Late last year I had the pleasure of spending an hour in the company of Gordon Langford, regarded by many as the most influential of all KS arrangers, who sadly passed away earlier this month. We had decided to get some video and audio material in interview with Gordon, for use as part of our 50th Anniversary celebrations, and for so many reasons we are so glad we did! From the moment I joined the KS I became entranced by Gordon’s scores; the manuscript paper, pristine handwriting and clear notation make every one of his arrangements look like a work of art on paper as well as in music!
During our time together, I asked Gordon several questions about his relationship with the group but, for the most part, I allowed him to speak freely about music, arranging, and his friendship with the original six members of the KS. This was a man who has always been venerated by successive generations of King’s Signers, yet in some ways he was very modest about his important role in the creation of our signature sound. “It was simply the next job on my desk” he said of the first arrangement he wrote, Blow away the morning dew, which was on request from Chandos, the publishers for whom Gordon was a house writer. Delving deeper, it became clear that he held a deep affection for those first King’s Singers with whom he worked, and an enormous respect for their musical skills. “They were so quick to learn!” he said, frequently. We chatted about his wonderful German folksong arrangements, and he remarked that “they always enjoyed the funny ones!” implying that he was instructed to put as many little injections of humour into each arrangement as he possibly could! We are the beneficiaries of this skill, the current members of the group.
Although by the time I met him, Gordon was fairly frail and obviously in poor health, the morning we spent together showed that there was a keen brain still at work, and it was fascinating to meet the man who gave us such classic arrangements as The lass of Richmond Hill, Down with love, The slow train and Bobby Shafto, to name but four of the 100+ Langford works in our library.
Gordon undoubtedly crafted the “close harmony” sound that came to define the lighter side of the KS repertoire. Without him, it could perhaps have been a longer road to success back in the 1970s. We have lost a true musical genius; may he rest in peace.
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