Joy Barnum used to worry over every element of her shows – from her voice, to her dress, to her hair.
For this week’s concerts, she has changed her focus.
“My goal will be to have fun. This is what I love doing and I don’t want to just love it when I am done. I want to enjoy it like everyone else is enjoying it,” said the singer, who is back on stage after a three-year battle with breast cancer.
“There is nothing like a near-death experience to change how you look at things.”
She will perform on Thursday and Saturday as part of the Bermuda Festival, something that has always been a dream.
“When I was younger, I would pass City Hall and see people going inside for Bermuda Festival performances,” she said. “I would say, ‘One day they are going to ask me to perform there.’ Everyone else would say, ‘Oh, why don’t you go to the United States to sing?’ But my biggest dream was not walking down the red carpet in Hollywood it was my own island recognising me.”
Her wish first came true in February 2020 when she was asked to open for the Four Phantoms Quartet.
Although it “was a fantastic experience”, Ms Barnum is thrilled to be the featured act this time around. Her show, Stand Up, will see Dwight Hart, Kent Hayward, Charo Hollis, Cindy Smith, Quinn Outerbridge, Rajai Denbrook, Lloyd Holder and the Bermuda Institute Inspirational Choir join her on stage.
She sang in the Inspirational Choir herself as a teenager, under directors Owen Simons and Marvin Pitcher.
“Owen will be directing the choir in this show,” she said. “Marvin will be on piano. Owen was a teenager when he started the choir. It was his passion.”
Ms Barnum is particularly proud to have Quinn Outerbridge performing with her.
“She is 21 and just finished Up with People,” she said. “She is working on her own album. I gave her voice lessons when she was really young, but I did not give her any of her talent. I just taught her everything I knew.”
Ms Barnum is a professionally trained opera singer with a degree in vocal performance/pedagogy. On Thursday and Saturday she will draw on a wide range of music – opera, big band, jazz, grunge and reggae.
One of the songs she will sing, All by Myself by Jah Cure, is especially important to her. The lyrics include the line: ‘You don’t have to believe me, only God can judge me.’
“It was the one song I listened to when people kept telling me there was nothing wrong with me,” said Ms Barnum, explaining how doctors here dismissed her concerns in 2020 about the bleeding in her left breast until Brigham & Women’s Hospital diagnosed stage one cancer.
“I would sing it and feel better.”
While recovering from surgery she wrote Gold, a song honouring Dame Flora Duffy’s Olympic win. Ms Barnum was then invited to sing it at a concert held as Bermuda celebrated Flora Duffy Day last October.
“We had to do the song in one take, because I could not sing for more than two minutes,” she said.
With her illness in mind, she sometimes gets a bit teary-eyed during performances.
“I am going to be wearing four different dresses during the show,” she said. “Rene Hill is going to make a handkerchief to match each dress so that when I cry on stage, I won’t mess up my make-up.”
Adding to her health pressures in recent years, Ms Barnum lost the three jobs she was holding down as the companies made staff redundant because of the challenges of the pandemic.
At the time it was very stressful, but the singer now recognises that it was a great opportunity. Financial backing came through from local supporters and as the summer tourism season heats up, gigs are falling into place.
A few weeks ago, she launched a new band with Stefan Furbert, Raymond George and Dino Richie. Since Last Wednesday will perform on June 11 at a fundraiser for the Bermuda National Trust. In August, Ms Barnum starts a Saturday night music series at Daylesford Theatre.
“All I do is sing now, and that is all I have ever wanted to do,” she said.