06 Tackling heating and Air Supply

As if being dragged from the depths of the most comfortable sleep wasn't enough, a magical dream of my own private Utopia had come to an abrupt end.


The digital alarm by my Marriott bed said 5.25. As often annoyingly happens, I had woken naturally, five minutes before the rude buzzer jolted me upright. Getting up when it's dark outside is rarely a pleasant experience, but as a performer, it goes with the territory.


A hot power-shower made it seem a little more like morning. The lobby-call was 6am. All the passengers in the people-carrier were more muted than usual; it was too early in the day for the wacky immature behaviour normally associated with being `on the road'.


My wise singing teacher always advised me not to talk too much on journeys, also warning against the perils of air-conditioning - the singer's arch enemy. Drink lots of water, don't tire your voice (especially on long flights where germ-filled air is recycled), and beware of the drying effects of hotel-room air-conditioning/ heating.


Some singers even turn the heating on and fill an ice-bucket with water, in order to moisten the air. The glamorous Canadian Television morning-TV personalities looked like they had been up for hours. They had. Now it was time to commence the urgent task of `search for a voice'. If your body is asleep, your voice is asleep. It wasn't any old croony voice I needed, it was a full-throated tenor voice which, in an hour's time was going to miraculously ping out 14 Top Cs to the millions of viewers of Canada AM.


On many occasions I have sung in my hotel room, but with a folded towel or pillow over my mouth, in order to muffle the sound, and not to disturb my hotel neighbours. Yes, I realise this sounds weird and eccentric, but it works.

On this occasion I opted instead for the resonant, tiled and rather flattering acoustic of the CTV washrooms . Ideally, I try to warm-up to a tone or two above the performance's highest note. If I have to sing Top Cs, then I need to vocalise to a D or an Eb. That way, I know my C is secure.


A few days previously we had performed "All out of Love" with Air Supply in Vegas. Now we had to do it on our own, before breakfast. At the 6.45am sound-check I heard my voice speaking to me: "Ok, last night was fine, but you gotta be kiddin' me, you want me to do what?


I am barely awake, and you want 14 of my finest Top Cs, and a sustained High B - the `Nessun Dorma' money-note - Yeah right! Come back to me after lunch, and maybe, just maybe, we can negotiate." No muesli or fresh fruit on offer, but after a greasy breakfast roll and coffee on tap, I was feeling more awake. So was my voice. A chatty make-up lady made my face look brighter, more awake and at least ten weeks younger. The live performance went surprisingly well.


We left the TV studios at 10am, needing to be back in Toronto for an 11 o'clock sound-check at First Canadian Place where we were promoting our new album on the Telarc label, with a big public showcase, followed by a photo-shoot and album-signing session, all conveniently situated just outside one of the main branches of HMV. A colourful selection of canapés and juices provided a welcome brunch.


In the evening we were to supply the acoustic (no microphones) after-dinner entertainment, in Downtown Toronto. The dinner was in honour of an influential Scottish-Canadian family who had made the largest ever single private donation ($25million) to St Margaret's Cancer Research Hospital. Having lost my own mum to cancer, I will always find cancer charity events very emotional. It was a late night, and a long day, and we had another early-morning lobby-call, followed by a long drive to Northern Ontario, in order to resume our normal `gig-a-day' touring schedule.


Eleven concerts in eleven different cities in eleven days, before we had a day-off. For those of you who wrote to me and asked me to describe a typical day in the life of a touring tenor, I hope this helps.


Now if you'll forgive me, I need to go and find out what happened in the end of that dream.