Notes and Editorial Reviews
THE KING’S SINGERS—LIVE AT THE BBC PROMS
SIGNUM VISION 5 (DVD: 71:15) Live: London 8/5/2008
Scenes in America deserta.
Dessu la marché d’Arras. Toutes les nuitz.
Il est bel et bon.
Philis is my only joy.
The Long Day Closes.
The Little Green Lane. Greensleeves. Blow Away the Morning Dew. The Turtle Dove. Widdicombe Fair
Interviews with the singers. Audition by Gareth Malone. “Some glimpses of the past.” Biography of The King’s Singers
I remember it as being rather warm sitting in the jam-packed Senate House of Cambridge University that June evening in 1968. Though they had already done a few gigs, they were still officially choral scholars at King’s College and, as I recall, they called themselves “The King’s Men” or “The King’s Scholars,” but the word on the floor was that these guys were heading off to London the next day to turn pro. During the concert, one could see why. And it must have been rather warm standing in the Royal Albert Hall in London that August evening in 2008, as the King’s Singers sang a late-evening Prom concert in their 40th anniversary season. During the concert, one could see why the group has lasted so long: a good format, obvious pleasure in singing together, and first-class musicianship. They weren’t the same six men, of course, but the astonishing thing is how slowly the personnel of the group mutated into today’s ensemble. In 40 years, there have only been 20 men who have sung in this sextet. Though they have had predecessors, The Master Singers, for instance (of the unforgettable “Weather Forecast”), come to mind, and though they have spawned many, short-lived, imitations (an exception being the Hilliard Ensemble), they have been consistently able to renew themselves. This is due in part to excellent musicianship and in part to well-thought-out programming.
This concert, like most of their recitals (including the one 40 years ago), begins with a serious section and ends with lighter things. The six (of eight)
of Poulenc are a good preface to the performance of John McCabe’s
Scenes in America deserta
, a complex and difficult color piece written for the King’s Singers. This piece, based, oddly enough, on an architectural study by Peter Reyner Banham, can only succeed because of the clarity and exactness of the tuning here. The following speedy multilayered rhythms of Janequin’s well-known war
make a good contrast, and these sorts of Renaissance pieces have long been a staple of the group’s repertoire. In one of the interviews attached to this DVD, the countertenor David Hurley notes that the Victorian parlor songs that follow had been a part of the early programming of the original sextet but had disappeared and were now being reintroduced. English folk-song arrangements, on the other hand, two of them here by former members, have always been a part of their programs. The Sullivan part-song is the encore, and makes an apt finish to an entertaining program. Indeed, entertainment is the key to their success: without ignoring ongoing scholarship, they wear their knowledge lightly and have technique to burn.
Neither of the two differing timings Signum gives for this CD is correct: that above reflects the concert and the extras. There is a rather obvious edit around 44:00, just before and, again, after the Hobbs, because one item on the program was deleted from the DVD and the order rearranged. (This piece, Rogers’s
Hears not my Phyllis
, appears on the CD version of this concert.) The brief appearance of Gareth Malone needs a word of explanation for North American audiences: Malone is a young choral conductor who formed a choir at a boys school in Leiscester, which had never had a choir before and, in nine months, got it good enough to represent Britain at the Beijing Olympics. The result was well-deserved fame and two short, popular, television shows called “The Choir” and “Boys Don’t Sing.” His appearance was not meant as a serious audition, but he does get to sing a few measures with the Singers and gets a few words of (most useful) advice. Nothing of this gets in the way of this enjoyable program, which is a master class in good ensemble singing and comes highly recommended.
FANFARE: Alan Swanson
Region: All Region
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Running Time 62 Minutes
Format: Color; Dolby Surround AC-3 Sound
Works on This Recording
Il est bel et bon by Pierre Passereau
Written: 16th Century; France
Toutes les nuitz by Orlando de Lassus
Written: by 1563; Munich, Germany
The Goslings by Frederick Bridge
Greensleeves by Traditional
Written: 16th Century; England
Turtle dove by Traditional
Widdicombe Fair by Traditional
Written: Devon, England
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