We are very sad to announce the death of David Booth-Jones, a dear friend of The King’s Singers, and a man who opened many doors for the original six King’s Singers back in 1968. You can read the story of the group’s earliest engagement, told first-hand, here. But in honour of a warm, generous and enthusiastic man, here are some words written by our founding Bass, Brian Kay.
In the mid 1960s, when David founded The Hale Arts Trust, he managed to attract all sorts of stars and hopefuls to Hale to perform outstanding musical evenings in the drawing room. Having invited the fledgling Academy of St Martin in the Fields, he asked the Director Neville Marriner for suggestions of others who might enjoy the experience. Neville mentioned that he had heard six young Choral Scholars of King’s College Cambridge who could be ideal material for one of David’s evenings – added to which, he knew we would be cheap and available!
And so it was that we met at Hale for an unforgettable weekend during which we were royally entertained, worked hard, enjoyed some serious bonding as a group, and laughed loud and long – particularly at the constant interruptions by Polly the parrot! It was a wonderfully formative weekend and sowed the seeds for what David did for us next.
In 1967 he promoted two concerts – in Salisbury and Winchester cathedrals – with we six choral scholars and the distinguished organist Simon Preston. These were so successful that his next move was to provide us with an opportunity of an official London debut concert. On May the 1st, 1968, the Trust hired the recently-opened Queen Elizabeth Hall on London’s south bank and assembled a remarkable cast: The Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Simon Preston and the six of us, now having given ourselves the name of The King’s Singers. The concert sold out and attracted a warm and enthusiastic review in The Times and we were on our way.
There is no doubt that, without that opportunity – so generously provided by David – our group would never have got off to such a flying start. The fact that the current King’s Singers are still delighting audiences all over the world 52 years later is tribute in itself to the wonderful start that David had given us.
We remained in touch through all the years and David’s boundless enthusiasm for what he had helped to create never wavered. On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary concert he presented the current group with beautifully embossed silver goblets. Appropriately enough, that celebration concert took place in St John’s, Smith Square in London, the beautiful church which Thomas Archer had built immediately prior to building Hale Park.
David’s warmth, his great love for us all – very much reciprocated – his enthusiasm and his determination was a huge encouragement to us and to many other musicians lucky enough to have come under his wing. We can only hope that he felt keenly the gratitude we all had for him and for his constant devotion. We have lost a true friend and one for whom that gratitude and that love will remain with us forever.
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