Ges is an Ex-Banker & Choral Singer
Ges Ray returns to the podcast from episode 171 to talk about his recent performances with his choral singing group, his opportunity to travel to New York to sing at Carnegie Hall, and how he has noticed more of an interest in people as humans in the workplace!
• What choral singing is
• Singing at Carnegie Hall
• Other recent performances
• A change in values at the workplace
Please take 2 minutes
to do John’s anonymous survey
about Corporate Culture!
(click to enlarge)
- Read Full TranscriptOpen or Close
Welcome to Episode 340 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-Up Friday Edition. This is John Garrett and each Friday, I follow up with a guest who had been on the show a few years ago to hear what’s new with their passions outside of work, and also hear how this message might have impacted them since we last talked.
I’m so excited. My book is out. You can order it on Amazon, Indigo, barnesandnoble.com, a few other websites. So check out whatsyourand.com for more. Thank you so much to everyone who’s read it so far and been kind enough to leave those Amazon reviews. It’s just really, really cool to see the difference that the message is making for everyone out there. Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every week.
This Follow-Up Friday is no different with my guest, Ges Ray. He’s a retired banker who’s now a public speaking confidence-builder through coaching and online workshops, and now, he’s with me here today. Ges, thanks so much for taking the time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Ges: It’s a pleasure, John. I read your book twice. It’s amazing. Go read it. You’ve got to read it, folks.
John: Oh, well, thank you so much, man. It is. There’s enough meat in there, but it is a quick read for people that aren’t readers. That’s how I wrote it because people are busy. I just appreciate being part of that launch team, man. Thank you. I have rapid fire questions for you. We’ll just do seven though, ones that I didn’t ask the first time, but maybe I should have now that we’re friends. Here we go. First one, if you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones?
Ges: Oh, Game of Thrones, definitely.
John: Okay. All right. This one’s a tricky one, brownie or ice cream?
Ges: Brownie, perhaps with ice cream on top?
John: Oh, that was a trick one. That’s the right answer. That’s exactly it, warm brownie a la mode. There you go. Nice. Good save. This was a fun one somebody asked me and I like asking people now. Socks or shoes?
Ges: Oh, socks first.
John: Right? That’s what I said.
Ges: Here in the UK because it’s really chilly here at the moment.
John: Right. Yeah. Right. Shoes without socks?
John: You can wear socks without shoes anytime.
John: Totally. Here’s a good one. Oceans or mountains?
Ges: Oceans. Oh, the sound of the ocean lapping against the shore, yes.
John: Very nice. How about real book, Kindle, or Audible?
Ges: Real book with pages you can touch, the sensuous feel of rich, creamy paper.
John: Wow. There you go. I almost want to eat it now. Two more. How about a favorite animal? Any animal at all?
Ges: Cat. We’re a cat household. We adore cats. In fact, we even foster cats in this house. So when they’re being rescued, we are the staging between their rescue and their forever home. So we have a stream of fantastic cats coming through. They’re wonderful.
John: That’s very cool. The last one, the toilet paper roll, is it over or under?
Ges: Over. How could anyone do under? It’s over.
John: I don’t know. It happens, I think. It happens. Most importantly, it’s within arm’s reach. That’s the priority there, but definitely over. So Episode 171, we talked choral singing. Maybe for those that weren’t able to catch that one, what is choral singing? Just to bring people into the loop.
Ges: You’re singing in a choir. There’s a huge tradition in the UK of choral singing that goes back to probably about year 300, I suppose. It’s just part of our world in the UK that choirs get together. People get together to sing. I know you do it over the pond as well, but it’s very much a tradition here. Dorking Choral Society, 60 or 70 people singing everything from Handel’s Messiah to Eric Whitacre, one of your composers, really glorious voices occasionally with instruments, but often just voices on their own, so it’s choirs singing.
John: Okay. Nice. That’s awesome. I know that you had a pretty huge trip since we last talked, and some pretty awesome things have happened.
Ges: Because I was getting quite interested in it at the time, wasn’t I? I try not to pick myself up about this, but I do mention it three times a day since May.
