Singing sometimes happens under the most bizarre circumstances –says Hannah Northedge
The Banana Gig
My most bizarre gig was being asked to play at a banana themed dinner party where the guests ate banana in some form for every course and wore banana skins on their heads! (The band thought the guests were on drugs). I dressed as Carmen Miranda – a colourful 1940s film star – and wore a very heavy homemade fruit headdress with some real fruit sewn on that kept ungracefully falling right over my face during the performance. Now, I always check my outfit in the mirror at home before the gig and take plenty of safety pins!
The Crazy German Gig
A very enthusiastic client and lively guests from a German company signed a contract for me to play with my band for a three hours, but they just didn’t want the music to stop. There ensued a running battle with the venue staff telling us in no uncertain terms to STOP and client telling us to START again resulting in the director grabbing my microphone and hurling abusive and drunken insults at the crowd and band. I now ensure the client liaises with venue about gig finish times (and I keep my microphone well away from the client!)
I was asked to put a choir together to appear in a concert scene in a major feature film called “The Oxford Murders” and arrived on set to find John Hurt dressed as Guy Fawkes sitting in the “audience”! We were sure we’d be miming to a pre-recorded soundtrack but we were put on the spot and asked to sing the very difficult music live to a hard-to-follow midi backing track. We actually managed to pull this off between stifled fits of laughter and got booked to record the actual soundtrack at Abbey Road Studios! I over prepare now and if I’m told I might be miming, I ask for the music in advance, learn it and expect to sing!
I was booked with my jazz trio for what I was told was a “low key” outdoor performance of background music while visitors strolled around a newly landscaped garden sipping wine and nibbling canapés. The reality couldn’t be more different: on arrival, we were slightly unnerved to realise it was actually a formal sit down concert for a very attentive 700 people! I have now learnt to be prepared for any eventuality and learn my songs and create set lists as if most of my gigs are concerts so that I’m not rattled by any situation. (I got lots of people signed up to buy my CD that day!)
The Pianist Locked in Toilet Gig
I arrived at a very posh house near Hyde Park to perform a sophisticated jazz set and allowed plenty of time to set up and change into my chic gown but as our start time approached I became a little panicked when I couldn’t find my pianist. Gradually, muffled knocking sounds crept into my unconscious. These became louder, sounding like frantic pounding, so I investigated and found him locked in the toilet and ranting I might have to do a solo set! I now always warn the band of start times (repeatedly!) and check on them regularly to ensure that no one is trapped anywhere in the building!
The Choreographed Rat Pack Gig
This rather infuriating gig that started in a sophisticated manner with me duetting with “Frank Sinatra”. Then, I decided to take advantage of the generous stage size by employing subtle choreography. Suddenly, I felt my legs were restricted. One glance down revealed the microphone leads binding my legs together and dangerously wrapped around the legs of a stool about to be dragged into the front row of the audience – every new dance step was making it worse! I now like to check that sound engineers will provide wireless mics when any choreography is involved.
Hannah Northedge is a pop and jazz singer, vocal coach and director of www.voicecity.co.uk. One of her clients is currently supporting the band JLS and performing at the 02 Arena. She’s sung at Ronnie Scott’s, Wireless Festival and Abbey Road Studios. She has just conducted a choir in a film called “POSH” and has coached X Factor finalists and judged Live and Unsigned.