Fringe Box



Letter: A Year of Virtual Open Mics

Published on: 5 Apr, 2021
Updated on: 5 Apr, 2021

From Brian Creese

Over the past year we have all found many different things to lean on and help us through the lockdown blues. My safe haven has been singing to my computer.

I have played guitar for most of my life, but mostly only to myself and never in public. In recent years I have got tentatively involved in some local “Open Mics” and have progressed from almost terminal nerves at my first go at Vic Cracknell’s Rowbarge evening to being able to sing some songs with at least a modicum of confidence.

I was even starting to spread my wings and try some new places…. And then lockdown.

A year ago few of us were familiar with the various streaming options. Vic tried some Facebook Live session but they didn’t really take off. Then Lauren Mason, another Rowbarge host, started one on Zoom and it was immediately a great success.

A standard Open Mic is a performance – you stand up and deliver two or three songs to the best of your ability, competing with non-interested drinkers, passing dogs and football on the TV – I have been performing when England have been playing a world cup match on the TV, quite a challenge!

The first change Lauren made with the virtual version was that it became ‘round robin’, each performer playing one song at a time. Attention is focussed on the one song with some chat and discussion before moving to the next guest. It soon became less a performance and more a workshop, with people bringing unfinished songs to the group or songs they struggle to play. Rather than competing for attention, the group became supportive and helpful in moving people on.

Then of course there is the chat function – references, others songs, outrageous jokes are all happening alongside the performing. And we regulars have got to know each other as friends, rather than simply someone you nod to as you sit down with a pint.

I am happy to say, that in my occasional dark periods, Lauren’s Open Mic really lifted the spirits and got me going again.

Of course, I am desperate to perform in front of an audience again (if nervous!), but personally, I have gained enormously from our year of Zooming. It has been a rare social event with a group of people linked purely through playing music, a welcome break from all things Covid and its related stresses.

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