John: As well you should. As well you should. I mention it three times a day and I’m not even you.
Ges: I sang an a capella solo onstage at the Carnegie Hall, New York.
John: That is awesome.
John: That’s it. That’s the peak.
Ges: I’m an amateur choral singer. I’m not a professional singer. I just do it for fun, but thank you. There’s a long story behind it. I got the chance to be on stage with — actually, it was a score called Zimbe! It was a work that’s done really well. The guy who composed it and who was conducting phoned me up one day and said, “Ges, do you and some of your colleagues fancy coming to Carnegie Hall to help us?” Do we? Then he phoned me up again, “Ges, you know that little solo on Page 89 for the bass voice? You know, don’t you? Because you’ve sung it. Would you like to do it in Carnegie Hall?”
“Alexander, you’re asking me to sing a solo?” What it is, you get to the end of a chorus and it goes silent. The conductor just points his baton at you and you come in, no instruments, no lead, no entry, just in from silence. You’ve got to hit it, bang in the middle. It’s one of the scariest moments of my life, but oh boy, was it fun.
John: Yeah, and you nailed it and that is just awesome, man. That’s some intense pressure. What’s that old joke? How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice. That’s so cool, man, and you were able to get to New York City and hang out for several days. Yeah, that’s super fun.
Ges: Well, here’s another side story. My daughter came with me, so that weekend cost me a fortune. I couldn’t even claim it as a business trip. She was staying with me because she was part of the world premiere that we were part of ten years ago. There was a show we wanted to see, Waitress. We thought, “We’ll never get around to seeing it on Broadway.” We’re chatting to some of the soloists and there’s this young guy, Tyrone. He’s really nice. He says, “Oh, I know I’m singing here, but actually, I’m in the cast of Waitress.” “You’re what?” He said, “Just go to Times Square to the discount booth. Get your tickets. When you’ve seen the show, just come around to the stage door,” so we did. We saw the show, and at the end, fought our way through the crowds because there are millions of people wanting to get to the stage door. Somehow, I convinced the massive guy on the door that we actually knew Tyrone. We were let in and we were given a backstage tour.
John: That’s fantastic.
Ges: Yeah, what a memory.
John: That is fantastic. Between that and then Carnegie Hall, good Lord! You did it. I lived in New York for nine and a half years. I didn’t do either of those things. You were there five days and you nailed it.
Ges: Three actually.
John: Three days?
John: Now, you’re rubbing it in. That’s so fantastic and so cool to hear that. What a special time, and to be able to share that with your daughter too is really cool.
Ges: Exactly. It’s a shared memory. She’s in her 30s now, but we’ll never, ever forget that. It’s a moment forever. The half a dozen of us who went over from Dorking Choral Society, we got this little secret group. I even use the picture of me singing in Carnegie Hall as my Zoom backdrop when I’m feeling in the mood.
John: There you go.
Ges: I show off about it.
John: That’s fantastic. We’ll have a picture on the show page at whatsyourand.com for everybody who wants to check that out, for sure. Yeah, it’s probably a memory you won’t forget because you bring it up three times a day. There’s that, too. No, I’m teasing, but you’ve been able to perform quite often actually in the last two years since we chatted.
Ges: Absolutely. I’m a longstanding member of our local choral society of Dorking Choral and a smaller group, so yeah, every chance we get, we sing. In fact, despite the current problems, we’re getting together to sing some carols to an old people’s home Saturday week. So socially distanced, but we’re standing outside and giving them again a capella renditions of old favorite carols. We will enjoy it probably more than the residents will. It’s just so much fun to get together.
John: That’s fantastic to hear that you’re still able to do it and practice because there’s got to be some joy, happiness, and fulfillment that come from singing.
Ges: Oh, hugely. With another hat on, I’m a trustee and vice chairman of the Leith Hill Musical Committee for the Leith Hill Musical Festival, which actually stems from Vaughan Williams, one of our UK conductors who’s well-known across the globe. His sister began the Leith Hill Musical Festival in 1905 and it’s happened every year since. At the moment, we’re planning for 2022. You’ve got a dozen choirs who come together for a couple of days and actually compete, old-fashioned, cutthroat, to-the-death singing competition.
