The King's Singers

By Monk, Judith | Musical Opinion, September/October 2005 | Go to article overview

The King's Singers


Monk, Judith, Musical Opinion


Judith Monk found a couple of them in London

It feels like the King's Singers have always been with us so I was surprised to discover that it was as recently as 1968 that six Choral Scholars from King's College in Cambridge, led by Al Hume, Simon Carrington and Brian Kay, turned themselves into one of the most professional and versatile vocal ensembles on the scene. As well as reading for a University Degree, choral scholars sing six days a week in the College Chapel and often perform at dinners and balls in and around Cambridge. When Nigel Perrin, Alastair Thompson and Tony Holt joined Al, Simon and Brian to complete the line-up of the original, obviously named King's Singer's, they used the variety in repertoire found in their student days, from a medieval Magnificat in Chapel to a Madrigal, Glee part-song or pop song arrangement away from Chapel, to build a successful International career. From 1968 nothing that could be sung in six parts was ignored.

After their first London success concerts began to appear in the diary, and for a while these were slotted in with the singers individual careers, but soon they found themselves firmly established within the entertainment world. This lasted until 1978, since when there have been 19 members of the ensemble, a very low turnover, helping maintain a wonderful sense of stability and musical continuity.

I met with countertenor David Hurley, who has been one of the King's Singers for fifteen years, and Chris Gabbitas, who joined them only fifteen months ago. I asked David what made being one of the King's Singers so special.

"I love singing, performing and travelling and I get to do that for about 7 months solid each year. I really enjoy the communication we get with our audiences too. Being one of the Singers brings enormous kudos and allows us to eventually take up career options that might be closed to others. Take Simon Carrington for instance. He was a Singer between 1965 and 1993 and since his retirement has become a Professor, Artist-in-Residence and Director of Choral Activities, including the Master's and Doctoral Degree programs in Choral Conducting at the University of Kansas.

Baritone Bruce Russell was a Singer from 1987 to 1996 and is now a Parish Priest and Brian Kay, The Kings Singers original bass, is now a BBC commentator."

"What about 'Remember, remember the Fifth of November: Gunpowder, Treason and Plot?' "I asked. "You've all been heavily involved in the recent 1605 Treason & Dischord Gunpowder Plot. How did this come about? …

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