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.

How it all began

Hello everybody and welcome to my blog on my brand new website! My name is Christopher Griksaitis and I’m a 27 year old opera singer from the North East of England. This blog is a way for me to discuss my music. I’d like to talk about my experiences, my new projects as well as the world of opera and auditions.

I can’t begin my blog or my story without a huge thank you to my piano teachers Jackie Brough and Christopher Thompson, who sadly passed away last year, my violin and viola teacher Louise MucKien and, of course, my singing teachers until now, John Forsyth and Gwion Thomas. I have been so lucky to have such wonderful and supportive teachers, who always encouraged me to find my own way to express myself and who really made me so passionate about all forms of music.

Christopher playing aged 11
Me playing piano aged 11

I started piano when I was 5 and I still play it every single day. I’ve always loved to sing as I play but how I started singing professionally was a little bit by chance really. When I was 13, I began playing viola with the Tees Valley Youth Orchestra. We used to go on tour with the Tees Valley Youth Choir but we were always split into 2 separate busses. Fate, however, seemed to have a different plan and on our tour to Spain when I was 16, there was an administrative error and I was accidentally assigned to the choir bus.

I honestly cannot thank that “error” enough. As choirs usually do, they sang every now and again during the journey and I would sing along with them. John Forsyth, the choirmaster who would later become my first singing teacher, came to me to convince me to join the choir. I’d always loved singing and so when we returned from Spain, I joined the Tees Valley Youth Choir.

My first concert as a singer had me learning and performing the incredible Mozart’s Requiem in less than 2 weeks. It felt a bit like being thrown into the deep end but I loved every single second of it and from that moment on, I knew nothing could ever give me the excitement, emotion and exhilaration that singing can. From the first note of the concert right through to the last, I felt I had been transported to another world and it’s a feeling that I still have when I sing on stage.

The rest, as they say, is history. I started singing lessons just a few weeks after joining the choir and my passion and dedication to singing never wavered. I honestly can’t imagine my life without music, being able to pour out all of my emotions through singing and playing.

Of course I have many more stories and experiences to tell and I’d really love to hear your opinions on what I share. I’m always open to and grateful for suggestions and advice but I thought as the first post of the blog, this initial foray into the magical world of singing was the perfect story to tell.