23 October 2016Last updated

Features | People

Beth Burrows: the hotel jazz singer

Beth Burrows, 25, is a professional singer from the UK who performs at hotels and corporate events across Dubai. She is also part of a seasonal girl group called The Christmas Belles

By Colin Drury
2 Feb 2016 | 09:40 am
  • Source:Supplied Image 1 of 2
  • Besides the glamour, Beth says the job involves a lot of discipline and rejection.

    Source:Supplied Image 2 of 2

There are so many people who would love to do your job, Beth. How did you get into it?

I always wanted to be on stage right from when I was a little girl – I honestly can’t remember a time when I wanted to do anything different. After school, I studied English and drama at Bristol University and then went to the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama for a master’s in musical theatre. After that I moved to London, got an agent and did what thousands of other young performers do – spent hours auditioning, occasionally getting minor jobs singing in hotels or smaller parts in panto.

Then, two years ago, I came out to Dubai for a month to do some English tutoring, and I realised what amazing opportunities there were for performers out here. I’ve stayed ever since.

So what kind of places do you sing at? Is it just hotels?

The jobs I do vary constantly. I perform regular slots at a range of hotels and restaurants, including a recent residency at The H Hotel. But I also do one-off bookings at corporate events and special brunches and such. On Christmas I did lots of festive shows as part of a girl group called The Christmas Belles – that’s me and two others. Sometimes I’m a soloist, sometimes I sing with other performers, and sometimes I’m with a full band. I do jazz, pop or lounge depending on what’s required. The fact is that every job – from the setting to the audience to the song list – is different, and I love that variety.

Is it as glamorous as it sounds?

For the time you’re on stage, it is. Dubai is a glamorous place and when you’re performing here, you get treated so well. 
But it’s hard work too. There’s a lot of auditioning and you can get many knock-backs. Plus, offstage you need to make sure you’re in top condition. I go to the gym every morning. Then I’ll spend at least an hour doing vocal exercises. I do some very strange ones too, such as meowing like a cat. I can get a lot of funny looks from the neighbours.

What’s been your favourite show ever?

My old Friday brunch residency with The Swing Revue at Delphine in The H Hotel was awesome. It was such a mixed, friendly crowd, so you were always guaranteed a good time. It’s quite a sophisticated venue so a lot of people take their family when they’re visiting, and that means there is generally someone up for letting their hair down. By the final song everyone was always dancing to old swing songs. It’s great fun!

Other than that, having to do three encores at a solo gig at Scarlett’s in Emirates Towers was very satisfying. Last month, I also had my own cabaret show called Sirens Of The Silver Screen at The Act in the Shangri-La hotel. It was all about Judy Garland, Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe. Absolute fun.

Let me reverse it: what’s been your worst?

Well, New Year’s Eve is normally one of the best gigs of the year, but a few years back I was performing at a hotel in the UK, and they hadn’t promoted the event at all. So, needless to say, it was pretty quiet. On the plus side, I can say I knew each audience member very well by the end.

What’s the key to ensuring people have a great time?

I always try to build up to the dancing songs over the course of the gig, so by the time we reach the end everyone wants to be on their feet. Sometimes you can see people shuffling in their chairs and you can tell they want to get up and move but feel like they need permission or something. In those situations I go down and grab them and dance with them – then everyone else joins in right away. It’s funny how audiences act sometimes.

Do you have a favourite song?

For jazz, I love Cry Me a River as sung by Ella Fitzgerald. For pop I love anything by Sia. She’s such an unconventional artist.

Any tales of nightmare audiences?

The worst audience I’ve ever had was at a corporate awards ceremony in London. 
It was full of bankers and accountants, and they so obviously didn’t want to be there. 
I could have been in the room by myself, they were that quiet.

Any audience that has made you nervous?

The most nervous I’ve ever been was singing for Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. It was just him and two producers watching me when they visited my drama school to audition for a show. I’m afraid I didn’t get that part but it was still inspiring to meet him.

And, finally, any advice for younger readers wanting to follow in your footsteps?

I’d say that discipline is the most important thing. So many talent shows on TV today encourage kids to believe fame and success come easily. That couldn’t be further from the truth. In this industry talent is only half the equation – the rest is self-discipline and work ethic. If you’re lazy or have a bad attitude, people find out very quickly.

By Colin Drury

By Colin Drury