January 31, 2024

Anthony Holt: RIP

We're sad to report the death of our former first baritone of 17 years, Anthony Holt. He will be much missed by his children and by his wife Beverly, as well as by all of us who owe him a great deal from his work as a member of The King's Singers. Founding member baritone Simon Carrington (pictured to the right of Anthony) has written some recollections of Tony, with contributions and memories from other founding members of the ensemble.

Here is the tribute:

On January 26th 2024 an obituary of Anthony Holt appeared in The Daily Telegraph.

The current King’s Singers kindly asked me to add a few words as I had the privilege of singing next to Tony for 17 years. In 1970 he joined us founder members, who had sung the official 1968 debut concert in the Queen Elizabeth Hall and stayed until his retirement in 1987. We “originals” think of Tony and Nigel Perrin (who also joined us that year) as virtual founders, because the development of the group’s subsequent success really began with them. As Alastair T writes: he was the Oxford Baritone – as James Bowman was the Oxford alto. When Tony’s predecessor, Richard Salter, won the Tauber Scholarship and took off for Vienna we all agreed to wait for Tony to become available from his teaching job at Chichester. He was worth waiting for, he brought a freedom in his singing, as well as his own personal flair, style and panache which enormously enriched the group. 

The King’s Singers calendar in 1970 was spotty, and we all needed freelance work to survive. Tony juggled his membership of the BBC Singers and St Paul’s Cathedral choir with our calendar and other engagements including daily trips by the two of us in my decrepit mini-van to Pinewood Studios to film Frank Zappa’s movie, 200 Motels!

In the early 70s we made our first commercial recording By Appointment and were recording regularly for the BBC. Tony’s solos consistently stand out. Alastair T again: his singing was always noble and spontaneously expressive whether in Tallis, Grieg, Penderecki or McCartney. 

His stagecraft was relaxed and very endearing. Each of us will have memories of special Tony moments. Brian writes: I shall never forget Tony on stage in Bristol forgetting his next solo line in Widdecombe Fair whereupon the whole audience sang it for him! Those were the days!

Alastair H writes his humour was brilliant but understated and very English. In those early days we had plenty of our own TV shows (for better or for worse!). Al remembers Tony singing Flanders & Swan “In the bath” on camera, lying almost naked in the soapy water. On the line “…where the nations of the world all meet together face to face” Tony holds his loofah upright in front of his face and stares at it incredibly seriously; it’s gone in a flash, but it is sublimely silly and very funny and conveys the meaning perfectly.

I have always treasured the 12 Days of Christmas sequence in the Julie Andrews Sound of Christmas video where Tony combines elegant, stylish singing with grace and tomfoolery - plus considerable stamina, as the clip was recorded at 3 am because of scheduling difficulties!

We think of those early two and three month tours away from home establishing the group’s reputation, as vintage: gruelling, challenging but enormously rewarding. Throughout his 17-year King’s Singers career Tony’s many distinctive contributions on tape, on TV and on stage remain unforgettable.

Dear Tony, RIP.

Simon Carrington