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Lockdown Blog 46: Here’s 5 Things I’ve Learnt in The King’s Singers

Hi again!

Hope you’re all keeping happy, healthy, and distant.

I’m in a reflective mood. As I sit in my South London flat on a drizzly day, cold for June, having just had the same cheese and bread lunch that I’ve had for the last 3 months, (What cheeses? Well a selection of Brie and blue cheese, plus the occasional Wensleydale with cranberries since you ask) I’ve been thinking back to what I’ve learnt from life since becoming a King’s Singer.

Here’s a few favourites:

 

  1. How to lightly pack a suitcase

I think I may have totally mastered the art of packing, down to an almost obsessive level. Clothes are carefully planned out taking in to account the weather and the number of days on tour. Toiletries are decanted into miniature pots (all less than 100ml). Crucial point here – socks and underwear are tucked INTO concert shoes, maintaining the shoes shape, whilst simultaneously filling up potential storage space. Kindle instead of reading books. Dispense with any unnecessary items. You won’t miss them. Following these rules I’ve travelled incredibly lightly, and feel very pleased with not having to queue for bag drop or wait for collection!

 

2. Dictatorships are more time-efficient than democracies.

There are many brilliant things about running a chamber ensemble as a democracy. Sadly, quick decision making isn’t one of them. Before joining the King’s Singer I spent a fair few years singing with various of the UK’s great choirs and vocal ensembles. I loved it all. One of the perks was that all I had to do was turn up at the right train station/airport at the right time, then sing the right notes in the rehearsal and concert! What I now realise I was missing out on was the joy of crafting a programme, helping craft the music making in rehearsals, and that feeling of ownership in the performances I was doing. A King’s Singer gets all of these feelings in spades. However what inseparably comes with it is much less time in your day. These processes all take a LOT longer when six people are involved in them all. Much quicker to have a conductor at the front telling you how it’s going to go! It’s worth that sacrifice though, for that moment in a concert when it gets to a musical idea you had, and you see the audience react to it, and you think “yeah…. that was my idea…”

 

3. How to say “hello” and “thank you” in some new languages

I love to try and learn a small amount of the local language wherever we are on tour. Last year I learnt how to say “hello” and “thank you” in:

Russian: Privyet, Spasibah

Albanian: Pershendetye, Falyeminderit

Polish: Chesch, Djenkuye

Romanian: Buna, Multumesc

Hungarian: Seeya (that’s confusing…), Kusunum

Excuse the phonetic spelling. You might think “well he probably just googled those”, and you may well be right. But I did learn them when we were in those countries…

 

4. Grumpy King’s Singer? Just add Guacamole

It happens to all of us at some point on a tour. We’re seemingly irredeemably clouded over. However sensational the view, exquisite the acoustic of the concert hall, or fascinating the town/country/continent, it appears nothing will lift us out of this funk. But wait! What’s this? A small pot of thick green goo, with magical properties! Accompanied by delicious crunchy tortilla chips?! Suddenly the sun has come out, and life might not be so bad after all! Our most productive rehearsals and meetings have ALL been fuelled by Guacamole. The dip of the gods.

 

5. Cultural Clapping etiquettes

This was absolutely fascinating to me. Different countries have totally different clapping rules; I had no idea there were so many different ways to clap! In the same way that dogs often look like their owners, the types of clap seem to reflect the overall identity of the people:

  • US: Straight up on their feet. There’s whooping, whistling, stamping, it’s extrovert and proud of it too.
  • Japan: Politely reserved but sustained applause. Very few swells in volume, but length of applause is key to measuring success.
  • Italy: Much like the US, this is passionate and overt. Expect some resonant “Bravi!” to ring out. There may also be roses chucked at you.
  • Hungary: This was a new one for me. After a period of standard clappery, they start a slow synchronised clap, which gets faster and louder. As it’s about to reach peak velocity, a new slow clap emerges from beneath, and starts to get faster. This creates an effect of wave after wave. It’s like a Hans Zimmer soundtrack.

Thanks for indulging me in a little dig down in to my touring life and observations.

Have a lovely weekend.

Keep singing!

Nick x

 
 
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