Eirini Tornesaki sings with the biggest circus of them all!
Eirini is a classically trained musician who has recorded at Abbey Road. In a VoiceCouncil exclusive, she shares her backstage routines and tells us how hard it is to perform 10 shows a week all around the world!
What obstacles have you had to overcome for your love of singing?
I was born with a cyst on my left vocal cord, which later formed a sulcus. I grew up with constant vocal difficulties, such as limited range, extremely breathy tone, voice breaking during performance, losing my voice easily, absence of ‘head voice’ etc. These challenges caused me a lot of doubt about whether singing was the right thing for me. But something inside me wouldn’t give up. I didn’t know the cause of my problems until I investigated further when I moved to the UK. I had to just come to terms with the limitations and learn how to use my instrument the way it is.
What musical lessons have you learnt since joining Cirque?
Firstly, my technique has improved a lot. During the creation period of the show, I trained daily with a vocal coach for 2 hours, for about 3 months. My coach helped me strengthen my voice, gain stamina and work on the weaker parts of my voice. Since I joined Cirque, my rhythm and focus has improved as I need to simultaneously focus on my singing and the counting of my band leader depending on the action on stage. On top of that I started becoming more and more comfortable on stage, experimenting with acting skills and interaction with both the audience and my colleagues on stage.
How do you take care of your voice when doing so many shows?
Performing so many shows does indeed require discipline and some small sacrifices. Firstly, I warm up every show day, for 30 minutes. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink alcohol during the city run (7-10 weeks), I use a humidifier if my room is dry, I steam my vocal cords usually after two subsequent show days. I do ‘nasal showers’ (with a Neti Pot) to eliminate mucus and allergies, I try to sleep for 8.5 hours and drink 3 litres of water daily. I don’t eat dairy products before a show because they can cause mucus, I rarely go to bars or loud places where I could tire my voice and I try not to talk too much or sing on my day off (Monday). I know it sounds like a lot, but the joyful feeling of achievement when I finish a 10 show week with a healthy voice is incomparable, and it’s worth all the effort.
What are your top tips for a successful audition?
An audition is like a gig, just with added stress. It’s important to be so familiar with the material that you don’t even have to think about it. If there is a note you are not sure about, rehearse it a million times… If there is a lyric you think you may forget, just repeat it until you’re on autopilot. Make sure you are not hungry during the audition, but also not too full. Be very well warmed up. And the biggest cliché, but number 1 tip, be yourself! This is especially true with Cirque as they want to know your personality, hear your style and what you could bring to their shows.
How do you stay mentally focused when doing a long run of shows?
During a long run, our artistic director tells us pace ourselves. I distribute my energy equally to each show and find a balance. Of course it gets harder and harder as the weeks go by, so it’s important to take care of my physical and mental health. I practice yoga, maintain a healthy diet and do things that I enjoy.
Do you have a backstage ritual before or after the show?
There is a lot to get done before the show! My preparation takes 3 hours including make-up, warm-up, sound check, hair etc. I try to do everything without rushing. My ritual right before the show is to take a couple of big breaths, understand what kind of mood I am in, and if it’s bad I try to break a smile at my colleagues and lighten up and wish them a good show. We show each other compassion and encouragement.
What’s the best and worst thing about touring?
The best thing is that you never get bored! Every 2 months we are in a new city that we can explore. We live in a new apartment and meet new people. The worst thing is as soon as you feel at home you have to pack your whole life again in a couple of suitcases and leave. Sometimes I don’t even bother unpacking certain things!
Tell us about your biggest performance fail
I think by performing multiple shows every week, I have failures and successes almost every day. For example, there have been 2 times that my voice broke during an a cappella part! You know, when nothing comes out but a squeaky sound… a cappella…
Do you ever get star struck?
Not too often, but I got star struck by Christina Aguilera when she came to watch our show and came to meet us backstage! I was nervous before the show, just because I knew she was there watching.
A motto that inspires you:
The famous quote by Paulo Coelho:
When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.
Eirini was born on Crete, Greece. She graduated from BIMM Brighton in 2012, she sings a variety of styles including soul, pop, latin, jazz and performs internationally. She has been the singer of ‘Kurios’ by Cirque du Soleil since 2014, currently touring the USA.