I’m sitting in a café in Milan, about 300 metres away from the Duomo, four hours before the start of our final concert of 2019. It’s at the Auditorium di Milano, and we’re sharing the stage with the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi and their delightful guest conductor, Jaume Santonja, for the second night in a row. This concert is the last of eighteen in thirty days. They’ve taken us across six countries (France, Romania, Germany, Hungary, Switzerland and Italy) by way of hours of long-distance train journeys, alongside a couple of flights back home in between to make sure our friends and families haven’t totally forgotten what we look like. (Special mention goes to the epic eight-hour train journey between Cluj-Napoca and Budapest about three weeks ago – a snip at only €24 per person!)
And so, in about six hours time, our 2019 touring will be over. One Summer School, more than 100 concerts in over 20 countries, and perhaps most importantly, two new King’s Singers. We all spend so much time together that changing two of us is basically the same as switching out a third of your family, and this year there’s been plenty of adjusting and rebalancing to make sure we’re the best version of The King’s Singers we can be moving forward. (Also, Eddie, Nick, at the end of this year, it’s worth saying again: you have both been amazing additions to this group – thank you!)
For someone who was part of an existing framework for almost a decade, dealing with so much change has at times be a challenge, but I’m going into the Christmas break with a real sense of optimism about what 2020 will bring. I’m incredibly excited for the release of Finding Harmony at the end of January. It’s a project we’ve all worked so hard on, and it’s basically become the mission behind everything the group is doing next year and beyond. (There’s news about it and us that I so want to share with you now, but which we’re sworn to secrecy about until the beginning of next month – so watch this space!) I’m also excited for our first Summer School at Princeton next June, applications for which will also be open at the beginning of next year. It’s very cool when we get to collaborate with King’s Singers of the past, and the fact that our former Second Baritone, Gabriel Crouch, runs choral activity at Princeton, means that we’re able to work together to create something really special.
Then there are a couple of personal things. This Christmas is my first one without my mother. I’m so happy that I’m going to be spending it with my Dad at home, giving thanks for all the good things that have happened this year. But it’ll also be tinged with a sense of nostalgia as we watch some of the festive films and TV shows that defined our Christmases together as a family in the past. Carols at King’s was always a highlight, but it’s the Striclty Come Dancing Christmas Special that became our household staple over the past few years. Please don’t judge us…
And then there’s the big news: now that our touring is done for the year, I can tell you that, on Monday, I’m going into surgery to have a polyp on my right vocal cord removed. I discovered it was there after I experienced some real issues while I was on holiday in Sri Lanka in April, although my doctor believes it might well have been there for some time. While I’ve been able to sing all year, I haven’t been happy with how reliable my voice has been. You all know that our voices are our livelihood in The King’s Singers and so, although there’s a tiny risk that something might go wrong (and by tiny I mean miniscule), the very likely benefits of having a fully-functioning voice again are far more important to me. The surgery itself takes only about half an hour, and I’ll be whisked off home by my father on the same day, so I’ll be very comfortable and well looked after, but I’m certain I’ll never have been through anything quite like it in my life before.
Thankfully we have four full weeks without singing from Monday (which is when my operation is), giving me the perfect amount of time to rehabilitate my vocal cords and prepare for a year full of singing in 2020. What will be interesting is the period of *mandatory five-day silence* that falls directly over Christmas. Those of you who have met me will know that I barely ever stop talking. Thankfully we live in the age of amazing on-demand television, and I’ve already started downloading all the shows I’m going to watch while I can’t talk. (If you have any recommendations, please do send them over – I’ll definitely have time to consider them!) At this point I really should thank the other guys, who have been so supportive in encouraging me going through this procedure, and I cannot wait to emerge on the other side, with our first concerts towards the end of January at the London A Cappella Festival (sharing the stage with The Swingles)!
Now, I should go. It’s an hour until we soundcheck, and I need to walk to the Auditorium (through a little bit of rain), stopping off briefly at this gorgeous gelateria called Ciacco. As someone who’s dairy-intolerant but who’s also (essentially) obsessed with chocolate ice cream, when I’m told of a life-changing gianduia ice cream (gianduia is a sweet chocolate spread containing about 30% hazelnut paste), I have to drop everything I’m doing and hunt it down. Thankfully I already had a scoop on Wednesday, but since this is our last day of touring in 2019, I’ve decided I can treat myself and go for a second time.
As ever, at the end of another year, thank you so much for all your continued support. 2019 has been a lot of fun, but 2020’s going to be even better, I can tell! For now, I’d love to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a very happy new year (I’ll definitely hard it harder to string those words together when I’m waiting to board by 6:50am flight back to London tomorrow morning…).
Over and out. xx
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