Twenty years of Cheese Lords

Members of the Suspicious Cheese Lords, Washington National Cathedral, 1998
Members of the Suspicious Cheese Lords, Washington National Cathedral, 1998

Hard to imagine that my first rehearsals with the Suspicious Cheese Lords were twenty years ago this year. The group with the funny name is quite serious about Renaissance music, as my review of their first recording suggests. Some of my earliest posts on this blog were about a visit to the nerve center of the group, stately Cheese Lord Manor; over the years I have watched them develop as a group even as I’ve reminisced about my experiences with them.

I don’t know that I’ve ever properly acknowledged all the debts I owe to them.

First, vocally: I never sang seriously in a small group before the Cheese Lords. Though we were far from exemplary in the early years, I still learned important lessons about tuning, balance, pitch, and other vocal fundamentals that are critical when you’re one-tenth of a group instead of one-fortieth. I began a journey of exploration of my vocal instrument then that continues to this day.

Second, sociopolitically: I had never met anyone like the people I found in the Cheese Lords. Young, urban, gay (and straight), happily single or with long-term partners, they stretched my understanding of humanity–and thankfully were forgiving when I sometimes proved less cosmopolitan than I thought I was.

Third, the debt of friendship. The Cheese Lords sang at my wedding. I sang at some of theirs. Last summer, before this blog was resurrected from an almost certain grave, I sat in a sweltering Boston church to watch their Boston Early Music Fringe Festival debut, then hosted them for dinner. After dinner, we sat down with scores and sang through the Lamentations, puzzling my children and thrilling me.

I wish I could be at the Cheese Lords’ 20th reunion concert. (I’ll be singing Aïda that night.) But my heart will be with them.