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November 5, 2004

Group finds success varying voices and styles

South Bend Tribune:

There is currently no king of England, nor has there been one in the entire history of the English a cappella singing group the King's Singers. The group, which performs Sunday at the University of Notre Dame, is named not for any particular monarch that it serves, but rather for its place of birth: King's College, Cambridge. That's where six of the college's choral scholars decided in 1965 to band together and perform outside the college's chapel. Taking the name of the institution that had brought them together seemed a logical move, and it was much easier to say "the King's Singers" than "Schola Cantorum Pro Musica Profana in Cantabridgiense," the first idea for a name that came to mind.

In the beginning, choral scholars Al Hume, Simon Carrington and Brian Kay merely wanted to extend the enjoyment they found in singing for the college into the bigger world outside. They performed at events around Cambridge, arranging any music they could get their hands on -- madrigals and pop songs were equally in demand -- into complex vocal tapestries. The idea was a hit, and soon the "Schola Cantorum Pro Musica Profana in Cantabridgiense" had recorded its first album, albeit one that didn't sell so well. Despite the significant handicap of its name, however, the group continued to gain attention and concert bookings; Hume, Carrington, Kay and their colleagues wisely began to call themselves "Six Choral Scholars of King's College Cambridge."

In 1968 the sextet finally faced the fact that it needed a name that would fit on a standard theater marquee. Thus, the King's Singers were born. Hume, Carrington and Kay were joined soon after by Nigel Perrin, Alastair Thompson and Tony Holt.

In 1972, the group toured Australia and New Zealand, traveling extensively outside the United Kingdom for the first time. Tours of North America and the European continent followed, and the King's Singers quickly transcended their modest origins to become international stars, acquiring their own television show in the U.K. and becoming regulars on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show" in America.

In 1978 Thompson was the first original member of the group to leave. He was ably replaced by Bill Ives, and the perpetually renewing tradition of the King's Singers began. By 1993, the group had been passed on to an entirely new generation of singers. To date, 19 performers have been a part of the group.

The current lineup of the King's Singers is a mix of veterans who have been with the group for the better part of two decades and newcomers. Stephen Connolly, the group's bass, joined in 1987. Countertenor David Hurley joined the King's Singers in 1990. Tenor Paul Phoenix became a King's Singer in 1997. Former school teacher and baritone Philip Lawson joined in 1994. Robin Tyson, another countertenor, became a member of the group in 2001. Baritone Christopher Gabbitas is the newest member of the group.

Over the past four decades, the King's Singers have tackled any type of music that can be arranged for six voices. Sixteenth-century madrigals, Elizabethan songs, English folk songs, South African street music, the Beatles, the Beach Boys -- you name it, the King's Singers have sung it. The program for Sunday's concert in Notre Dame's Leighton Concert Hall promises to be a little less far-ranging, however; expect the singers to concentrate on the madrigals and folk songs rather than Paul Simon and Paul McCartney

Posted by acapnews at November 5, 2004 9:11 PM