An actor's life: "our respective skills are ingrained in our muscle memory"

Nicholas Pound is a professional actor/singer who has performed in theatre for over 35 years.

Saturday, 4th September 2021, 7:05 am
Nicholas Pound
Nicholas Pound

He has played leading roles in Les Miserables, The Rocky Horror Show, Chess, Evita, Notre Dame de Paris and Man of La Mancha.

He has had a long association with the role of Old Deuteronomy in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats. He moved to Old Town in Eastbourne 5 years ago, having lived in Spain for 9 years where he was the founder of vocal harmony group Tres Divos and hosted his own weekly radio show The Sound of Musicals on Talk Radio Europe.

Nicholas shares his thoughts....

"I’ve really got into tennis again this year. I’ve been a spasmodic player over the years, at best, but, always a keen follower. Since moving to Eastbourne 5 years ago, the buzz around our local tennis tournament is now a satisfying starter to the main course of Wimbledon. But this year, I indulged in an appetiser of Queens and before that, an amuse-bouche of The French Open. I particularly savoured the matches of Matteo Berrettini (nicknamed ‘The Italian Stallion’ in my household), victor at Queens and runner-up at Wimbledon.

"Watching tennis always inspires me to head back onto the court myself, and I’ve had an enjoyable weekly knockabout on the public courts at Hampden Park with my sister-in-law. Frustratingly, I’ve yet to take a set from her – she is an accomplished and very competitive sportswoman, having toured the world playing cricket for the England Women’s team back in the 90s. I’m always a gracious loser, even if she is sometimes a very smug winner. There, I’ve said it!

"I’ve never had a tennis lesson in my life. I’ve always played by instinct, observation and mostly imitation. The afore-mentioned Berrettini was my muse this year, even wearing my tennis cap backwards, like the handsome Italian does, in the hope that some of his talent may magically rub off by copying his style – sadly, a fool’s errand. So, I decided to take the plunge and book some lessons. I’m pleased to report that my game improved after my first lesson. Darren, my coach, corrected some bad habits and showed me basic techniques which I’d never learned or appreciated. There’s lots to think about, many pieces of the jigsaw to put together at the same time, but it all makes sense. Like many solo sports, tennis is very much a mind game. I just need lots of practice now.

"As Darren and I discussed various players’ different techniques, I recognised a correlation between professional sportspeople and professional singers. We all perform our chosen activity naturally, instinctively and without having to think too much, because we’ve had years of practice, and the basic techniques of our respective skills are ingrained in our muscle memory.

"When I open my mouth to sing, I don’t have to think about putting all the pieces of the jigsaw together each time. The building blocks have been there for years and my body & memory automatically tap into them. Sometimes, with a cough or cold (like an injury for an athlete), you have to dig deep and alter your technique to accommodate your temporary weakness, but the majority of the time it’s pure instinct.

"I’ve had very few singing lessons in my life. I had the strong foundation of choral singing in church and school choirs and brilliant music teachers who drilled breathing technique into us from an early age. But, like tennis, the development of my singing voice came mostly through imitation. As a teenager I would try to perfect the styles and tones of Nat King Cole, Stevie Wonder, Matt Munro and particularly, Barbra Streisand, until they became second nature. I always marvelled at how Streisand sustained the last note of ‘Evergreen’ and would practice using my lungs and diaphragm in such a way as to achieve the same result…..and eventually holding the note for longer.

"My tennis game still needs years of work before it feels unthinkingly natural and not a mind-jumble of jigsaw building. Until then I’ll have to accept that on court I’m more Pavarotti than Berrettini."