We talk a lot about the “King’s Singers sound” and often try to explain what we mean by it. Recently we were asked whether it could get a bit stale using the same sound for every piece we sing, so perhaps we’re not explaining it well enough!
Although we use the same principles of balance, blend and tone no matter what piece we sing, the group sound does vary enormously both between and within pieces. When we talk about matching sounds and listening to our colleagues on-stage, we mean that we have to make the same “corporate” sound – it’s no good one end of the group singing breathily whilst the other end is making a hard sound with a full core. However, that still gives us the capability to use many “colours” within our sound-palate – and as long as the whole group is using the same colour, our principles of sound are not compromised.
Let’s look at a few examples – all of which are available to listen to online:
Songs that display the KS breathy sound are those such as “And so it goes,” “Lux Aurumque” and “You are the new day.”
Songs that show the harder, more stringent tone are our arrangement of The Beach Boys “The Lord’s Prayer,” Francis Poulenc’s “Tout puissant, tres saint” from his Quatre Petit Prieres de St Francois d’Assise, and “The Lady is a Tramp” – particularly in the swing section. In fact, most of the tracks on Great American Songbook use a hard tone when we’re swinging.
Songs that display both types of sound to enhance contrast are those such as “That Lonesome Road,” “Get Happy!” and “I’ve got the world on a string.”
Whatever the sound we make, we ALL try to make it together by listening and fitting inside the sound of our neighbour. Sometimes we describe it as being like a set of Russian dolls: Johnny makes the widest sound, the baritones sit inside that sound with Julian on top of the lower voices, and the two counter-tenors provide the filigree on top of that.
Read more KS editorials on the Ensemble Hub Dropbox.
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