The King’s Singers demonstrated exactly why they are the most celebrated male a cappella group with their performance at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, with a show that found a winning combination of British humour and classic American tunes. The result could not have been more perfect.
The King’s Singers, founded by six Cambridge choral scholars in 1968, spend many months of the year travelling the world, leaving a trail of astounded and mesmerised audiences in their wake. Remember, the sound we heard at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival is the sound of a troupe that recently disembarked from a mammoth flight. Jetlag must be their secret weapon!
The current lineup, consisting of David Hurley and Timothy Wayne-Wright (counter tenors), Paul Phoenix (Tenor), Christopher Bruerton and Christopher Gabbitas (Baritones) and Jonathon Howard (Bass and crowd favourite), is formidable. It’s hard to imagine a more pure sound, or a more cohesive group.
One of the signs of a truly proficient a cappella group is the ability to sound ‘as one voice’ when performing in monophonic harmony. The vowel alignment, texture, blend, consonances and everything else, was perfect. You could close your eyes and be washed over by a wonderful, pure, rich wall of sound.
But the classic songs of the Great American Songbook lend themselves to more complex and textured harmony – a catchy melody with a full-bodied accompaniment. Harold Arlen’s ‘Get Happy’ got the audience in the mood, and the works of Cole Porter, Richard Rogers and George Gershwin kept the momentum going. ‘Let’s Misbehave’ was a crowd favourite as the quintessential English gentlemen thoroughly let loose (unbuttoned suit jacket and all), and the beauty of ‘Cry Me A River’ left the audience in a stunned silence.
In a musically flawless performance, my only criticism is that it would have been fun to hear The King’s Singers truly let loose. Each member of the ensemble has a phenomenal voice, and each artist was presented with various solo opportunities. As is often the case in choral singers, The King’s Singers opted for the relative safety of a technically perfect performance, against the potential unknowns of a soulful musical moment. Even though this constant self-restraint seemed at times like shackles on the Great American Songbook, The King’s Singers’ musical perfection is their trademark, and nobody does perfection better!
The King’s Singers – The Great American Songbook is a fun and exciting show comprising seventy minutes of pure brilliance: not to be missed by any music lover.