The Kings Singers are an all male acapella group from England who have not graced our shores for 27 years. I saw them just recently as they finally returned to perform around Australia. The first half featured madrigals both secular and sacred. Although it started to have a sense of sameness to it after the third madrigal, you could not doubt their skill. With an enviable blend between their voices their musicality could not be denied. It was when they started their traditional set that I felt they came into their own. Greensleeves was stunning and Danny Boy brought tears to my eyes. Their Botany Bay was more than just a tune, but was arranged to show off their distinctive style. However it was truly their version of 'The Band Played Waltzing Matilda' by Eric Bogle that had everyone on the edge of their seat. I could have had them repeat it the moment they finished it.
The beginning of the second half was a commissioned work by Australian composer Elena Kats-Chernin. A four movement work titled 'River's Lament' it put the six men through their paces, with many technically challenging moments. Contemporary but with many nods towards the madrigal tradition it was a terrific work that caught the imagination. Each movement looked at a particular aspect of a river's life, from when it's born through to drought and rebirth.
The final part of their concert was where they stood aside from their music stands and performed a selection of popular works. As one of them said, 'A Kings Singers concert is not complete without a song from the Beatles'. Which, with their four encores, they performed two from them as well as a whole host of other works. With humour and joy, they performed and it was so much fun! Although it was certainly fantastic that their madrigals were perfect, it was their traditional and popular repertoire that really shone.
I wasn't sure what to expect when I got a ticket to their concert. I had seen their Christmas DVD and although was suitably impressed by their technical ability I felt it was well, very safe and not really very interesting musically. Seeing this live performance I was thrilled not only by their versatility, choice of repertoire but their humour and engagement with the audience. Should they ever return to our shores again, I will certainly be getting tickets.