Christopher Gabbitas

Christopher Gabbitas

As usual, I greet the start of another season with an incredulous "I can't believe I've been in the group this long!" and this year is no exception. Having joined in February 2004, I'm now approaching my tenth anniversary in The King's Singers, and the position brings me just as much delight and excitement as ever it did - although the touring is tougher now I have two children at home as well as my darling wife, Stephanie, who does more for our little family than I can ever say. I'm blessed, as ever, with wonderful colleagues, too, making the job a pleasure.

 

The wonderful thing about being in this group is the variety. No two days are alike, whether we're touring, recording, in planning meetings or simply engaging in the often mundane tasks that are necessary to running the business off-stage. Last season we recorded four incredibly different albums, ranging from Renaissance music to arrangements of the Great American Songbook, and all to the same high standard. On-stage, we're visiting new continents and countries every season, and the group is really growing its fan-base around the world. It's incredibly gratifying to see how we're becoming stronger as time goes by, rather than fading away, despite celebrating our 45th birthday in May 2013.

 

My favourite part of the job is to revisit places that have become favourite haunts, whether it's a small coffee shop in Tokyo, a Mexican restaurant in Kentucky, or our special Italian restaurant in Torino where the staff greet us with a smile even if we haven't been there for six months. Yes, a lot of life on tour does seem to revolve around finding the next meal, but there are also incredible landscapes (driving through Utah always amazes me) and wonderful, warm people at the end of each journey. Audiences are, if anything, becoming more discerning as to what they'll enjoy, and it's our job to create new and exciting programmes to tempt them into the concert hall. Of those, I think Pater Noster has been my favourite concept programme of the last few seasons, but we have more being developed all the time.

 

My girls are growing up fast, and I'm thankful for modern technology that allows us to Skype and keep in touch when I'm on the road. At home it's always great to sit down with a good bottle of wine (I've become somewhat of a collector over the past few years) and look at pictures and hear stories of life when I was away - then throw myself back into family life with gusto! Stephanie is often very busy with her ballet school and I like to take the opportunity to have the girls to myself, because I know it won't be long before I'm back on the road again. Now that Bella's at school I see her less, but she's started requesting "some of Daddy's music" in the car, so I must be doing something right :)

 

Name: Christopher Gabbitas

Voice: Second baritone

Birthday: Not really relevant….

Joined The King's Singers: February 2004

Composer: G. F. Handel

Concert venue: It varies, but it’s currently the Koerner Hall at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, Canada.

City: Again, it’s very hard to say. Hong Kong and San Francisco are always up there….

Book: Foucault’s Pendulum (Umberto Eco)

Film: Impossible! Three options are…Classic film – The Sting; Modern film – The Shawshank Redemption; Silly film – This is Spinal Tap.

Opera: I don’t really like opera much, but I do think Peter Grimes (Benjamin Britten) and Fidelio (Ludwig van Beethoven) are pretty special.

Musical: Sweeney Todd

Pop artist or band: This is difficult as my iPod playlists are eclectic and often-changing, but three bands I return to regularly are Massive Attack; Apes, Pigs and Spacemen; and Incognito

Newspaper: The Telegraph

Magazine: Private Eye

Three things you'd have on a desert island: A pair of cufflinks given to me by Stephanie, the King James Bible and a pack of cards.

1. Is there anything unexpected you always take with you on tour?

A jar of Marmite.

2. Do you have any special tour routines?

I do brain-gym before concerts.

3. Is there anything on British television that you miss particularly when you're on tour?

Any series that Stephanie and I are into at that point in time! Recently it’s been Downton Abbey, Sherlock Holmes, Glee and The Big Bang Theory.

4. What's your favourite country for food?

Italy.

5. Describe your perfect evening.

Cooking dinner for the family, spending ten minutes in the cellar picking out the perfect bottle to complement the food, eating all together and then curling up in front of a movie.

6. What was your favourite subject at school?

History.

7. What was your least favourite subject at school?

Latin (seriously, what’s the point?!)

8. What do you do to clear your head on tour?

Inhale steam….

9. Tell us something about you that not many people know.

I support the University of Kentucky Wildcats basketball team.

10. Do you have any non-musical ambitions that you are looking to achieve in the near future?

Ski La Vallée Blanche on Mont Blanc.

11. Do you have any phobias?

Eating seafood.

12. If you had a superpower, what would it be?

Being able to breathe underwater so I wouldn’t have to have a scuba tank on my back!

Tea or coffee? Tea

Rugby or football? Rugby

Curry or sushi? Curry

Heat wave or snow? Snow

Blackberry or iPhone? iPhone (of course!)

Night out or night in? It depends….

Starter or dessert? Both, please

Renaissance or contemporary? Renaissance

Shower or bath? Daily shower, weekly bath

Early bird or night owl? These days, with a two-year-old, early bird!

An Interview with Christopher Gabbitas
 
Which musicians do you admire most? 
I've always thought Glenn Gould was an incredible pianist; his recordings of Bach's Goldberg Variations are definitely in my top 10 things to listen to. As far as musicians generally, the way that conductors such as John Eliot Gardiner, Trevor Pinnock and Roger Norrington took the performance of "early music" in new directions by encouraging more authentic performances is wonderful.
 
