MUSIC PREVIEW/Chester Summer Music Festival presents The King’s Singers
With a certain wedding dominating the headlines in the last few weeks, Chester has its very own ‘royal’ visit to look forward to this summer.
One of the world’s most celebrated ensembles, The King’s Singers, have a packed schedule of concerts, recordings, media and education work that spans the entire globe.
The King’s Singers are instantly recognisable for their spot on intonation, their impeccable vocal blend, the flawless articulation of the text and incisive timing.
They have squeezed in a visit to Chester in their hectic schedule and arrive at the Town Hall Assembly Rooms on July 2, for the Chester Summer Music Festival.
Join David Hurley (countertenor); Timothy Wayne-Wright (countertenor); Paul Phoenix (tenor); Philip Lawson (baritone); Christopher Gabbitas (baritone); Jonathan Howard (bass) for an entertaining exploration of music inspired by dance over the centuries.
The King’s Singers were aptly named after the original members met while studying at King’s College Cambridge, where they were choral scholars. Soon after graduating they started working as a group and needed a name.
Their season contains around 120 concerts and they spend about seven months away from home in bursts ranging from a day to three weeks. They also record at least one album a year, make radio and TV programmes, and teach groups and choirs.
When asked how they choose the repertoire for concerts, the singers said: “First we find out what type of venue we are singing in. Then whether the concert is part of a series and, if so, who else is performing.
Whether that series has a particular theme; what the venue's acoustics are like; whether the presenter envisages a serious, mixed or light programme; and, finally, if the presenter has any particular requests.
“In addition we consult our programme books which list all the group's concerts over the years, because we never perform the same programme when we return to a venue.
“Armed with this information, and with some provisional ideas, we all meet and formulate the finished, tailor-made product.
“Over the group's long history we have realised that what works in one place does not necessarily work elsewhere.
“Although the group's standard programme formula remains remarkably similar, we are always trying to make adjustments to keep things fresh, not least for the six singers standing on the stage every night.”
The voice makeup of The King’s Singers is highly distinctive, having a bass, two baritones, a tenor, and two countertenors. The countertenors sing as falsettists, using the upper register of their voices, a kind of head voice.
Falsettists arose from two main areas of need: the church, where women were banned from taking part in services, thus necessitating a male alto line; and in opera where men were needed to sing the roles previously assigned to the castrati.
It is very common for eyebrows to be raised at concerts by first timers at King’s Singers shows when the two countertenors get going.
It is one of the reasons why the group has such a special sound, and allows them to explore repertoire meant originally for mixed voices.
The Chester Summer Music Festival runs for two weeks from Friday, July 1 to Saturday, July 16 and features 12 evening concerts, seven lunchtime concerts, and one Big Sing! Weekend.
For all the festival concerts and ticket information, visit the website www.chesterfestivals.co.uk, where you will be able to view the whole programme and book tickets or call 0845 2417868.