At just gone 11:30pm on a Saturday evening, you won’t often find me sitting at my laptop. That’s going to be particularly true over the next three weeks, when we’re on our annual Easter break, and I’ve scarpered to sunnier climes in India, Sri Lanka and Hong Kong. But tonight we gave the penultimate concert of our first term in this new line-up of King’s Singers, and resting on the edge of my bed here in rural Hessen, my mind started turning over the events of the last three months. What’s happened? How is this year different? What should I be reflecting on while I’m on holiday, before we come back together at the end of this month? Time to write some things down, I thought.
There have been some fairly obvious changes. One, there are two new bodies on stage, different in size, sound, and even smell(!) from their predecessors. When you’ve been used to having the same two people standing within four feet of you for every second of your on-stage life for over eight years, that can sometimes feel like change enough. In our group, where the collective sound is always the priority, quite a lot has to shift just from a vocal perspective when a third of you changes. But we’re also a democratic partnership, so a change in two members can also radically shift the balance in any decision-making process. Decisions that might never have been made before are now commonplace. It’s exciting to be part of a group that’s able to think differently in such a short time-frame, but there are also challenges in changing your behaviour so suddenly after eight seasons of habits becoming ingrained.
Two, my mother’s gone. I won’t say it came as a huge shock when my mother died in January, but I think it’s fair to say that there’s no proper way to prepare for the loss of a parent. I cannot express enough thanks for how brilliantly the other guys (and many of you) supported me in the days and weeks after her death, and I know I’m doing exactly what she wanted by continuing to sing all over the world for wonderful people like you. The strangest thing is the (now-ever-present) paradoxical feeling of she’s-always-there/she’s-never-there. I can’t pick up the phone to her any more, or see her for lunch on one of those even rarer occasions when it’s a Sunday and we’re at home, but somehow I’m more conscious of her being with me all the time – and that’s a really beautiful thing. I know I’ve been particularly mindful, as we’ve been planning (what I think are) some extraordinary projects for next season and beyond, of wanting to capture her beautiful spirit the music we make, and the principles we stand for. I guess I’ll never know exactly what she thinks, but my belief is that we’re not doing too badly.
It’s a strange feeling being (for want of a better word) the pater familias now. The King’s Singers I joined had an average age ten years older than ours is now, and I felt that David, Phil and Paul (as well as Steve, of course, with whom I overlapped while I was “shadowing: the group on tour before I joined) had an air of statesmanship that was completely commensurate with their life- and work-experiences. But at just 32 years old, and not even a decade in, it can be hard to know exactly what I can do to help make this group be the very best it can be. Dictatorship can’t, won’t and shouldn’t work. We are six equals on stage, and so need to act as six, democracy-driven individuals in every aspect of our King’s Singers lives. The best I think I can do, I guess, is to try to help set the tone for this group: to show that we really are strongest when we all try to live by our group’s democratic values, and when we try to understand the fundamentals behind what made The King’s Singers resonate with audiences all over the world in the first place. But perhaps the most salient words in the previous sentence were “I guess”. None of us knows exactly how to do this job “correctly”. But I’m confident that we really are trying our best. When I’m lying in a hammock on the south Sri Lankan coast, just over a week from today, I know I’m going to be thinking about how I can continue to make the greatest difference to this group, to carry forward the amazing legacy we’ve inherited.
I think I said that it was only our penultimate concert of term tonight, so I really should get some rest before we head on tomorrow morning for the last one. But I’ll close by, once again, saying thank you for all the support you’ve showed us, not just generally, but particularly this year. A lot’s happening – and I think a lot of good – and it’s very special to feel supported by so many kind friends and fans all over the world.
For now, have a wonderful Easter, and see you next term.
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