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‘This is an incredibly good singing group’

The King’s Singers at the Snow Concert Hall. Photo: Dalice Trost

Music / Back! In Harmony, The King’s Singers. At Snow Concert Hall, March 21. Reviewed by GRAHAM McDONALD

The King’s Singers started off in 1968 when six choral scholars at King’s College at Cambridge, England gave a concert in London. 

The ensemble has been performing ever since, albeit with numerous changes of personnel. The original six were two countertenors, one tenor, two baritones and a bass, and this unusual mix of voices has been maintained ever since. It certainly gives the group a more extended range than might be expected in an all-male ensemble.

Their repertoire is an eclectic mix. English church music is the basis of the choral tradition of King’s College, and this was an integral part of this concert. 

The first half included works from 16th century composers Thomas Weelkes and William Byrd while the second half opened with two settings by Ralph Vaughn-Williams, the first from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The second, Valiant Truth, using a text from John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress was the highlight of the concert to these ears, only slightly overshadowing the two Byrd pieces from the first half.

The rest of the concert was a mix of a couple of modern art-music pieces and various kinds of carefully arranged close-harmony pop music. A recent recording project has been a recording of 28 songs from various Disney films over 80 or more years and a selection of these featured heavily. A couple of unexpected inclusions were a respectful and quite moving arrangement of Eric Bogle’s And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda as well as Darryl Braithwaite’s Horses, which worked remarkably well.

This is an incredibly good singing group. The pitch, the timing, the phrasing was all flawless. They look like they are having a good time and enjoying what they are doing. 

This reviewer might have wished for more from the early church music tradition, but suspect this would have been a minority view. 

What was a bit odd is that nowhere in the printed program was any mention of the singers’ names. There are bios of each on their website, but it would have been polite to have them at least named in the program.


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