My April in… Singing?

Yeah, not a huge amount of gaming done outside Newcastle Gamers sessions this month. There was an excellent evening towards the end of the month when I finally got to play Bruxelles 1893 with John Sh. He’s been saying for years (or at least the 18 months or so since it came out) that it’s my sort of game, and he was spot on. Lots of things to do, a clear sense of progress and (literally) building towards the end-game, relatively simple rules underlying a complex set of interactions… yeah, that’s the stuff. Great game (with the bonus of beautiful artwork and design) and I won by a single point in a two-player game, so it’s clearly tightly designed and well balanced.

We also played Roll for the Galaxy, which had been a slightly unusual purchase for me in that it has 111 dice. I tend to prefer games with fewer dice than that – typically 111 fewer dice, in fact – but I knew there were plenty of ways to mitigate the rolls and do the things you need to do. The components are lovely, from the custom dice and bespoke dice cups to the thick, chunky tiles that make up the space empire you’re building. The game itself was quick and enjoyable; it’s a bit multiplayer-solitaire-ish, but I’ll forgive that in a short game. We also managed to fit in my first game of Red7, which was baffling and fun in that way that only Carl Chudyk seems to be able to pull off.

Apart from that one evening (and a few failed solo attempts – yet again – at the first scenario in Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island), I’ve mainly been spending the month singing. I used to do a lot of choral singing; indeed, I was a member of the National Youth Choir of Great Britain some 15 years ago and sang regularly with a local-ish choir until about 10 years ago, when life, work and geography started getting in the way of rehearsals. I’ve always kept an eye out for local choirs I might be interested in joining, but nothing’s ever managed to fit the bill. I don’t want to sound arrogant or pretentious, but once you’ve toured the world singing some of the most beautiful and complex choral music ever written with the most talented young singers in the country… singing a medley from Cats to a half-empty church hall in rural Northumberland doesn’t really do it for you. I need a challenge.

And when you’ve had a decade off singing, it stops being a “thing you do”, so people don’t know that you do it. Eventually you’re not even sure if you can do it any more.

Well, I found myself talking to a local singing teacher a few weeks ago, and mentioned my choral past. It wasn’t long before she asked me to do a little small-group singing… and then the floodgates opened. Relatively speaking, anyway. So now I’m working on some madrigals (my favourite singing thing – there’s nothing quite like one voice to a part singing Elizabethan secular songs) and some alto–tenor duets, all slated for performance some time in the late summer. I’m even working on this (maybe for performance this year, maybe next year), which is really exciting because I’ve never done anything like it:

(In case you’re wondering, I’m a tenor, so I’d be singing the short-haired guy’s part – that of Abraham.)

It’s like coming home, or meeting an old friend for the first time in a decade. I’ve just kind of picked up where I left off, and it’s really good fun. I’ve even gained about a minor third at the top end of my range as I’ve aged, as well as a little richness in my chest voice, which was all a nice surprise. I won’t witter on too much about singing here on my blog, but it’s trundling along in the background, keeping me feeling that little more… alive.

Oh, and just to round the month off nicely, I finally got to see Nick Cave live at the Sage Gateshead with second-row seats – and it was everything I’d hoped it would be. Nick Cave knows his audience and he knows what we want to hear, so it was nearly two-and-a-half hours of fan favourites: “The Ship Song”, “Up Jumped the Devil” (complete with toy xylophone interludes from Mr Cave himself), “Into My Arms”, “Red Right Hand”, “Love Letter”… it was an incredible performance.

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