Monday, December 8, 2014

The King's Singers

Six male voices perfectly blending into one well-balanced sound is how to describe The King's Singers. This Grammy winning ensemble performed at the Holland Performing Arts Center last week thrilling the audience with close-harmonies and exciting seasonal madrigals.

The King's Singers is a British a cappella group that was formed in 1968 being named after King's College in Cambridge, England.  It is complied of six choral scholars. Since the group's creation, their sound has not changed. Although the members have changed through the years, their sound has not. For the group, that is the foremost requirement. As the group sings, the focus is on blended intonation as well as precision with minimal use of vibrato into harmonies that sound as if they are coming from one single voice.

The current members of The King's Singers are countertenors David Hurley and Timothy Wayne-Wright, Julian Gregory singing tenor, baritones Christopher Brueton and Christopher Gabbitas and Jonathan Howard as bass.  As they entered the stage, the group was dressed identically in dark blue suits, red ties, tan shoes and at least one foot was wearing a Christmas sock.

Much of the music was sung in another language while the audience relished in the perfectly balanced harmonies of the group.  Musical selections in the first part were the old carols from various parts of Europe with members of the group explaining the meaning of each.  Naturally being British, there were some newer selections by John Rutter and Herbert Howells.  Other selections well-known were "Es ist ein Ros' Entsprungen" by Michael Praetorius which is better known to us as "Lo, How a Rose ere Bloometh", "Coventry Carol", and the gorgeous rendition of John Rutter's "There is a Flower".

New to me was the music of Francis Pouleric who wrote a cantata in four movements each of which was shortened and arranged by Goff Richards for the ensemble,  This particular music had lyrics written by Paul Eluard in 1944 while serving in the French resistance. Reflective of a cold winter night in a French forest, the beauty of a wolf being compared to a German soldier, being lost, and finally hiding underground from the Germans combining fear with the feeling of isolation being created into hauntingly beautiful musical selections.

Besides the blend and balance of The King's Singers, their precise intonation was amazing.Their breathing included a minimum of four-bar-phrasing leaving the audience almost breathless at the conclusion of each song.  Complementing this is the concert hall itself, where the audience listened for the resonance pf sound as each selection ended.

Part of what is unique to this group is that no one is attempting to out sing another part. Their blending of voices is perfect. Along with the utilization of quietness, silence, and minimal vibrato creates a serene and peaceful performance while still exciting through using dynamics expressively as each part interweaves into and through each other.

After the intermission, the program changed into more current and seasonal medlies delighting the audience adding a little choreography and showmanship.

The King's Singers is a group I would enjoy seeing again and again.  Why not purchase their songs this Christmas as a perfect gift of music?

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