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?
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?
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?
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?
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!
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.
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.
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!
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
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.
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.
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.