You might think that the life of a King’s Singer is a pretty regimented one. When we’re not locked in our homes by a pandemic, the daily routine often looks like this: wake up early in an unfamiliar room; scavenge what you can from the hotel breakfast buffet; travel to the next destination, either by car, train or plane; find some kind of lunch on the go; check in at a new hotel; arrive at the venue; rehearse; eat again; perform; meet the fans; go to bed. Repeat until the tour is over. But our working lives are full of so much more than just the rhythms of touring, and the way certain things are done have changed drastically over my ten years in the group. Here are five of the most notable differences I’ve witnessed during my time as a King’s Singer.
1. Conversations with our fans are now constant
Instagram launched four days after my first King’s Singers concert in 2010. Twitter was just four years old, and Facebook was still mainly the domain of students. Back then, fan mail regularly still came in the post, and we had only just got our heads around having official King’s Singers email addresses. Conversations between fans online certainly never happened. Instead, we’d get personal messages to which we’d individually reply, and that was that. Now there are Facebook Watch Parties and Zoom catch-ups happening all the time, and fans are constantly commenting on our posts across all our channels. There’s nowhere to hide, which I think is an excellent thing: you have to be your authentic self online, or people are going to find you out very quickly. It also means we can respond much more quickly to what our fans want, which can only be a good thing.
2. Our charitable work is more official and widespread
In 2010, we were just getting ready to launch The King’s Singers Foundation, a UK charity designed to enrich people’s lives through music. Ten years later, we now have The King’s Singers Global Foundation as well, based in the USA, and both charities are working on an amazing set of projects, each with a brilliant set of directors and trustees. In ten years, we’ve organised three composition competitions and a number of large-scale educational initiatives, appointed ambassador choirs, commissioned lots of new music, and brought together all kinds of people from far-flung places in the name of singing together. Today, Foundation meetings are a regular part of our off-stage lives, Foundation events take place regularly every season, and we all agree that it constitutes some of the most fulfilling work we do.
3. Our rider is much more specific (and healthy!)
When I joined, I remember that our dressing rooms were almost always stocked with fizzy drinks, crisps, sandwiches and chocolate. Now I love all of these foods, but carb- and sugar-loading two hours before a concert is almost sure to induce lethargy just as you’re walking on stage. It’s not a good look. Ten years later, the world seems much more acutely aware of the impact different foods have on our bodies, our minds and our energy levels, and that, combined with a number of allergies and intolerances that members of the current group have, means that our food and drink rider couldn’t look more different. There’s now always guacamole and houmous, gluten-free crackers, raw vegetabbles and fruit, and there have been calls to start requesting vegan food as well. We want to be the best entertainers we can when we’re on stage, and are therefore more mindful than ever of the fuel we need to put in our bodies to do so.
4. Our backstage visitors are different
I recall arriving at my first UK show in 2010 to find six children in our green room: Phil’s three daughters, Paul’s two sons, and Chris’ baby, Bella, in her buggy. Everyone (except Tim) was married, and there was always a flurry of activity backstage, with different family picnics being laid out and every kind of bag you could imagine piled in the corner. One by one, each of these colleagues has been succeeded by someone without progeny, so that we’re now a group with no children. Not one. Yes, the dressing rooms are quieter, and there are fewer requests for To kokoraki (to my great relief), but I do look forward to the day when we have our next King’s Singers babies – even if they’re unlikely to be my own….
5. The way I sing has changed enormously
My final observation is a personal one. You might have thought that there’s only one way to sing as a King’s Singer, and once you’ve got it, then that’s that. But joining as a 23 year-old bass meant that my voice was far from its full maturity (I’m still not there yet). As I’ve got older, I’ve started to hear a naturally richer tone quality, which I love to use in the group when I have the chance to do so. It’s more than just about me, though. With five totally different colleagues, I’ve had to adapt the way I produce sound to each of them. We all have. Of course there’s a lot of overlap between how I created bass harmonies with Chris Gabbitas and how I do so with Nick now, and I have to be just as mindful as listening for the countertenors now as I always have been, but this job is a musical game where you have to be on your toes all the time. And I love it. That’s why I’m still here ten years later.
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