‘How did it go?’ asked my mother-in-law, Emma, after the six of us finished giving a digital presentation at Chorus America Virtual Conference last Thursday. ‘Very well … I think..’ said I, suddenly realising quite how weird it is to speak to hundreds of people but without seeing a single one of their faces and without hearing a single cough, murmur, laugh or sigh.
We were supposed to have been in Miami, where the conference was scheduled to take place. It was supposed to be the beginning of a few weeks in the USA which included this conference speech, our USA Summer School, and a handful of concerts around the States. And boy, are we sad not to be there! We’d been in discussions with Chorus America about giving a presentation ever since reading their wonderful piece of research, called the ‘Chorus Impact Study’. It does what it says on the tin; it attempts to measure the impact that choral singing has on the lives of those who do it, relative to those who don’t. It was one of the first pieces of well-presented, data-driven, recent research that helped support a notion we were developing, through experiences on our tours around the world in 2018-19. Namely, that there was something far more significant and deeply impactful for human beings in choral performances than is often recognised. For health (mental and physical), for societal concord, for cultural exchange and driving positive change, singing together has an extraordinary power which is often overlooked but which should be recognised and harnessed. This — ‘Finding Harmony’ — was the theme of our presentation and of our Summer School, both of which we delivered digitally last week.
And so conveying a message of hope to 450 choral professionals feels – it seems – much less satisfying from behind a screen in your bedroom than it does up there in person. In person, rather than talking into what feels like a black cyber-vacuum, we could have fielded questions, sung songs in real life and tailored our delivery to the mood of the room. Having said this, the comments that were popping up on screen whilst we delivered our presentation were heart-warming and encouraging. I think we conveyed our message well, told our stories engagingly, chose our musical examples well, and I’ll be satisfied even if just one teacher/conductor/composer from the presentation feels newly motivated by our Finding Harmony talk. You can watch it here.
Since then, things have been ticking along nicely. Today we put out our next isolated music video (Blow Away the Morning Dew), in which Nick’s new-found video editing confidence is certainly visible. It’s also a beautifully crafted arrangement which I can’t wait to sing ‘normally’ again. We’ve also started posting some of the phone conversations we’ve been having during lockdown with former King’s Singers. You can see Jules’ catch-up with Bob Chilcott here, and there’ll be more coming. We’ve almost spoken to all our predecessors, but not quite. Keep checking in for these, and sit down (virtually) with the KSers in question and a big cup of coffee, and listen to them natter.
On the home front, I can declare that I’ve now had my first takeaway of lockdown! I campaigned for a Chinese take-out last week, and everyone else kindly indulged me. And ‘indulge’ is the word; I’ve never seen so much shredded duck! To work off a few of those duck pancakes, I’ve also been helping my father-in-law chop down some rather aggressive and oversized rhododendron bushes in the garden — an exercise which made me feel more like an intrepid explorer of the Amazon than a temporarily-out-of-work-countertenor-in-Perthshire.
See you next time!
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