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February 14, 2006

A busy return visit by the King's Singers

Salt Lake Tribune (UT):

The King's Singers will once again hold court in Salt Lake City, a place they love to visit. "We're treated like royalty" in Utah, said baritone Philip Lawson in a telephone interview from his hotel in Connecticut. The British vocal ensemble makes the trip to Utah every few years, and returns next weekend to give four concerts. This sextet has performed seven times with the Utah Symphony, most recently in 2003 to sold-out crowds. The year before that, the singers joined the Mormon Tabernacle Choir as part of the Olympic Arts Festival at the Winter Games in Salt Lake City. "That was a very special time for us," said Lawson, who noted that three members of the group were able to attend the Games' Opening Ceremonies. Lawson said it's a pleasure to perform for Utah audiences because they have so much enthusiasm for choral music.

"Choral singing [in the United States] is not what it is at home," he said, crediting the American education systemfor keeping the choral arts alive and vibrant. Before joining the King's Singers in 1994, Lawson was a vocal teacher at an English boarding school where he had 75 minutes each week to work with students. "That was the time I had, no matter what I needed to get done." Compare that to choirs in many U.S. high schools, where students practice every day, he said.

The King's Singers was founded in 1968 at King's College in Cambridge. Since then, the group has had 19 members. The founders believed the group would dissolve as soon as one of them decided to move on. But when that day finally came, the singers had become so popular they had concerts booked for months into the future. The rotation of new singers into the ensemble has helped keep the group fresh, Lawson said. "It's usually a positive thing, even though we're sorry to see someone leave," he said.

The change always means new arrangements tailored to a new voice, and brings out works from the repertoire that might have sat on the shelf for several years. New members also bring their own favorite pieces, and the group will think, "This is a great piece. Where have we been the last 30 years?" said Lawson, who does much of the arranging for the King's Singers. After years of traveling the world, the group is still exploring new places. Last year, it performed in Latvia and Lithuania for the first time. Next year, it will make its Russian debut. "It's not a mundane job," said Lawson.

The current members - Lawson, countertenors David Hurley and Robin Tyson, tenor Paul Phoenix, baritone Christopher Gabbitas and bass Stephen Connolly - are fairly young. One is engaged to an American; another is married to a Yank. Many of them have small children.

Lawson said the group is fortunate to be able to balance touring with time at home. "It's a great life, actually," said Lawson, who can pick up his three young daughters, Sophie, Amy and Georgia, during the weeks he has off between performances. The group takes off the summer and time at Christmas and Easter. "If I worked at home in some kind of high-powered job, I might be locked up in my office all day," he said. The King's Singers will give four concerts in Utah next weekend.

Posted by acapnews at February 14, 2006 12:05 AM