King's Singers



Active: May 1, 1968

While the first concert given by the King's Singers officially took place on May 1, 1968, their roots actually date to 1965 when 14 choral students at King's College (Cambridge) formed a group called Schola Cantorum Pro Musica Profana. Three of the original members of the King's Singers were a part of that ensemble: Alastair Hume (countertenor), Simon Carrington (baritone), and Brian Kay (bass). The Schola Cantorum group produced a private recording of popular songs, but more importantly yielded an offshoot sextet taking the name Six Choral Scholars From King's College, which became the precursor to the King's Singers. Joining Hume, Kay, and Carrington in the ensemble were three other singers from King's College: Martin Lane, Neil Jenkins, and Richard Salter. This latter trio, however, did not stay on. Their replacements were Nigel Perrin (countertenor), Alastair Thompson (tenor), and Anthony Holt (baritone).

In 1968, the sextet debuted under the name of the King's Singers at London's Queen Elizabeth Hall. All were graduates of King's College except for Holt and Perrin, the latter graduating in 1969. Holt, however, had received his choral training at Christ's Church Oxford. The vocal style established by the group from its earliest days mixes madrigal-like singing with a sort of barber shop quartet manner that divulges other, more-modern American styles associated with groups like the Four Freshmen. Their repertory includes a broad range of music from the works of Janequin and Josquin Desprez to that of Gilbert and Sullivan, from Japanese folk songs to Berio and Penderecki, and from sacred to popular music. By 1971, the King's Singers had drawn considerable attention in England and began making their first recordings. By Appointment and The King's Music appeared in 1971 and 1972, respectively, the former a collection of British folk songs and the latter devoted to music from the last quarter of the Middle Ages. After these initial efforts, the group returned to the recording studio with regularity, usually turning out several titles each year. By 2002, they had made over 60 recordings, most of which remain available or periodically become available through reissues.

In the 1980s, the King's Singers had experienced its first personnel changes and by the end of that decade, three new members were in place: Jeremy Jackman, Robert Chilcott, and Colin Mason. Alastair Thompson, Nigel Perrin, and Brian Kay had departed, but their exit was no indication of any internal problems or artistic decline. Indeed, the group's popularity remained high, bolstered by a heavy touring schedule that even included an appearance on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. Then-recent recordings, like their All at Once Well Met: English Madrigals (1985) and Beatles Connection (1986), had achieved impressive sales. Over the years, despite personnel changes and an ever-widening repertory, the group continues to grow in artistic stature, making concert appearances with some of the most prominent singers and artists (Domingo and Te Kanawa) and drawing works from leading composers (Richard Rodney Bennett, Ligeti, and Maxwell Davies). In addition, at the Royal College of Music, they serve as Prince Consort Ensemble in Residence. Since 1968, there have been 11 changes in personnel, one featuring two replacements. After 1997, no member from the original group remained. In 1999, BMG Classics announced it's retreat from classical music and exponged it's entire artist roster, including The King's Singers, who for the first time since 1968 found themselves with a recording contract. After recording a one-off Beatles-themed disc with the Cincinnati Pops on Telarc, The King's Singers signed a new agreement with the independent British label Signum in 2003. The change of venue has witnessed a distinct upturn in the quality of the recorded efforts since.

In 2006, the King's Singers was comprised of Robin Tyson (countertenor), David Hurley (countertenor), Paul Phoenix (tenor), Christopher Gabbitas (baritone), Philip Lawson (baritone), and Stephen Connolly (bass). Tyson joined the ensemble in 2001, and Gabbitas in 2004.

There are 64 King's Singers recordings available.

See All Recordings, or browse by Composer, Conductor, Label, or Formats & Featured