The November 2018 issue of Choral Journal contains an article titled “Coming to America: Differences between the UK and US Choral Systems” by Christopher Gabbitas with Simon Carrington and Gabriel Crouch. Below is an excerpt of the article, and you can read it in its entirety in the November 2018 issue! Go to acda.org/choraljournal and click on the November cover image.
For the past fifteen seasons, I have had the privilege of singing as the Second Baritone in The King’s Singers, the British ensemble that has, perhaps in many ways, defined the world of a cappella performance for the past five decades. In 2016, I decided that 2018 would be my final year in the group, for personal and professional reasons.
On the personal side, I found that having a wife and three young daughters and being on the road for over 200 days each year was not a great recipe for success! On a professional note, I felt that fifteen years with the King’s Singers was the right amount of experience to take what I’d learned and apply it elsewhere. In addition, I felt it was good for my professional development to move on. The King’s Singers works collaboratively, with all six members contributing equally (in theory) to both on- and off -stage discussions.
I had picked up so much from my colleagues since I first joined, and once I became the longest-serving singer I felt that I’d gleaned enough to want to direct an ensemble on my own rather than by committee—and also to hand down the knowledge about ensemble singing I’d been fortunate to absorb.
I am often asked what I perceive are the main differences between the UK and US choral systems. I wonder this myself, to be honest, and in fact I am not the only King’s Singer to go down this route: all three long-serving Second Baritones in the group—founder member Simon Carrington, Gabriel Crouch, and now myself—have taken this path. I contacted both Simon and Gabriel and asked them what they found so attractive about American choral education and how they could add value to the system. First, however, I asked them to talk about their personal and professional reasons for leaving The King’s Singers.
Simon Carrington: At some point during the group’s twenty-third year, Alastair Hume and I, the two surviving founder members, decided we would try and make it to the end of the group’s Silver Jubilee year and then step aside, we hoped with voice and dignity still reasonably intact! We were both fifty-one by the time of our 3,000th and last concert on December 13, 1993. That was stretching the limit for used ensemble singers for whom the daily obligation of pinpoint accurate entries on pianissimo high notes was becoming ever more troublesome!
Opera singers can change their Fach and their character roles as they age; ensemble singers have to remain forever youthful. The fact that David Hurley later managed twenty-six years singing on the top of the ensemble, rather than tucked away safely one in from each end, remains a source of wonder and admiration!
Gabriel Crouch: You know, I was so happy in The King’s Singers that, even after completing eight years and turning thirty, I would very gladly have committed to another decade with the group and sung with them until my voice gave out.
But after getting more closely involved in the group’s educational work in my later years, I started to see another career path for myself—the path I’m now on— and I was acutely conscious of just how much there was to learn about conducting, teaching, music making, and leadership before I would be truly ready for that career. As a thirty year-old, I felt still-young enough to learn all these new things, and crucially, as a (then) single man, I could comfort myself with the knowledge that, were I to mess it all up, the only life that would be affected would be my own.
Read the rest of this article in the November 2018 issue of Choral Journal! The Choral Journal is a membership benefit to ACDA members. View membership levels by clicking here or going to https://acda.org/membership.