As the singer who was the group's "baby" for his first five years, I am now very surprised to be starting 2012 as the third-longest-standing member of the KS! We have had a real injection of fresh talent over the past three seasons and, despite missing the experience and wisdom of my former colleagues, it's incredibly exciting to be part of the group as we enter the next phase of its life.
Biographies often focus on a singer's upbringing, academic and musical achievements and so on, but I've always felt that those things are pretty irrelevant once you've achieved recognition as a performer so I'm not going to talk about those things (except to say, in case you're interested, Uppingham, Cambridge, Oxford, Temple Church). Instead, I'm going to tell you a bit about what makes this job so special to me: singing concerts and meeting people who share our love of music.
That might sound pretty obvious, but we are often in conversations with people who say how wonderful it must be to travel the world, flying here, there and everywhere and staying in nice hotels, and that's all very well, but in reality you spend 22 hours each day living for the 2 hours you're up on stage, doing what you love to do best. The repertoire is seemingly endless - from Machaut Masses to commissions yet to be performed by some of today's very best composers - and there's always a new project in the pipeline. My favourite style will, I suspect, always be the Renaissance motet.
In my previous job, as a lawyer, I got used to a relatively formulaic lifestyle of commuting, wrestling with (and hopefully solving!) often complex issues and problems, but all within a fairly rigid structure. I'm not knocking it - it was a great job and I enjoyed it - but my life is nothing if not diverse and fulfilling, now. Recent highlights include a concert at the wonderful Esplanade in Singapore, another at the new Helsinki Concert Hall, and planning our forthcoming American Songbook album. All time highlights? My first concert in Bordeaux Opera House (to which we returned in January 2012, almost 8 years and 1,000 concerts since my first performance!), walking out onstage with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to sing for 100,000 people in 4 days, and the 40th anniversary celebrations.
What we try to do in the KS is to inspire, entertain and educate our friends and followers as to the benefits of choral music and singing in general. I couldn't ask for a better way to spend my life, nor a better group of colleagues with whom to achieve those aims. More important than that, I couldn't do any of it without the unerring support of my wife Stephanie, nor the energy and inspiration of our daughter Bella. Now that we live out in Sussex I can even indulge my interests a bit more - building up my cellar, playing a spot of cricket for the village team, and tramping across the fields with family in tow, in search of a good pub lunch!
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.