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February 25, 2009

Obit: Richard Salter - Founding member of King's Singers

Richard Salter, who has died aged 65, was a founder member of The King's Singers, the celebrated a cappella group of choral scholars which emerged from King's College, Cambridge, in the mid-1960s; within a few years, however, he had been lost to the German-speaking world, carving out a reputation for delivering baritone roles in the most difficult of contemporary operas.

The King's Singers had their origins in a group of six students who, in 1965, made a recording of unaccompanied vocal music entitled Schola Cantorum Pro Musica Profana in Cantabridgiense. They were soon offering their services to friends and colleagues. As Alistair Hume, another of the original King's Singers, once wrote: "We carried on our undergraduate singing after university, contacted all our old schools and offered them a concert for the price of a pint of beer during the vacation in the summer of 1965."

Engagements under the title "Six Choral Scholars of King's College, Cambridge" followed until a concert was arranged at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on May 1 1968, which forced them quickly to think of a more catchy name. The sextet's problem was that their repertoire was so wide-ranging that they could not be easily pigeon-holed or categorised. Having considered The King's Swingers as a name, they finally settled on The King's Singers.

The group's first three years had been somewhat light-hearted. Now there were recording contracts, broadcasting opportunities and international touring possibilities. Although Salter sang in that first concert – as did the future broadcaster Brian Kay – his ambitions lay in opera.
Asked why he left the King's Singers so swiftly, Salter (half-jokingly) replied that he found the increasing need for the group to scrub up and take themselves seriously to be off-putting: "I could already see the writing on the wall and began to look around for alternative sources of employment like doing contemporary music where one wouldn't need to sing in tune," he quipped.

Richard Jeffrey Salter was born at Hindhead, Surrey, on November 12 1943 and, after a spell as a chorister at Exeter Cathedral and schooling at Brighton College, read English Literature at Cambridge, where he sang at King's under the direction of Sir David Willcocks. Read more.

Posted by acapnews at February 25, 2009 10:43 PM

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