Since their formation in 1968, the British a cappella vocal group The King's Singers have made dozens of albums, essayed many different musical styles, and gone through numerous personnel changes. The results have been uniformly the same: excellent.
They are named after King's College, Cambridge, where the group was formed by six choral scholars. The vocal lineup, which came about quite by chance, consists of two countertenors, a tenor, a baritone and two basses, today those voices belonging to Patrick Dunachie, Edward Button, Julian Gregory, Christopher Bruerton, Nick Ashby, and Jonathan Howard. Although there have been about thirty individual singers moving in and out to make up the group over the years, they have always displayed the same degree of enthusiasm and technical prowess. Thus, while the 2020 makeup of The King's Singers may sound slightly different and be recorded slightly differently than their 1968 counterparts, they are, for all practical purposes, the same group.
Of course, each of their many albums highlights a fresh theme, the current one, Finding Harmony, emphasizing "particular songs from throughout history, which have either brought communities together behind a common cause or helped to give identity to people whose culture or language have been threatened in some way. The album looks at different episodes from around the world where singing together has played a key part in the course of history or continues to shape it today." As the group says, it's "a mission we have, to use our art form--singing--as a tool to find unity in a world which is more divided than it has been for a long time."
Here's a rundown on the selections:
1. "One Day" (Michel Legrand; arr. Richard Rodney Bennett)
2. "If I Can Help Somebody" (Alma Androzzo; arr. Stacey V. Gibbs)
3. "S'Dremlen feygl" (Leyb Yampolsky & Lea Rudnick; arr. Toby Young)
4. "Tsintskaro" (traditional)
5. "Bread and Roses" (James Oppenheim & Mimi Farina; arr. Rebecca Dale)
6. "Heliseb väljadel" (Urmas Sisask)
7. "Mu isamaa on minu arm" (Gustav Ernesaks)
8. "Cielito lindo" (Quirino Mendoza y Cortés; arr. Jorge Cózatl)
9. "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott," (Martin Luther; arr. Johann Sebastian Bach)
10. "Ne irascaris, Domine – Civitas sancti tui" (William Byrd)
11. "Praying" (Kesha; arr. Rebecca Dale)
12. "Puirt a' bheul (Mouth Music) (traditional; arr. Daryl Runswick)
13. "O, chì, chì mi na mòrbheanna" (John Cameron; arr. James MacMillan)
14. "Shen khar venakhi" (traditional, King Demetrius I of Georgia)
15. "Ayihlome/Qula kwedini (traditional; arr. Neo Muyanga)
16. "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika (Enoch Sontonga; arr. Neo Muyanga)
17. "One Last Time" (Ariana Grande; arr. Richard Wilberforce)
18. "Strange Fruit" (Abel Meeropol; arr. Stacey V. Gibbs)
19. "This Little Light of Mine" (Harry Dixon Loes; arr. Stacey V. Gibbs)
|The King's Singers|
There are good booklet notes on each of the songs, too, adding to one's pleasure. The packaging, though, is not so great. I suppose as a cost-saving device Signum Classics chose to eschew a traditional plastic jewel box for a fold-over cardboard case. The cardboard affair affords a sleeve on each side of the fold, one for the disc and one for the booklet. Unfortunately, the only way to remove the disc is either to shake it out into your hand, in which case it means it's rather loosely enclosed and could just as easily fall out, or to grab it by your fingertips, thereby ensuring the possibility of getting fingerprints on it. In any case, I quibble.
Producers Nick Parker and Nigel Short and engineer Mike Hatch recorded the songs at St. Augustine's Church, Kilburn, London in June 2019. The church setting gives the group a pleasantly resonant, ambient bloom. The stereo spread is quite wide, so that each of the six singers spread evenly across the speakers and slightly beyond. The voices are clear and warm, never bright or edgy. The group is perhaps a tad too closely miked to be entirely realistic compared to a live performance, unless you were standing on stage in front of them. Still, the close-up perspective is effective enough to make the listening experience satisfying.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click below: