BWW Review: KING'S SINGERS: GOLD at St. Ignatius Loyola
Ok, y'all...I'm going to be honest. A cappella - or as my aunt, with her charming ignorance, would call it 'acapulco singing' - is just not my jam. Groups that sing sacred 'hits' without vibrato has never been a way I'd choose to spend an afternoon. Maybe it's because I suck at this type of singing? Unclear. But, in this case, I have to concede to the King's Singers and the beautiful, tranquil sea of sound they presented at their delightful concert in New York City. Besides being offensively talented, who couldn't love a group of cute boys singing to you in a gorgeous church? I never stood a chance. The evening was charming.
The program chosen to celebrate their 50th anniversary was the perfect blend of old and new - poised, with eyes firmly planted on their future, while gingerly holding the past with the respect and reverie it deserves. Nico Muhly's inclusion in the program was necessary and deserved of the highlight it received in the first half. His close harmonies drifted into the rafters and their discordance battled it out for ultimate dominance across the vaulted ceilings of the beautifully ornate Church of St. Ignatius Loyola on Park Ave. Muhly's music is fresh yet respectful in its application of stereotypical a cappella sensibilities. His compositions pair perfectly with those from the 1500s, yet feel modern and unique - giving the art form a revived breath of fresh air. His tight, crunchy harmonies were handled with pointed sensitivity, proving that these treacherous compositional stylings are where this ensemble thrives. I hope that the King's Singers continue to program his music as they enter their next 50 years of success.
The rest of the program was handled with deft care, the fiendishly difficult Rutter being one of the highlights. They attacked the execution with focused precision, making it one of the most exacting performances of the afternoon. It was stunning. The jazzy arrangement of The Lord's Prayer (from Beach Boys' Brian Wilson) was a delight and served as the perfect transition from the sacred selections to the popular music that the King Singer's always end their concerts.
This transition was the impetus for one of the vocal highlights of the evening when tenor soloist, Julian Gregory, began belting in Simon's Some folks' lives roll easy. Creating the addition of a new vocal treatment was unexpected, but served as the perfect texture change to drive exciting momentum to the end of the program. This wasn't the only place the ensemble chose to expand their vocal sensibilities. Occasionally, the soloists would produce a varied aural experience for the audience by releasing the voice, allowing for a welcome change in texture and color. It was integrated in very specific moments, done so with such ease that it was almost hard to detect - but without it, one would have been left wanting. Thank you, gentlemen.
Bass Jonathan Howard's storytelling helped give the music depth, building out a vertical and horizontal experience for the audience. As the evening progressed, glimpses of his sassy personality began to surface, and I was living for it. Who doesn't love a sass-filled a cappella Brit?
The group is embarking on a world tour to celebrate their 50th anniversary, and, from a convert, I would suggest picking up a ticket or 10. You can find their tour dates here.
Photo Credit: Marco Borggreve