December 24, 2020

A Christmas like no other

Well, this Christmas is certainly going to be a different one. At the end of November things weren't looking too rosy. Our Iceland dates had been cancelled and the US tour was about to be as well. We were heading for a fairly bleak Christmas, musically speaking (and that was before the recent Govt lockdown announcements). What a difference a few weeks makes.

Like with much of 2020, things have moved quickly and sometimes that's caught us off-guard. Other times we've been better-placed to ride out the oncoming storm. One thing that we were not expecting was to be asked at 48 hours notice whether or not we might be able to step in at the last minute and record both the Easter Broadcast and the service of Nine Lessons and Carols with the Choristers of King's College Chapel. Still hasn't sunk in. Won't until we watch it along with millions of others around the world today...

As a little boy I used to watch the televised broadcast and marvel at the seeming lack of nerves on display as the appointed treble sang the opening solo of Once in Royal David's City. It was, after all, that very service at the once-standing ChristChurch Cathedral, back in 1994, that I knew I wanted to be in that choir. It's such an important occasion and it was an almost otherworldly experience to be standing in King's College Chapel listening to the young soloist recording that with whole BBC production in full flow. Still pinching myself!

The day after filming finished Jules and I were in London rehearsing with Tenebrae Choir. Nigel Short's world-renowned ensemble really is a class outfit and it was such a joy to perform with them for the first time in a broadcast from Wigmore Hall. I've long been an admirer so it was really lovely to be asked to sing with them. You can watch it back here.

Had a day's rest and then it was down and across to Wells Cathedral School to spend four days recording our next Christmas Album at Cedars Hall. We'd brought the recording forward from January when December was looking empty. Had our first experience of virtual language coaching with Catrin Johnsson and Jonas Rasmussen. It's a terrific place to record as it's very quiet once all the students have left and there's plenty of good food and beverages nearby!

Got back fairly late on the Sunday night and had most of Monday just resting on the couch before driving 3+ hours to Suffolk. The next day we finished with a bang, singing two gigs to a LIVE AUDIENCE at Snape Maltings. *Such* a joy to perform to people with a pulse! Each socially-distanced hour-long performance was to around 200 people who were so generous. When they found out we were performing only our second day of live concerts since March, they showed even more appreciation which was very touching.

As if you haven't heard enough of us online, be it concert giving or box-head videos, we had the final instalment of our Digital Tour on the IDAGIO platform. If you haven't yet seen it, then do check it out. It was filmed in John Rutter's church and it's a lovely programme. Here's the link.

On the way back from Aldeburgh, Nick and his partner Rosie and I went for a walk along Denwich Beach. There's something magic about looking out at the sea and letting your thoughts wander, without barriers. It's certainly been one of those years to reflect on events and we've had no shortage of opportunities to be in our own mind palaces...or prisons, depending on how you've found things. It's important to acknowledge that for many people it's been hard to have any sense of optimism. If it's not COVID then it's Brexit, or any numbers of elections around the world. I'm extraordinarily grateful to have the colleagues I do. We're good mates, which helps, and we care about each other a great deal. At any point in the past nine months, there's always been at least one of us to pick each other up and put a virtual arm around the shoulder.

Looking back to March 9th, landing back in the UK after a very successful US tour, I genuinely had no inkling of just how much of the year would be cancelled. As a team, we've pulled together beautifully and found new ways to engage with each other, our fans and also in an educational capacity with increasing online teaching. 2021 will hopefully pick up where we've left off and surely it can't be any worse??!!!

I hope this Christmas is an opportunity to let those people in our lives, whom we hold dear, know just how important they are to us. It may be in person, it likely won't be. But there's never been a more important moment to share how we really feel with those we love. After what 2020 has been, I'm genuinely hopeful for 2021. I'm optimistic to find more ways to achieve post-traumatic growth and with the help of five of my best mates, I can't wait to share some more joy with you all, doing what we do best: performing.

To all my family and friends in NZ, you lucky sausages! Enjoy a Christmas free from community transmissions, and I can't wait to be able to return at some point! For all my family and friends in the UK, and further afield, hang in there. The greatest silver lining for me in 2020 was spending so much time with Liz. I couldn't have foreseen it and whilst I've missed singing regularly, hand on hand, I wouldn't take away the time we've had together. At some point 'normal' service will resume and with it a raft of new emotions, both joyous and tinged with sadness at not being able to see each other on a daily basis. When that time comes, we'll cross that bridge. In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy creating new memories and having our first ever Christmas with just the two of us.

Be good, be kind, be careful.