Tuesday, February 07, 2006

King's Singers review

I just returned from a King's Singers concert, given at McCarter Theater in Princeton. There was a schedule lying around in the Graduate Assistant office this morning, and I happened to pick it up and glance through it. I noticed that the King's Singers were singing tonight! So, despite vast amounts of work I ought to be doing, I decided to be spontaneous, and ran down to the theater this evening and took in their concert.

They were fabulous, as always. A tight-knit ensemble, but very individually expressive - real chamber music. One of the charming things about the King's Singers is that they never sound like anyone else. In the first half, where they sang some madrigals, a set by Estonian Cyrillus Kreek, and some Spanish Renaissance music, the tuning was not as impeccable as I might have liked, possibly owing to fairly new counter-tenor Robin Tyson, who doesn't yet have quite the beautiful flexibility and ease in his voice that David Hurley does. He occasionally sounded like he was pushing upwards rather than floating. But any quibbles disappeared in the second half, where the group performed two works they commissioned by Jackson Hill and Takemitsu, which were stunning, and their signature popular rep, which is just the tightest sound you can imagine.

One of the great things about the King's Singers is that they maintain a sense of humor while never sacrificing the quality of the music. They are entertainers as well as consummate musicians, one reason for their popularity. Possibly my new favorite in the group is tenor Paul Phoenix, who danced a little during the Spanish Renaissance music. Watching someone boogie down to Renaissance music gave me a warm fuzzy feeling and reminded me of my old college group the Williams Elizabethans. He also had a few stunning solos, in particular during one of the Spanish pieces called Rodrigo Martinez, and during the Beatles' Blackbird. Chris Gabbitas had a lovely baritone solo during Billy Joel's Only A Woman. Philip Lawson had only one extremely brief solo, which was sad - I would have liked to hear him highlighted more. Although I picked on Tyson earlier, he and David Hurley had a wonderful high sound together, and Stephen Connolly held down the low end of things with flair. Their encore was an Italian version of "Old MacDonald", which inspired equal parts laughter and awe - the perfect blend of their talents.

And really, David Hurley bleating "maa" like a sheep is the cutest thing I've heard all year.


  1. Anonymous10:32 AM

    Sounds wonderful! I just missed them up here a few months ago; they came to sing and I didn't hear about it until the day after the concert.

    ~katy m

  2. Anonymous10:40 AM

    Or maybe it was Chanticleer... I can't find it now.
    ~katy m

  3. greenlily11:11 AM

    I love the King's Singers so, so much. They are goofy and yet such lovely singers.

    (and, their version of "Rodrigo Martines" has tenors? Vox Lucens did it last year as a duet for two basses...must be a different arrangement.)

  4. the mccanner9:47 PM

    Hey, like I said today in the lounge, I thought about posting a comment on your blog and now I AM posting a comment on your blog! King's Singers - very cool. I heard them whilst in Vancouver (home sweet home, sigh) and accosted them after the performance for autographs. Sweet. I am such a groupie! I hope things shape up for your conducting recital - let me know if you need fill-in singers. :)

  5. To greenlily:

    Yep, their version of Rodrigo Martines was a trio, with the tenor on top. It was quite fabulous!

  6. To the mccanner:

    I didn't accost them because I felt shy. Next time we'll go together and you can show me how to do proper groupie things like get autographs!

    I'll give you updates on the recital, never fear. And thanks for commenting!

  7. Anonymous8:18 PM

    They came to Charlotte last year, and they are all lovely people (especially Paul Phoenix!) -- I had the pleasure of going to lunch with all 6 of them.

    ...They are also lovely singers. Did they do "Timepiece?"

    -Derrick (Tuning Fork Kid from VI)

  8. To Tuning Spoon Man:

    I wish I'd had the guts to go meet them after the concert! I'm always shy about that sort of thing. Next time!

    They didn't do "Timepiece." I'm not sure I'm familiar with it - who does it originally?

  9. Anonymous5:45 PM

    From the program:

    Timepiece - Paul Patterson (b. 1947)
    Timepiece was commissioned for the KS ... in March 1973. The composer writes: "Genesis Chapter 1: In the beginning, God created the heaven and earth. And the earth was without form , and void; and darkness fell upon the face of the deep. 27 verses later God created Adam and Eve and gave them Paradise to live in..., but then things started to go wrong....

    David Hurley sings Eve, and the bass (I forget his name, Stephen?) sings Adam. Ha.


  10. To Tuning Spoon Man:

    Sounds cool! Is it intended to be funny? B/c David Hurley being Eve could be hilarious, or just cool. :)