Myrna’s music, all dressed up
There are two outfits which she has worn at her annual Simply Myrna event which are especially outstanding for singer Dr Myrna Hague. One is black and white, the top made from black lace and her favourite fabric in the rest.
"It is made of antique silk. It is very, very heavy to wear, but it is simply gorgeous," Hague told The Sunday Gleaner.
Then there is a blue, one-shoulder dress. "It looks good on me. You put it on and it just sits on you. It feels wonderful," she said.
Hague has worn the black and white outfit once, but has been more fortunate with the other, getting the chance to wear it again at a concert in Florida, USA.
Her outfits are key to the Simply Myrna experience, Hague wearing most times four outfits during each annual staging in March - and she has been up to five. But once it has been on show, Hague said, she cannot wear that outfit on stage in Jamaica again. If she does wear it ever again, it is overseas.
Hague noted that many of the persons who attend Simply Myrna attend every year and they come not only to hear her sings, but to see what she is going to wear, so a repeat would be quickly picked up. And these are outfits made for the occasion, Hague saying that she could not wear something store-bought, whipped right off the peg.
"The shop that sells it, it is not the only one. There is the chance there is someone in the audience who has it. They may be wearing it, or they may have it at home," Hague said. "If you are wearing something that people can get in any shop, what you are wearing is not special and the magic is broken," Hague said. "You have to bring something authentically magical. They have to say 'I want that'," Hague said.
With Simply Myrna having been staged for seven years, it is now close to 30 outfits - and, of course, there are other performances. Initially Hague's designer was Layne and, after her passing, she now works with two other designers, the process of conceptualising and creating outfits beginning in November.
Working on her wardrobe nearly half a year before Simply Myrna emphasises how important achieving the right look is. "Costuming and how I dress is very, very important," Hague said. "People want to see you as well as hear you. There is a visual importance - it is not to be neglected. No matter how great a singer you are, how you look on stage has an impact on the experience."
She is aware that, on stage, her attire is being sized up "always ... . They are going to judge that as well as how you sing, dance. When you walk out on the stage, however you look is going to have an impact on how they respond to how you sound."
A wardrobe change takes about three minutes, the assistant having everything ready while the band plays, Hague saying that it helps when an outstanding musician such as guitarist Rupert Bent or pianist Marjorie Whylie is there. With all the snappy changes, Hague said she has never had a wardrobe malfunction on stage (a stumble over a low hemline was handled) and this may be due to her getting comfortable in the clothes at home and having adjustments made as necessary before hitting the stage.
Whether it is sitting on a stool, dancing or moving around in the audience, the outfit has to have function as well as form. She recalls a Devon House staging of Simply Myrna, opening with a song from The Phantom of the Opera, a mask adding to the wardrobe effect.
"Sometimes I am going to move a lot and the clothes must be designed to give me ease of movement. If it is going to be dramatic, the clothing may be very formal or complex," Hague said. Lighting is key, Hague saying that she likes to work with people in theatre, who understand the moods proper lighting creates.
Each set of outfits for a staging of Simply Myrna costs about $100,000 and can top out at $150,000, and Hague does not mind the many women who come to her and ask where they can get a dress like one she has worn made.
She explained, though, that it cannot be done exactly the same as people's bodies are different. "You can get to about 75 per cent," Hague said.