As The King’s Singers turns 50 this year, and we celebrate with GOLD, we have had chance to think about the history of our group, about the circumstances which allowed it to flourish, about the unique elements which have defined it, and about the amazing people who have helped it along the way. In so many ways, The King’s Singers of today belong in the 21st century, but at the same time, there is a golden thread that runs through everything we do, stretching back to 1st May 1968.
People often ask us where our name comes from, and the answer is from King’s College, Cambridge. The original six members of The King’s Singers were all choral scholars at King’s College, part of Cambridge University. This meant that during their time studying at university, they would sing as part of the choir in the daily services at the chapel of King’s College. It was against the backdrop of this training and experience that the original six members (who graduated from King’s in the mid-1960s) began to sing together separately, exploring different types of music. They first recorded in 1965, under the not-so-catchy name ‘Schola Cantorum Pro Musica Profana in Cantabridgiense’. This recording put the group into the consciousness of the famous conductor Sir Neville Marriner, who in August 1966, invited them to perform in concert.
Several more concerts followed, under the name ‘Six Choral Scholars of King’s College, Cambridge’, before, on 1st May 1968, the group made it’s London debut in another of Neville Marriner’s concerts, this time under another new name: The King’s Singers. And so we count 1st May as the birthday of the group, and in 2018 it will be precisely 50 years since that inaugural concert.
After the success of that London debut, the group’s fortunes snowballed, and relationships began with the BBC, with record companies, with promoters and with many composers and arrangers who would become a huge part of The King’s Singers history. Through the early 1970s, the group cemented its reputation in the UK, but the international career which keeps us travelling to this day really began in 1972, with a 35-concert tour of Australia and New Zealand. Invitations to visit South Africa, Canada, the USA and all manner of other countries soon followed, and The King’s Singers became a global phenomenon.
Over the course of our 50-year history, we have been lucky to sing in pretty much every major concert hall in the world, on countless television broadcasts, to release over 150 recordings, and to win Grammy and Emmy awards. Life on the road is so special, and over the years there have been a lot of laughs, a fair few tears, and many very special moments. This year, we are sharing some of these in our GOLD Stories, released over 50 weeks, telling a little story from each year of our history. The current group of six is so very grateful for the vision, spirit, and hard work of its forebears, which set us up still to be singing into the fiftieth year. Here’s to the next 50!