The King’s Singers are consistently welcomed on the world’s great stages today and have been throughout their history. They are ambassadors for musical excellence around the globe and have an ongoing commitment to new music that has resulted in an extraordinary wealth of original works as well as leading to some fantastic collaborations.
The King’s Singers were founded on 1 May 1968, when six recently-graduated choral scholars from King’s College, Cambridge, gave a concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall at the Southbank Centre in London. Formed in Cambridge, the group had been singing together for some years in a range of line-ups under a different name, but this London debut was the catalyst for a five-decade-long career. Their vocal make-up was, by chance, two countertenors, a tenor, two baritones and a bass, and the group has never wavered from this formation since.
As former members of the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, traditional choral repertoire pulsed through the veins of the founding King’s Singers, though what distinguished The King's Singers in the early years was their musical versatility. They were a weekly fixture on prime-time television, celebrating popular music never usually touched by choral ensembles, and their unique British charm, combined with their musical craft, captured audiences’ hearts the world over. The group has regularly performed at venues from London’s Royal Albert Hall to Sydney Opera House, Carnegie Hall to the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing, and the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam. To this day, the precision of their craft and musical diversity is among their most cherished trademarks.
The King's Singers have accumulated many glowing reviews from the world’s great musical publications, two Grammy® Awards, an Emmy® Award, and place in Gramophone magazine’s inaugural Hall of Fame, among numerous other awards. One of the keys to the group’s success has been the slow turnover of its members. Including the current six singers, there have only been 26 King’s Singers since 1968, which has allowed the techniques that guide every aspect of the group's music-making to be inherited and refined without getting lost through a rapid change of line-up.
In their early years, the group’s sound was informed by the work of arrangers like Gordon Langford, Daryl Runswick and Goff Richards, many of whom had worked extensively with brass bands. Writing for voices with this specific experience helped to develop the blended ‘close-harmony’ sound that has become a hallmark for so many King’s Singers performances and recordings since. In more recent times, individual King's Singers such as Philip Lawson and Bob Chilcott have written music prolifically from within the group. This music sits alongside a panoply of commissioned works by many superb composers of the 20th and 21st centuries – including Sir John Tavener, György Ligeti, Toru Takemitsu, John Rutter, Luciano Berio, Nico Muhly and Eric Whitacre. The group’s mission has always been to expand their repertoire with the aim of sharing their new music with ensembles and choirs of all kinds around the world. Much of their commissioned repertoire and arrangements are available in print through the publisher Hal Leonard. Over two million items from their King’s Singers collection have been shared with their customers worldwide.
This ongoing commitment to spreading great music incorporates a lot of teaching, both on tour and at home. The group have always led workshops across the world as they travel, and week-long residential courses now also take an important place in their annual calendar, when the six King's Singers work with groups and individuals on the techniques of ensemble singing that have governed how they make music to this day.
The world may have changed a lot in the fifty years since the original King’s Singers came together, but today’s group still aims to radiate the joy that singing brings them every day. The King’s Singers are as determined as ever to inspire audiences with virtuosity and their vision for an exciting musical future.
Workshops and Masterclasses
The art of The King’s Singers can be distilled into three concepts:
Active Listening, Active Breathing and Vertical Thinking
The King's Singers offer wonderful and sought-after opportunities for ensembles or choirs, who can work with the group and receive feedback and suggestions to achieve the best possible sound. Every member of the ensemble/choir will take something new away from a King's Singers workshop, both collectively and individually.
Working on pre-prepared pieces of music, The King’s Singers will take participants on a musical journey in a relaxed and friendly environment, exploring the key aspects of ensemble singing.
Most workshops will end with a short Q&A session. This is a great opportunity for participants to ask any questions and hear an insight into life on the road, and how the King's Singers refer to the skills they have shared in workshops, on a daily basis.
If space is available, The King's Singers can work in pairs with up to three different ensembles concurrently. After a brief introduction, the groups can break off into the separate rooms for up to 45 minutes, before joining all together for the final 15 minutes.
The King’s Singers oozed class … the musical qualities they embody – pinpoint precision, total rapport, crisp diction, faultless tuning and a seemingly effortless ability to switch between different stylistic requirements – are so evident.
Their vocal production was effortless, stylistically varied and beautifully blended, even in the most complex polyphony.
A unified, harmonious whole with flashes of pure individuality.