Saturday, July 05, 2008

King's Singers - follow-up questions answered!

Remember how I did that interview with Stephen Connolly of the King's Singers a few weeks ago? Of course you do - I am sure that you, too, lost sleep in excitement over it. Well, I sent the group some follow-up questions via e-mail and they responded! Because they are kind, thoughtful and considerate as well as incredibly awesome musicians. (Fangirl? Me?)

So here they are! The publicity manager who sent me them said that the answers are from Robin Tyson. My questions are in italics - answers are in regular font. I find these answers all pretty interesting. Don't ask me yet what a "baritone broken voice" is - I'm going to have to do some research to try and find out. Also, I find the fact that "Swing Low" is the English national rugby anthem fascinating.

Questions for the counter-tenors:
Do you ever sing in the lower part of your range? Do you find this helps, hurts, or has no effect on your upper range? If you were to sing in the lower part of your range, what voice part would you be?

David, the top countertenor has a tenor lower voice whilst Robin, the lower of the two, has a baritone broken voice. Of the two, Robin is the one who will more often use his other voice to keep the blend and balance of the group as finely tuned as it can be. It doesn't hurt!

What advice would you give young counter-tenors? Are there certain things they should look for in a voice teacher? Do you recommend singing in all parts of your vocal range? Have you ever gotten strange reactions? Do you have any particularly funny stories of odd reactions?

The most important thing is to go to a good teacher and get a good technical grounding like any other singer. Countertenors are too often treated as special and many think they have only one option when finding a teacher, which is to go to a countertenor. As King's Singers we know that flexibility is all-important in singing, so it certainly wouldn't hurt to exercise both falsetto and non-falsetto voices. We get strange looks from time to time, and Robin has been described as a countertinkler, but the voice is becoming better known.

Questions for anybody:
How do you choose your repertoire? Does everyone contribute an equal amount of pieces, or do you have some researchers in the group?

We have someone who communicates with promoters and our record company about repertoire, but the communication will be after the 6 of us have sat down to plan them together. It is a democracy. Some have better knowledge with some parts of the repertoire than others, and we find this system works well. In terms of research, we all do it on various different ideas and repertoires.

Do you have any great tour stories? Have you ever had to use any strange methods of transportation? Were there any really tough places to sing?

Our touring life is varied owing to the vast number of places we go. For example I am writing this having just taken off from Bangkok on the way back to London. But for all the variety there is also routine: flight, hotel, rehearsal, concert, dinner. Of course some wonderful things happen to us (and some not so wonderful!). I can remember private jets, narrow-gauge railways up a Swiss mountain, as well as giving performances beside ancient Roman baths in Rome, in Hamburg's airport terminal, in downtown Beirut and plenty of other places besides.

Has anyone ever had a stage-fright brain freeze on stage, or fallen down, or just made a really colossal whopping mistake?

We are human, so yes! I once threw David to the floor (by mistake!) at the very end of a concert in Laramie, WY during a bit of country dancing...

From the Simple Gifts CD, on the track "Swing Low," why do you sing "Chari-o" and not "Chari-ot?"

Just habit/tradition I suppose. If you listen to English rugby fans singing at the games that's what they all sing too (it's the national rugby anthem).

On the website, in your FAQ, you say, "If you are an American choir the chances are that your amazing stage discipline will make you look a little stiff." This is a new idea for me – why is it that American choral singers look stiff? What are some differences between American and British choirs?

Many US choirs are ruled with a rod of steel by their directors, and when you add the competitive nature of the choral world in the US, and the fact that when we meet and work with them they are often (but only at the start!) terrified, what we often see is a well-drilled, excellent choir which focuses 100% of its energy and performance on the director, and 0% on the audience. We try to change this, even getting the conductor to sit down, which a few really can't cope with. English choirs are much more rebellious!

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