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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 21 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 08
The King's Singers in concert
Arts & Entertainment
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The King's Singers in concert

by Rod Parke - SGN A&E Writer

THE KING SINGER'S
EARLY MUSIC GUILD
TOWN HALL
February 15


What is there to say about a concert that so approaches heaven?! The King's Singers (British, of course) are known, as the program says, 'for their spot-on intonation, impeccable vocal blend, flawless articulation of the text and incisive timing.' Aside from musical perfection, they are also a heap of fun.

Six singers (two countertenors, tenor, two baritones and a bass) are all quite young except for the lead countertenor, David Hurley. They sang without instruments, which were not missed. With over 150 recordings on numerous labels, The King's Singers are very committed to modern choral music.

Those who are well acquainted with early music recognize the striking similarities between some new music and that of the Renaissance. Thus it was that this sold-out concert filled the first half with works, in alternating order, by two composers, one modern and one early.

The evening's theme was 'In Memoriam Josquin des Prez.' Jean Richafort (c. 1480-c. 1547) was possibly one of des Prez' pupils, and his Missa pro defunctis (featured here) was a memorial to des Prez, written only 11 years after that composer's death. Though Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986) is a twentieth century composer, his style in these works so resembles the earlier artist that my untrained ear was sometimes not sure which was which, as we heard first one man and then the other.

The first half of the program gave no hint of the personalities of the performers; in their black suits and white ties, they concentrated on alternating parts of Duruflé's Quatre Mo-tets sur les chants Grégoriens with sections of Richafort's Missa pro defunctis. They sang with little vibrato but avoided the dry sound of straight tones, except when they held a final note, tuning it to harmonic perfection. The beauty of their sound, even in the dry acoustic of Town Hall, made our trip from Whidbey Island through a driving rain more than worthwhile.

After the interval came the fun.

With each of the six singers now showing distinct personalities, the precision and perfection of articulation nonetheless remained intact. Early music from Mexico and Catalonia provided vehicles for flamboyant humor and musical delights. These tunes also gave solo opportunities to each of the singers, giving us a welcome chance to experience each voice that had been previously somewhat hidden in the perfect blend of the group.

Similarly, each artist introduced some of the songs that were not identified in the printed program. Delightful British wit peppered each intro. This combined with the playful nature of the songs to whip the audience into a sea of smiles and eruptions of applause.

Encores were American pop tunes, beautifully sung even if the harmonies briefly slipped into those overly sophisticated bits that draw attention to the skills of the arranger and away from the charm of the original work. Those who did not have a ferry to catch were invited to stay and meet the singers. Given the charm of these men, I'm sure that would have been rewarding indeed. Actually, I just visited http://www.kingssingers.com/ and found ample chances to meet the guys in a series of short videos on the right side of their website. Enjoy!

Reviewer Rod Parke can be reached at rmp62@columbia.edu.

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