My last few months in the KS seemed to have rushed by. We’ve had some great trips in the run-up to my final performances, including Asia in May and the US in July. Around these were some European concerts in many of my favourite places – Florence, Turin, Paris, Budapest, Münich, Salamanca (an absolute favourite city with a stunning central square), London, and Dresden, to name but a few. I very much enjoyed having Pat on some of these trips. I remember my own shadowing concerts very clearly. The first was in Hamburg. I flew there on a chilly November afternoon (after a delay at Heathrow) to meet the group – they had just driven from Berlin, where they’d performed in the Philharmonie. This was very shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and I listened in great excitement as they described the atmosphere in the city. Three months later we were back in Berlin, this time in the Konzerthaus. There was still a border between the two halves of the city, but German citizens were able to cross the border with their identity papers. In the years since I have marvelled at the changes to the city. There is one small section of wall remaining, surrounded by striking new buildings, and immaculately renovated older ones.
Other things have changed over the years. Communication is so much easier. Back in 1992 a crackly three-minute phone call from Tokyo to my Mum to wish her Happy Birthday cost about £60. This year, using FaceTime to my niece’s phone, I was able to chat to the whole family via video link for free. Facebook and Twitter allow easier contact with the group’s supporters, and email speeds up the business of the group, and the contact with the office. I can download my newspaper to my tablet everyday on tour, and I have access to music without having to carry cassettes or CDs. Velvet jackets have been adopted by the group twice, and dropped twice.
My hairline has shifted over the last 26 years, and the colour of my hair has changed. However some things haven’t changed. I still get a buzz from performing with the group. I remember walking away from my first audition, and thinking “Wow! I’ve just sung with The King’s Singers”. At a recent concert in Provo, Utah, I was greatly moved as I stood and sang the encore, ‘Danny Boy’, with the current line-up.
I love those evenings off when all six of us have dinner together. I enjoy meeting people after concerts (although I have to admit that the modern phenomenon of the mobile phone selfie does wear a bit thin at times – Note to Apple, Samsung etc., it would be appreciated if you could shorten the time between the pressing of the button, and the taking of the picture).
So, as I prepare to hand over to Pat, I know there are things I will miss. There are remarkably few I won’t miss – endlessly packing and unpacking a suitcase, and flight delays and cancellations come to mind – but I’m happy with my decision, not least because I think the group is as vibrant as ever, with amazingly talented members, and a great management team beside it.
Mum and Dad wrote this greeting in my Christmas card in December.
Dear David, Happy Christmas, With love Mum and Dad
PS I trust 2016 will bring you another cushy job
… I’m not sure that cushy is quite the right word, but this job has been lots things to me, and I’m certainly hoping for something else to fill my time that makes me feel as contented. I’m aware that in my Dad’s job as a physician he was never applauded at the end of a day’s work. I don’t think he was ever given a bouquet of flowers (he did get lots of bottles of sherry at Christmas, which mostly went to my Mum’s Mum), but he and my Mum never pressurised my sisters and I to follow standard career paths, and I count my blessings every day for the opportunity to become a Cathedral chorister at the age of 8. That undoubtedly started me on the path to the King’s Singers, and to 26 amazing years as a travelling musician.
I’m looking forward to making my own breakfast more often, to sleeping in my own bed most nights, to having a dog (work schedule allowing), and to being seated for the group’s 50th anniversary concert. I also look forward to seeing many of you over the next few months, and also in 2018.
I count myself very lucky to have been able to be a King’s Singer for so long, and I apologise to a generation of high countertenors who have been waiting for me to leave the group.