March 30, 2021

Onwards and upwards

If you’re one of the 3,670 people who signed up to sing with us as part of the Stay At Home Choir ‘Songbird’ project this month, you might have been present with us last week for our final Zoom session. We had a last couple of run-throughs of Nick’s arrangement, as well as singing you a few of our favourite pieces, giving you an inside look at our rehearsal process, and fielding a few of your (hilarious) questions. If you’re not one of those people, then I’ve just brought you up to speed on what we were up to with Stay At Home Choir. We’re hoping to have the finished video collaboration released in June, so stay tuned on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube to see that come out. It promises (as with all Stay At Home’s activity) to be rather beautiful, and for those of you who don’t know Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Songbird’, you’re in for a treat.Perhaps most remarkable about this last Zoom rehearsal was that the six of us were all together! In a world of little heads in pixelated boxes, six heads in one pixelated box feels really quite dramatic. We were together in one place because we have recently instituted a new feature in our rolling KS calendar. This new feature is called ‘Conference’. It could perhaps have been called ‘Retreat’ or ‘Away Days’, but that seems to imply something rather less energised than what we do at Conference. The basic premise is that we ear-mark a few days, 3 times per year, in which we rent a house in the countryside to meet, rehearse, relax, walk, eat and drink together. Once we’re back to the regular pressures of touring life, we hope this will give us the much-needed breathing space to make plans for months and years ahead, to try out new music without the pressure of a concert looming, to think creatively about what collaborations, charitable projects and recordings we want to undertake, and also to reconnect as a bunch of friends in a private environment.Last week was our second of these Conferences, and it was in a little village called Droxford, in Hampshire. We all got COVID tested the day before, to enable a safe few days of working together on a range of things which we couldn’t do via Zoom. Over the three nights, we cooked dinner in pairs: Chris and Johnny made a Mexican feast of chilli, nachos, tortillas and salsa on night 1; Nick and Jules made a wonderful paneer and aubergine curry with rice and naan on night 2; and Eddie and I made a lamb tagine on night 3 (although I hope Victoria isn’t reading this, as Jules is meant to be vegan at the moment…). In the hours that weren’t spent eating, we tried out new close harmony arrangements for ‘The Library’ recording series, we sung through some new English renaissance repertoire for a collaborative album we’re recording next year, we had an audit of all our special projects (charitable and commercial) for the coming few years, we filmed ourselves in front of a green screen for a music video, we begun creative work in earnest on a big new album and touring project which is set for release in 2023-24, we watched through a filmed concert together to analyse how we can improve what we do on stage, we had a group discussion of The KS sound and our vocal strengths and weaknesses, and we did the final Zoom rehearsal for Stay At Home Choir (for full details, see opening sentence of this blog). Perhaps more importantly than all of that productive, creative and industrious stuff, we reconnected with ourselves - as a team, as a set of friends, as a bunch of guys who really enjoy singing and music, and as the custodians of an important British musical institution. In the endless days and weeks sitting on Zoom calls trying to do useful jobs and adapt our work for COVID times, it is all too easy to forget the real essence of our group. Conference gave us a chance to fall back in love with it, and to re-energise ourselves for the future.Well, when I say future, I think I really mean Summer. The immediate future is our Easter holidays! We’re going to take 3 weeks to relax, starting this weekend. It might not seem possible from the outside, but we’ve actually been really busy lately. To make good use of all this time without touring, we’ve driven our energies into a whole range of things behind the scenes which will make us a slicker operation once we’re back on the road. Not many KS line-ups get the chance to do this kind of a spring clean, but we’re trying to be grateful for it and make the most of it.‘Onwards and upwards!’, as Jesus didn’t say, on Easter Sunday morning.