Despite the fact that’s what my research is on, I had never experienced it for myself. Not beyond the rehearsals anyway.
Last week, on the 5th of March the Music department of CCCU had an evening of music in the Canterbury Cathedral. The University Choral Society (a.k.a. my choir) also performed. It was my first time inside the cathedral and my first time performing.
It was a very interesting experience. First, I wasn’t nervous at all. Not for myself at least. I did become a bit anxious for the group. I hoped we would do really well. I felt myself part of that group and was no longer thinking in individual terms. Social Psychology has a name for this process: deindividuation. This was a particularly useful group effect. I would not have been able to sing in front of an audience had I been there on my own.
Once we started singing I experienced an intense focus. I was aware of my surroundings, the other singers, the audience, the conductor, the music, my voice… Now that I am listing them it seems like an awful lot to be focusing on! But I felt aware of all that. I was on Flow. I did not feel time but I lived each moment.
As we finished and got off stage I started experiencing what the choir singers who have been kind enough to reply to my questionnaires call “a kind of a high”. I was so high I could have been on some excitatory drug! Excited is the word. My mind was rushing, I felt incredibly happy, proud of what I had just achieved together with my choir (apparently I got my individual identity back at this stage), and when I realized what I had just accomplished I felt like crying (but out of happiness!).
This high lasted for 15 or 20 minutes and when I got to the train I felt incredibly tired, a very deep physical down, not emotional, as if I had exhausted my energy with a very intense exercise.
Experiencing things for yourself may still provide you with subjective evidence but I now feel I understand better what I am looking at. Like my participants, I can now (subjectively) say that a performance is totally different from a rehearsal, that after singing I experience a great feeling of happiness, accomplishment, and a high, and that while singing I am totally focused and aware of my surroundings.
Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle is in my mind lately. We will be performing it in our next concert so maybe that’s why.