The story behind “Ancora”

Although I have never really thought of myself as a great composer, I have always loved to sit at the piano and improvise anything that pops into my mind. Most of what comes out is usually garbled nonsense, but occasionally inspiration strikes and I hit the record button immediately in the hopes of remembering a chord or melody that captured my imagination in that moment.

That is exactly what happened with my very first official single, “Ancora.” It’s something I came up with on 26th February 2017, just a few weeks after moving country to Berlin. I had just had my very first audition in Germany for Disney’s, “Der Glöckner von Notre Dame” (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) and afterwards, I sat down to play, trying to take my mind off waiting for an answer.

Within just about 5 minutes, the melody popped into my head. It felt like a message of hope and wonder of what was changing in my life. After all, I had just moved to a foreign country, living in a huge capital city, having just auditioned for a dream job and having met one of the most influential and important people in my life. It was all new and exciting, and I was dreaming about what else was waiting for me. In fact, when I saved the rough recording, I named it “Anfang der Träume,” meaning Beginning of Dreams in German.

After that, I pretty much forgot about the recording, and it remained hidden in a folder on my MacBook for over 2 years before I discovered it again. Listening back, I felt every emotion since that moment hit me all at once. As I wrote in an earlier blog post, I almost gave up music because of struggling with a whole number of different things. But this single, rough recording reminded me instantly of how far I have come and the hope and dreams that I still carry with me. This inspired its new name, “Ancora” which means Still in Italian, because I am still dreaming, I am still hopeful and I am still trying to learn Italian!

For this reason, it was only fitting for this to be my first single. I spent some time editing and rewriting the original, refining some parts and writing it all down before it became the recording that it is. It’s a simple idea based on the simple dream we all share of being happy, but for me there are so many more emotions behind it.

The song has given me a new layer of inspiration to carry me even further forward. I’m now hard at work on new projects and recordings and I am still dreaming about everything the future has in store for me.

Listen to “Ancora” on Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, Amazon Music and other streaming services.

Improvising at the piano

Why I wanted to quit music

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted in a while. The truth is, I’ve been struggling a lot with music. No matter what, it’s still my biggest passion in life and I could never live without it, but making a career in music is hard! 

It really demands everything from you; all of your time, dedication and energy. I love learning new music and rehearsing for concerts and performances, but it’s the sability (or lack of) that is almost impossible to deal with sometimes. You have to give it all your energy to find work, and almost all work that you do get are short contracts. So even when you are in a good job at the moment, you are still spending hours hunched over the computer searching for the next jobs.

And that’s not even to mention the rejection. You have to have skin of steel to be able to cope with the overwhelming amount of “Nos” you hear in a music career. Every time you are rejected at an audition, it knocks your self confidence and motivation down a little bit more.

So it has been a constant battle and question I, and many other musicians, have had to face, “Can I cope with the instability of music?” Inevitably, sometimes the demon shouting no can win, and, in fact, this is what has happened over the last few months. To tell the truth, I have had very little motivation to practice or learn new music, and it came down to a point where I have had to seriosuly consider if I carry on with music or simply call it a day.

I started to consider my life without music. Ironically, it was by doing this that I started to regain my motivation and passion to continue. Sure, I have some other hobbies and interests, but nothing at all that can make me feel like I do when I’m performing. I’m sure I could find another career doing something else, but I would always regret leaving behind my true passion.

Ultimately, I realised that I can’t give up on music until I’ve given it absoutely everything I’ve got. I know there is so much more that I can and will try, because in reality, I’m just getting started!

Strike a pose

There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes into being a singer. Quite often we just look at the finished project as we get swept away by the stunning music and powerful stories, but the final show we see is probably only five percent of what we have to do to be able to perform it. An average singer will have to:

  • Have regular coaching and singing lessons
  • Memorise new roles and songs with phonetic pronunciations and translations
  • Do vocal warm ups and physical exercise to keep the voice healthy and improve stamina
  • Audition, rehearse and practice
  • Arrange travel and accommodation for auditions and performances
  • Manage their own taxes and finances
  • Network with other musicians, directors and agents
  • Maintain a website
  • Have regular headshot and photo shootings

That might seem like a long list, but it’s also far from extensive. The truth is being a singer is not just turning up on the night of a show, being a diva and collecting roses that the audience throw on stage. No, being a singer is a calling and you need to be 100% committed to all of the behind-the-scenes work just as much as the singing and performing.

The last two items from my list have had my particular attention over the last few weeks as I was setting up my new website. Even just website maintenance has a whole amount of hidden work that I hadn’t considered, but fortunately I’m also a technology geek so I quite enjoyed building it.

To finish off the look of the website however, I needed a fresh photoshoot and some new headshots. Since I’m currently based in my native North East England area, I went to an excellent photographer, Darren Irwin.

Christopher's headshot session with Darren Irwin
Headshot session with Darren Irwin

Darren is a professional photographer based in Newcastle City Centre and he also used to work as a professional musician so it gave us plenty to talk about. Having a connection with a photographer during a shoot is very important. Headshots play a crucial part in the life of a singer. We use them for concert programmes, websites, social media and showing people who we are. But probably the most important use is for auditions. Headshots are the first thing a casting director will see when we apply for a role so it’s vital to be relaxed, confident and natural.

It had been a while since my last photoshoot so I was more than a little apprehensive but I had absolutely no problem relaxing after we started. Darren was funny and made me feel at home straight away. Despite the fact that there was a camera and lighting boxes directly in my face, I was quickly able to –almost- forget about them. We chatted for the whole time while listening to some background music and the 2 hour shoot flew by.  The result was that I came away with new photos that I feel represent me well and I’m very happy to be sending off to casting directors.

Photoshoots are just one of the hundreds of things we have to do as singers. For some it comes easily but for others, like me, it’s a bit more challenging. It’s far too easy to feel awkward and self-conscious when a camera is in your face, but, like anything else, it’s just a matter of practice. I was able to focus my mind during this shoot and I tried to treat it just like another performance, allowing myself to forget about my surroundings and just be me.