Do you have a favourite album?
Impossible to pick just one, but on the classical side I love Simon Preston's recording of Handel's Dixit Dominus and Nisi Dominus with assorted soloists, Sibelius' Violin Concerto played by Maxim Vengerov and conducted by Daniel Baremboim and Richafort's Requiem as sung by the Huelgas Emsemble. For non-classical it'd be The Essential Billy Joel, Collected by Massive Attack and at the moment Waking Hour by Vienna Teng.
 
You travel around the world for months  each year and must have seen some fantastic sights.  Which buildings do you love?
The most amazing place I've ever performed has been the Royal Albert Hall, in London. It means so much, being in London and part of one of the greatest music festivals in the world - The Proms. I sang there every Christmas as a child but it never grows old; whenever I stand outside the building it brings back incredible memories. Outside the UK, some highlights have been Amsterdam's Concertgebouw, the Kennedy Centre in Washington DC, and Suntory Hall in Tokyo.
 
What has been your:
 
...most scary performing moment?

Obviously my first concert with the group - that was terrifying! Apart from that, this tour has been scary, taking on Steve's parts and becoming the bass of the group for a tour.
 
… best performing moment

Again, my first concert was an amazing moment; finally being on stage as part of the group and singing with these incredible musicians for the first time. Walking out onstage for the four concerts at the 23,000 seat Conference Center was pretty fantastic, too, although hard to make a personal connection with so many people.
 
… funniest performing moment

Locking Robin in the dressing room in Riga, Latvia, by mistake at the end of the interval. We didn't know where he was and spent 10 minutes waiting for him backstage before I finally remembered what I'd done!  
What are the worst habits of travellers in general?
Talking loudly on mobile phones in airports.... and taking carry-ons onto planes that are too big to fit in the overhead bins meaning nobody else has any space.
 
Which question do you loathe being asked most?
Did you all go to King's College Cambridge? 
 
What are your passions? 
Spending time at home and on holiday with my gorgeous wife, and drooling over nice cars. Oh, and taking trips to France to buy wine and champagne with my friend Craig. No girls allowed. Then drinking the wine with good food (girls most definitely allowed for that part).
 
Best moment in life?
Meeting Stephanie at our concert on 14 November 2004 in Lexington, KY.
 
Worst moment in life?
I've been very fortunate and can't think of anything really terrible that wasn't just part of life.
 
If you were not a King's Singer, what would you like to do professionally?
I'd still be a lawyer in London. 
 
 
Which are your favourite pieces to sing?
Scenes in America Deserta by John McCabe and The House of Winter by Peter Maxwell Davies are two of the best choral compositions we have in our repertoire, and amaze me every time we perform them. On the Renaissance side, I love La Guerre by Clement Janequin, Draw on Sweet Night by John Wilbye and Ave Virgo by Adrian Willaert, and for close harmony, Lazy Bones as arranged by Darryl Runswick great - but I think It's a New World by Harold Arlen, arranged Richard Rodney Bennett, has to come out as my number 1...
 
What kind of music do you like to listen to when you are driving?
I put my iPod on shuffle... so whatever comes up, from renaissance classical to acid jazz. It all has its place, and surprisingly the perfect song comes up pretty often!
 
What colour eyes do you have?
Blue.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Winter in a big log cabin in Colorado so I could ski every day, and summer in the Cotswolds.
 
With a limitless budget and a free schedule what would your dream holiday be and who would you take?
Stephanie and I have always wanted to go to Bora Bora and stay in a private cabin over the water. We could spend our days snorkelling and relaxing.... then head off to Hawaii to look at the volcanoes, and nip across to the Ngora Ngora crater in Tanzania for a safari. After that we could head to Egpyt and a cruise up the Nile to see the Pyramids at Giza, and top it off with a couple of days at the hotel where we spent our honeymoon, the Caesar Augustus on the island of Capri, eating Gelato.
Who would you most like to meet?
If anyone (dead or alive) then I'd love to have met  Winston Churchill. If they have to be alive as of this day, Bill Gates. I want to know how he did it.
 
What would be your greatest performing honour?
The old group performed a private concert for the Royal Family in Windsor Castle and then enjoyed a private dinner with them; to do that again would be the greatest performing honour of any kind I could imagine.
 
Favourite food?
For a night in, Indian takeaway from my local in Greenwich. For a special night out, we're really spoiled in London but there's a fantastic modern European restaurant just across the street from my house called Inside; there's always a great crowd in there and the food and wine list are truly excellent. When we're away we usually look for the nearest Italian restaurant, but when in the US you can't beat a good Mexican.....
 

Best restaurant:      Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons, Oxfordshire/The Ivy, London. Both world-class.

Best hotel:             The Four Seasons, Hong Kong.

Best wine:             1974 Chateaux d'Yquem.

Best tea:                The cup Stephanie makes for me at home when I've been away.
 

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