Ges: But then that day is collection of choirs, so we have probably three or four choirs having sung, say, Handel’s Messiah or Mozart Requiem for the competition and various other pieces. We all get together on stage. I was on one a couple of years ago, very Requiem, one of the biggest pieces in the repertoire. So we had over 200 of us on stage with a 60-piece orchestra just three feet away. When you’re in the middle of all that singing your heart out, oh, it sends a shiver down your spine and you come out floating on cloud nine. It is a fantastic community experience.
John: Wow, that’s awesome, and the power of just that many people that are good. That’s pretty fantastic. The way you described that is probably rarely you described coming out of work at the bank. “It sent shivers down my spine. It was amazing. Honey, you’ll never believe it. I’ve got to bring it up three times a day for the rest of my life.” How amazing that spreadsheet looked. That’s just cool to hear that, the way that you light up and you can hear it in the tone of your voice. It’s just cool when people are talking like that.
Ges: Well, it’s just a tiny little bit from the Requiem. Those of your listeners who understand it will know. There is a trumpet solo at one part of it where about half a dozen trumpeters, they just blast your ears off.
What they did on this one was they actually sneaked around the back of the building and up into the balcony, out the back of the auditorium. At the point where their solo was to happen, the doors flung open and they’re standing at the top of the balcony, blasting on their trumpets, and the whole audience let them out, six feet.
John: Suddenly, the show is for you, too. It’s like, “I’m not interested in the show. I get to see it, too.”
John: That’s really cool. Yeah, there is a performance piece to it for sure. So do you feel like people are sharing their passions more now or is there still work to be done?
Ges: You’re right. There is still work to be done. I still got a business to run. Everyone has where they can, but I think there’s more of a focus now — the world has shifted, isn’t it? The old values — I’ll give you a practical one. I like cars. We all like cars and I’ve got outside a contract car. I don’t own them. I just rent them from a contract company. It’s one of the best vehicles I’ve ever had. It goes off. My wife gets frightened every time I touch the throttle. She holds me back, saying, “No, no, don’t.” Apart from trips down to — my dad’s in a residential home down on the coast in Kent in the UK, a long way for us. It’s about two hours, which I know is nothing in your world, but it’s big in the UK.
John: That’s a hike.
Ges: Apart from occasional trips to see him, it is sitting out there, unused. So a value that was previously placed on an asset that you would use and do something with and maybe show off about, it’s meaningless. I love watches, but I’ve only worn a watch twice since lockdown, once to my mother’s funeral, once for burying her ashes.
John: Oh my goodness.
Ges: And that was only because it seemed disrespectful to be glancing at a mobile phone.
Ges: So the values that we had before have, I think, changed for the better. People now want to — they want to know you, just just as you do. People are less scared, I think, of actually admitting that they have a life and they do other things because people want to know about people now. Cross fingers, that carries on and becomes part of our world going forward because we need to be part of a world where people share and understand and talk to people as people, and not just as corporate guys following the rules.
John: We’ve been in each other’s homes now. You’re with these Zoom calls and these Microsoft teams calls and whatever software is out now that people are using. We’ve been in each other’s homes. We’ve seen when the kids can’t get the homeschooling to connect right or what art is on someone’s walls or the dog is going crazy because the delivery person is dropping something off. So to act like we haven’t been in each other’s homes and seen each other at this state — because for the most part, people put on this facade of everything’s great when they go to the office. And then when you’re at home especially for eight or nine months, you can’t hide that anymore. It’s like this is me, take it or leave it, which has got to be a little bit liberating for most people because it’s like I’m done pretending to be something.
Ges: There’s an example from a colleague of mine who normally comes to your part of the world and meets a Manhattan lawyer in his corner office, and that’s the world he’s always visited him for years. But of course, he couldn’t go there anymore, so he’s now talking to him, exactly as you say, on a screen in the kitchen. Okay. It’s a pretty nice kitchen because he’s a Manhattan lawyer, but still, it’s human now. It’s not, oh, you can only see me in my office setup. It’s right, we’ll still do business, but actually, there’s a human element behind it as well.
