Rehearse and rehearse

“Four weeks, you rehearse and rehearse,
Three weeks and it couldn’t be worse,
One week—will it ever be right?
Then out of the hat, it’s that big first night.”

Hat tip to the ineffable Cole Porter, whose work I’ve loved for decades. I even sang those very words in a long-ago summer production of Kiss Me, Kate! (I played the maid.) So I am no stranger to rehearsal. I’ve even given a speech or two myself, and rehearsed those just as I advise my clients to.

man and a woman rehearsing a dance moveBut this process of rehearsing for my TEDx debut Sunday has been positively excruciating. I wrote the speech in a burst of inspiration back in October, but did I start learning it then? I’m sure you know the answer to that.

I corralled a bunch of colleagues to stay a few minutes after our in-person meeting last week so I could deliver the speech to a live audience. (Fenway has heard it lots but doesn’t offer much feedback.) Did I learn it then? Does two pages count?

For the last week I have been trying to stuff at least one page of text into my head every day. I finally have the whole 6.5 pages in there with less than four days to go. But now instead of spitting out a page or two at a time, I have to rehearse the whole thing, start to finish, however many times I can do it until I bore myself to sleep.

Next up will be finding the right shoes—running through the speech wearing each of the candidates. Then wearing the whole outfit. Then doing it while walking the dog, doing my dishes, walking around my house swinging my arms.

And each time my brain begs me to stop, I offer a silent apology to every client I’ve ever prodded to rehearse their speeches. I’m sorry if your rehearsals are as achingly boring as mine. But I’d rather rehearse myself to tears than step out on that stage and forget what I’m there to say.

I bet you would, too.

Lyrics about Paris — two songs for a Sunday

lyrics about Paris
By Zinneke – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

One of my favorite lyricists, Yip Harburg, wrote a detail-rich song that’s become a classic: “April in Paris.”  Not only had Yip never been to Paris, he’d never left the U.S. of A. He wrote the lyrics based on a close reading of travel brochures.

Yip’s lyrics contain only two details describing Paris. In the verse he writes, “The tang of wine is in the air.” I have no idea what that means.

But in the chorus, an indelible description:

April in Paris
Chestnuts in blossom…

As I understand it, you can see lots of flowers blooming in Paris in  cold, rainy April. But the chestnut trees generally wait for the warmer weather towards May.

Even though it’s not quite an accurate description of Paris, the details of the chestnut trees in blossom captured the imagination of travelers everywhere. Lyrics don’t need to be packed with details to resonate.

Lyrics — Imagination vs. Facts

Contrast this with Cole Porter’s song “I Love Paris.” Unlike Harburg, Porter had actually been to Paris. He could run circles around Harburg with facts about Paris. Do you get a sense of how he felt about it from these lyrics?:

Every time I look down on this timeless town
Whether blue or gray be her skies
Whether loud be her cheers or whether soft be her tears
More and more do I realize that

I love Paris in the springtime
I love Paris in the fall
I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles
I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles

I love Paris every moment
Every moment of the year
I love Paris
Why, oh, why do I love Paris?
Because my love is near.

What does that lyric tell you about Paris? Nothing—except that Cole Porter loves it. Or, since he wrote this for the Broadway musical Can-Can, that the character singing the song loves Paris. But it’s just a list song. A fairly boring and lazy one at that (“drizzles/sizzles”—doesn’t do much for me).

Want to profess your love? For me it’s not in the repetition, it’s in the details. Notice the beauty, describe the beauty. Don’t just wear your sweetheart down with a million I love yous.