To the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington on Monday night, the occasion being the annual staging of the Nordoff-Robbins Music Industry pop quiz, an event which has achieved near legendary status over the years for those who work in or around the music business. And for the first time I was able to be there too, invited to be (hopefully) a key member of the team fielded by the Official Charts Company. Double the personal thrill in so many ways I would struggle to articulate here.
There is nothing duller than hearing an after the fact account of someone else’s night out, so I’ll gloss over most of the details. Suffice to say our team came third, trailing behind eventual winners Warner Music who had a ringer of their own in the shape of Andy Healing from Sainsbury’s who has been in equal measure a quizzing rival and collaborator since we were both at university together in the early 1990s. And I hope he choked on the champagne.
So what did I take away from this evening more than anything else? It wasn’t simply the belated realisation that relying on a Circle Line train to convey you in a stress-free and timely manner both to your destination and away from it in time to land the last train home for the night is inadvisable. Neither was it that you should never sneer at the people who pre-fetch their coats from the cloakroom just before the close of proceedings. They are the ones out the door and making their train home while the rest of you are queueing 20 deep at the booth wishing the solitary man in charge had more hands to retrieve more than four coats at a time from their hangers.
No, it was that there is nothing more fun, more soul-affirming than making music a shared experience. And we simply do not do enough of this in the modern world. Music has become something we do while retreated in a cocoon. Our music is on our personal devices, ones into which we plug headphones of ever more lovingly crafted fidelity. Ones to which the finest minds have focused their attention on filtering out the sound of the outside world as much as humanly possible. Music is all to often wired directly to our brains, but that stops it entering our hearts.
On Monday night most of the rounds involved identifying a piece of music and then answering a question related to it. Once done you could sit back and enjoy it, or just sing along with the similarly drunk people on your table. An Ibiza-themed round saw the room turn into a mini-rave as Cafe Del Mar blared out over the speakers. And a hotel ballroom full of people all as one threw Big Fish Little Fish shapes and smiled.
Because enjoying music together is fun.