I remember it well. I was seven years old the first time I sang before a group of music critics, a very tough bunch which consisted of my two younger sisters and our best friends. The performance took place in our living room; at least that's where I stood. Since our home lacked a stage, my audience humored me and listened from the dining room nearby. My debut! Such an important event, but what to sing? My repertoire was quite extensive, consisting mainly of songs from musicals, but I wanted to make just the right impression with a particularly dramatic piece. And I knew just the one: the romantic "Love Is A Many Splendored Thing" from the equally romantic movie of the same name.
I had seen snippets of the film late one night when my parents were watching it on television; I should have been asleep in my room, but the haunting strains of the melody called to me. Not long after that, I discovered a 45 in my parents' collection with the title song, and I quickly memorized it. Over and over again, I sang it in front of the long mirror in my room so that I could be sure that my facial expressions conveyed all the emotion of the lyrics. It was quite a project, this self-directed musical theater, the perfect outlet for my dramatic inclinations.
So it was with this song-- the one I had practiced so many times in my best imitation of a coloratura soprano at the Met--that I would delight the assembled crowd of five. I was ready. This was it: the moment when the world, or at least a representative sampling of it, would gasp in amazement at "the voice". I opened my mouth and sang the first line. Before I could begin the second, the sound of hysterical laughter and snickering filled my ears. This wasn't the way it was supposed to happen. I continued singing; the laughter grew louder and the sound of running feet accompanied it. Before I could sing another note, the die was cast: the unappreciative audience stared at me between guffaws, and I quickly exited stage--uh, living room-- left. The discordant laughter continued for another several minutes until, mercifully, I heard the front door slam and the house was quiet.
Dejectedly, I sat on my bed and relived the entire performance, all thirty seconds of it. There was only one conclusion to be made; the fault was mine. I had chosen an uncultured and uncouth audience, and I would not make that mistake again. Only aficianados of good music would be invited for my second concert. I had no idea where to find such a group, but I promised myself that, next time, I would only sing for those who were polished enough to know good singing when they heard it. Now, how to get to Carnegie Hall? :-)