We had a close call the other night with one of the members of my women’s chorus.
It reminded me of the days when I used to direct a children’s choir and always had to designate a couple of parents as ‘catchers’. They’d sit in the front row and keep scanning all the kids as they sang – watching for swaying, or faces suddenly going pale, or eyes that seemed to be looking at nothing.
We saw all these things with our friend at the concert on Tuesday evening. Later, she also reported the tunnel vision, the clamminess and the need for more oxygen that are also associated with being just about to faint. I was wondering why she kept yawning and putting her hand to her face. I’d never ever seen her do that sort of thing in performance before.
One of the other chorus members whisked her out of the very hot theatre where we were performing, and everything was eventually ok. However, as obvious as it was to all of us that she was in difficulty, she kept insisting that she was fine. As she walked off she could barely move her legs. She was definitely not fine. So denial may also be part of the whole symptom package.
Some of the things known to cause fainting in susceptible people are just part of many performances:
Standing still for longer than usual
Dehydration (we generally don’t take water bottles onto the stage)
Stress (the stress of the performance, on top of anything else that may be going on in your
Low blood sugar (sometimes there’s so much rushing, fussing, rehearsing and getting
ready, that we forget to eat)
How do we prevent fainting?
Be well fed and watered before you go onstage. (Especially people who have a history of low blood pressure)
Do some deep breathing to calm yourself. (Breath of Fire https://betterchoirs.wordpress.com/2011/11/21/magic-choral-trick-4/ )
Do what you can to make sure that the venue is a comfortable temperature.
Unlock your knees!
As you sing, or between songs occasionally tighten and relax some of the major muscles – Abs, Thighs, Butt (glutes) and Arms. If you are about to faint, blood tends to pool in the abdomen, so tightening and relaxing these muscles helps to send that blood back up to the head. If these muscles are being used it’s very unlikely that you’ll even start to feel faint. Another reason for lots of active choreography!
If you actually get to the point where you have serious concerns about remaining upright, you should sit down on the risers right away, and put your head down as low as you can get it. Once you get to the clamminess and tunnel vision, it might be too late to get offstage under your own steam. Someone will come to help you. Someone always does.