A terrible cold, what saved me

Pin-VTT-A terrible cold
December is the busiest time of year for me. Beside teaching my students I also have to sing a lot of concerts myself. Last december was no exeption. Unfortunately I had two terrible colds in four weeks. The first cold evolved into a bronchitis and I struggled to sing the first Christmas Concert of the year. The second cold almost ruined another two more concerts but I found something that saved me!

On a monday morning, a started sniffing and sneezing. At first I thought it would be a minor cold but late afternoon I developed a fever, not very high, but still. The next day I stayed in bed sniffing, sneezing, and developing shortness of breath. Now this last symptom always scares me. As a child I suffered from bronchitis many times and it was hellish; extreme shortness of breath, my voice was gone (and I loved singing so much!), just feeling miserable.

During this cold the first symptoms of a bronchitis started to develop. As soon as I felt it, I took a mucolytic called Bromhexine. It helps not only to get rid of mucus but it also prevents the bronchitis to develop to its worst level. Unfortunately, two weeks later, a caught a cold again. During the rehearsals for a concert where I would sing the soprano solo in Saint Saëns’ Christmas Oratorio (with high b’s and a high c!) I wasn’t able to hit the high notes! With only a few days left before singing the concert I was looking for a remedy that would really work!

Many singers say ginger tea helps them a lot to get rid of a cold. So I started drinking this tea. Although I liked the tea, it gave me coughing fits and my teeth stained so much my dentist had to remove the brownish stains…so I decided to let go of the ginger tea.

I also took Bromhexine, the mucolytic I use to prevent a cold to turn into a bronchitis. Bromhexine works, as long as you start taking it soon enough. I did and it worked but my vocal folds were still swollen and my voice still didn’t sound like it normally does and my highest notes were not there…

I did my vocal exercises like singing on the vvv-sound and also started Lax Vox therapy. Lax Vox therapy is a great way to help your vocal cords to relax and diminish the swelling. But there is a downside to this therapy, I discovered…

Lax Vox is supposed to diminish swelling of the vocal cords by ‘massaging’ the vocal cords by bubbling with a straw in a bottle of water. But, as I was ‘bubbling’ I had to throw up! The bubbling made me nauseous because of the huge amounts of mucus  in my throat and my nose. It was terrible! So I quit the therapy immediately! This happened at 2 pm, and that night I had the concert with the high b’s and high c’s…I stopped singing after I had to vomit and accepted that I might not be able to sing that night. I had one thing left that could save the day…

That night, I decided to allow my voice to be ill, I did not force it to sound better than it could and I concentrated on the one thing I felt would help my voice to sing as good as possible: vocal technique. I did not force my voice, did not push the tone, kept everything relaxed and payed extra attention to breath support. I focussed on feeling the muscles in my back engaging while singing and allowing my abdomen to breathe and work freely. Because of the breath support I was able to sing everything, including the high b’s and that high c!

After the concert, something extraordinary happened. Now there are always people in the audience who tell me they love my voice, etc. But this time there were so many people telling me I sang so beautifully…now how is that possible? This experience turned out to be a great lesson for me, because when you allow yourself to just be you, even when you are ill, people will always recognise your authenticity. And that is what an audience wants to experience: authenticity. And breath support ;)