Repetition is the key

I spent a week recently in my former stamping grounds, Grand Cayman, doing a spot in the annual stage show, Rundown, which I started there 25 years ago. I performed with Jeff Japal, long-time Tradewinds keyboardist, and a Caymanian, Daniel Augustine, subbing for regular drummer Clive Rosteing, who was ill. The show’s director, Henry Muttoo, basically inserted my spot into the script of the show, and I did a mix of material with some of my Caribbean songs and a couple I had written about Cayman. However one of the Cayman songs was a brand new piece which I had not memorized completely.  I solved that problem by frankly telling the audience in plain English, “I just finished writing this song last week and I don’t know it, so if I mess up (I waved a printed copy of the lyrics) you all will understand.”  I got through the song only having to consult my paper once, the audience laughed, and it turned out to be a magical session – me and my long-time Caymanian friends, and my music.  One of the other cast members mentioned to Henry afterward, “Boy, Dave is so at ease on stage, eh!” and Brother Muttoo, a veteran in the business, quietly said, “Yeah, but he’s been doing that for 60 years you know; you’re looking at a lot of experience.”

A one-time acclaimed stage actor himself, with the popular Guyana ALL AH WE theatre shows, Henry knew what all seasoned theatre performers know; that every exhibition of ease and relaxation in front of an audience is the result of having set foot on stage hundreds, if not thousands of times, doing material over and over, in varying conditions, so that the performer has seen every situation, every eventuality, and is therefore totally at ease on stage, which is what the young actor noticed.

Henry’s point, not often cited by the general public, is a critical one for all performers in the public eye, individually or in groups.  The polished and smooth performances that go off without a hitch are always the result of having done the presentation repeatedly.  I often tell people that, although we weren’t frontally aware of it at the time, Tradewinds developed into a tight band from playing in nightspots in Toronto, from 1966, six nights a week, all year round, except when we were travelling in the Caribbean or doing weekend gigs across North America. Do the math. ….