John: Yeah, exactly. I think that that just makes it stronger. Like you were saying earlier, people just want to know people, which is really, really fantastic. Do you have any words of encouragement to people listening that maybe they’re in a choral group or they have another hobby that they feel like has nothing to do with their job and no one’s going to care?
Ges: Yes. Talk about it. Let people know because you will find even if — a tiny example. My wife, who’s retired now, thought she might like to do some crocheting. That’s the sort of stuff grandmothers used to do. She mentioned it and people come out of the woodwork and say, “Oh yeah, I’ve just started.” Whatever it is you love, whatever it is that tickles your fancy, just start mentioning it because people will come out of the woodwork who share that view and you’re less likely to be put down for it now. There is a fact that in my world of building people’s speak performance abilities, your audience always wants you to succeed. I think we have such that fear of the world that we’re going to get knocked back or it’s not right to do it, but actually, people do want other people to succeed and people usually want to help. So just talk about the stuff that you want to talk about and get the encouragement from others to support you and find your tribe. It may be it doesn’t resonate with someone. Okay, they’re not going to be part of the conversation, but someone will be part of that tribe and want to share their experiences with you.
John: Exactly. Yeah. We’re not in middle school anymore where everyone’s going to make fun of you for being the outlier. Now, it’s cool and there are follow-up questions and “show me”. It’s been fantastic to see how it’s played itself out here in the last nine months especially, but in the several years that I’ve been speaking on it. Such great words of encouragement.
It’s only fair though since I started out the show, before I close it out, that I turn the tables. This is the first episode of The Ges Ray Podcast. Thank you so much for having me on as your first guest. I know you have some questions for me, so I’m all yours.
Ges: Rapid fire question, easy one first. Chocolate, milk or dark?
John: Oh, I will go milk chocolate.
Ges: Okay. Marmite, love or hate?
John: Marmite? I’m going to need to Google that. It sounds — is it like Vegemite?
Ges: Yes, yes.
John: Then it’s a hate.
John: You can keep it. More for you, man. More for you. That is weird to me.
Ges: Spread thickly on toast and back under the grill, I’d say. Okay. Holidays, beach or city?
John: You know, I’m going to say — let’s go beach. Why not? Because it’s very peaceful and relaxing. It’s less stressful.
Ges: Gotcha. Two more. Shirt, plain or dazzle?
John: Oh, that’s a good one. You know, I’m going to go plain on the shirt, but inside my coat is dazzle. So then when I open it to get something, people are like, “Whoa. Wait a minute. What’s that going on in there?” A party! I’m kind of like discreetly having fun.
Ges: Discreet dazzle, I like that.
Ges: Last one, and I think I know the answer to this, but car, shift or automatic?
John: I’ll go shift. I like the manual because that’s usually more of a sports car. I can also have more control. Yeah, I’ll go with that, for sure. Unless I’m in San Francisco where there are hills in traffic then it’s going to be like, “Oh, no, don’t stop at the red light.” But otherwise, yeah, manual is fantastic.
Ges: Well, you surprised me there, John. You surprised me there. I thought it would be an automatic answer to an automatic question, but there you go. You’d be very welcome in the UK because most of our cars are — well, we call them gear stick over here, but I know it’s “shifts” in the States.
John: Yeah, or manual transmission. Yeah. Well, awesome. Well, thank you so much, Ges, for being a part of this. It’s been so cool having to be on this journey. It’s just great to catch up with you again, so thanks again.
Ges: My pleasure. Thank you, John.
John: Everybody, if you want to see some pictures of Ges on stage at Carnegie Hall or some other outside-of-work pictures he’s got or maybe connect with him on social media, be sure to go to whatsyourand.com. All the links are there. And while you’re on the page, please click that big button and do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture. Don’t forget to get the book. It makes an excellent, excellent holiday gift. I’m a little biased, but it’s still pretty good. Thanks again for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this podcast with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread that who you are is so much more than what you do.