The King’s Singers,

Pasatiempo - - In Other Words -

ex­tra­or­di­nary in the group is that you don’t feel the age gap among col­leagues. Age doesn’t re­ally come into it.”

What does come into the group’s metic­u­lous up­keep through tran­si­tions is a com­mit­ment to ex­em­plary mu­si­cal skill plus alert­ness to in­tan­gi­bles that sug­gest that a new mem­ber will help the group move ahead in a sub­tly shift­ing new di­rec­tion with­out un­der­cut­ting its core char­ac­ter. “When the very first changeovers hap­pened, they found that very trau­matic,” Hurley re­ported. “But what we’ve found since then is that the spirit of for­mer mem­bers lives on. The her­itage stays, lay­ers of her­itage stay; and yet a new per­son comes in with some new ideas. When the oc­ca­sion arises that we need to fill a po­si­tion, we are in­ter­ested in find­ing a per­son who is aware of the group’s tra­di­tions and how we have ap­proached a cer­tain piece, but we’re not look­ing for an ac­tual im­per­son­ator of the per­son who has left. We’re look­ing for peo­ple who can grow into their role in their own way. Our process of choos­ing new singers is suc­cess­ful for us. We never ac­tu­ally ad­ver­tise an open­ing. In­stead we qui­etly put out the word among a net­work of peo­ple we trust deeply, and var­i­ous pos­si­bil­i­ties are sug­gested. And then we in­vite pos­si­ble mem­bers to sing as part of the en­sem­ble; we have peo­ple sing with us, not at us, and even­tu­ally you get a feel­ing that some­one has the right voice and an at­ti­tude that makes the group feel re­laxed. It’s sad to see a mem­ber go, but in some ways these tran­si­tions help the group main­tain a youth­ful el­e­ment. It be­comes a pos­i­tive thing.”

Lis­ten­ers who know the King’s Singers from record­ings may have widely vary­ing im­pres­sions of what they do. Their discog­ra­phy in­cludes more than 150 record­ings, al­though it’s hard to ar­rive at an ac­cu­rate count, as a num­ber of the works they have recorded resur­face in var­i­ous com­pi­la­tions and repack­ag­ings, and quite a few have gone out of print only to resur­face on a dif­fer­ent la­bel. Some of their CDs are de­voted to sin­gle com­posers — Josquin des Prez, for ex­am­ple, or Or­lando di Lasso. Some are given over to pro­grams tightly bound in time and place, such as a col­lec­tion of Span­ish Re­nais­sance com­po­si­tions or The Tri­umphs of Ori­ana, an as­sem­blage of 25 madri­gals writ­ten by English Re­nais­sance lu­mi­nar­ies and pub­lished in 1601 as a col­lec­tion in honor of El­iz­a­beth I — a cy­cle whose his­tor­i­cal im­por­tance and in­fec­tious charm have un­ac­count­ably failed to earn it much of a fol­low­ing four cen­turies later. At the other end of the spec­trum are CDs the group has de­voted to Bea­tles fa­vorites, to the Great Amer­i­can Song­book, to folk songs, or to the buoy­ant circa-1930 hits of their dis­tin­guished pre­de­ces­sors The Co­me­dian Har­monists, a Ger­man group that Hitler’s min­ions dis­persed in 1934.

In con­cert, how­ever, the King’s Singers typ­i­cally of­fer a pot­pourri that runs from clas­sics to mod­erns, from the se­ri­ous to the com­i­cal, from the sa­cred to the ut­terly sec­u­lar. That’s what Santa Feans can ex­pect in this week’s hol­i­day con­cert. “The first half,” Hurley said, “con­sists of more clas­si­cally based Christ­mas mu­sic. Some are well-known tunes, like ‘Silent Night’ in an ar­range­ment by John Rut­ter or a re­ally beau­ti­ful set­ting of ‘O Lit­tle One Sweet’ as har­mo­nized by J.S. Bach. Oth­ers are rather less known: for ex­am­ple, the French carol ‘Noël nou­velet,’ beau­ti­fully ar­ranged by our bari­tone Philip Law­son, who also wrote an­other of the pieces, ‘Lul­lay my lik­ing.’ And we’ve also cre­ated some read­ings, won­der­ful Christ­mas read­ings to add an­other sort of el­e­ment, an­other color to the mix. In the sec­ond half, we have a lovely, frothy Christ­mas piece in four-part har­mony by Saint-Saëns, a charm­ing piece, re­ally; and then we go for the lighter ma­te­rial, in­clud­ing def­i­nitely one or two pieces you can’t get through Christ­mas with­out hear­ing — a great ar­range­ment of ‘Jin­gle Bells,’ for ex­am­ple. There’s a real con­trast in this pro­gram. That’s what a King’s Singers show is all about: cre­at­ing a co­he­sive pro­gram that in­cludes lots of con­trast­ing reper­toire. There are clas­sics and there is lighter fare. It’s quite a bit like a meal. You cer­tainly want to have some dessert, but you can’t eat just the dessert three times over.”

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