The Singers

Patrick Dunachie

Countertenor, Joined September 2016

 

I was born in 1993 into a family of musicians and at the age of five started learning piano with my father, and singing in my local church choir. I later became a chorister at Hereford Cathedral under Geraint Bowen, and it was here that my love of choral music really took hold. I developed a passion for early music in particular, and in one concert I remember hearing Robin Tyson (King’s Singer 2001-2009) singing some Bach as a soloist with us, and I became fascinated by the countertenor voice. When my voice changed a few years later, I decided to give it a go. Sure enough, my falsetto voice worked alright, so I committed to it! On leaving school, I won a scholarship to Cambridge University to study Music, and to sing in King’s College Choir under Stephen Cleobury.

During three unforgettable years there, I toured all over the world, recorded CDs and sang in national radio and television broadcasts each year. But my main joy during that time was singing the daily services in one of the world’s most beautiful buildings, while studying music history, analysis, and composition. All of this encouraged me to pursue music beyond university, so after graduating I moved to Oxford where I sang for a year as a Lay Clerk at Christ Church Cathedral. During this time I taught at a local school, performed as a freelance soloist and in a number of ensembles (including Ex Cathedra, The King’s Consort, Gesualdo Six and Westminster Cathedral Choir). I found time for my other interests too, with lots of walking in the countryside, cooking, a good deal of graphic design work, and a few rounds of auditions for The King’s Singers! I was appointed to the group in January 2016, and from that point I spent months learning lots of music, ready to begin my time as a King’s Singer, starting that September.

During the years since, I have had a wonderful time as a member of this group. I have loved performing many hundreds of concerts in amazing places around the world with my five brilliant colleagues, meeting thousands of people from many different walks of life, and I love having once-in-a-lifetime experiences every single year. But I also love how much you can learn in this role. Doing this job, I’ve learned so much from the other guys, I’ve learned about running a business, I’ve learned about creative writing, public speaking, about food, digital media and marketing, about languages, coffee, and (of course) about singing.

When not on the road, rehearsing or recording, I enjoy a fairly quiet life in Richmond (south west London) with my wife, Ellie, and our little spaniel, Albie. In what spare time I have, I am a postgraduate student at the University of Buckingham, taking a course in diplomacy and security, I volunteer at my local radio station, and love to go hiking in remote places.

Edward Button

Countertenor, Joined January 2019

 

My love of singing began at the age of just seven when I was given a choristership in the Chapel Choir at Warwick School. At first the early Sunday mornings were a struggle, but after a few months I was raring to leave the house to get to practice. After finishing school, I read geography at Girton College, Cambridge where I won a choral scholarship and the Tom Mansfield Memorial Prize in recognition of my contribution to College music. During my university years I was keen to have somewhere to sing outside the Cambridge terms; I became an honorary member of the choir of the Collegiate Church of Saint Mary Warwick, a place that I consider a musical home.

After graduating I was appointed as the Alto Lay Clerk at King’s College, Cambridge. I sang seven services each week as well as undertaking a busy schedule of recording, touring and broadcasting which included the famous Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols broadcast to millions of people across the planet.  I also sang in Collegium Regale (now The King’s Men), the close harmony group made up of the King’s Choral Scholars; I sang a vast variety of music from Byrd to the Beatles. I then spent two inspiring years as a volunteer in Gonville and Caius College Choir.  I was fortunate enough to take part in two groundbreaking recording projects; a programme featuring ancient Celtic chant accompanied by instruments that I had never seen, heard, or heard of before, and a disc of contemporary South American music.

For two glorious years from 2017 I had the pleasure of serving HM The Queen, as the Alan Kendall Countertenor, one of the six Gentleman, in her choir at the Chapel Royal at Hampton Court Palace. Highlights of my time include a service marking the centenary of the Order of the Companions of Honour in the presence of HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, filming Elizabeth I’s Battle for God’s Music, a BBC television programme presented by Lucy Worsley, and recording a disc of Thomas Tallis. Singing aside, I am an experienced fundraiser and have been trained in the Law.  Much of my free time is spent running a small charity in Warwickshire, Rufus’ Friends’ Fund, with my family; the charity was set up in memory of my late uncle who had learning disabilities. Otherwise I love meditating, collecting antiques and walking; much of my childhood was spent in the countryside, making campfires, damming streams and generally getting muddy! 

I am indebted to my family for nurturing my love of singing, especially my mum and dad, Delia and Nick, who waited in the car for me during countless singing lessons and choir practices, and my sister, Bertie, for sitting through service after service and concert after concert! I wish I had the space to thank all my singing teachers, directors of music, musical colleagues and friends who have supported me, and from whom I have learned so much.  Over the years I have realised that there are few better things in life than making music; the creativity is limitless, helping people to feel their emotions is exhilarating, and the teamwork has resulted in lasting friendships.

Julian Gregory

Tenor, Joined September 2014

 

My professional musical life began at the age of six in Leicester Cathedral Choir (where my dad was Choirmaster and Organist), before moving to St John’s College Choir, Cambridge, as a boy chorister. Aside from the daily three-hour singing commitment, I soon developed a passion for the violin and piano, which drove me to apply for a music scholarship to Eton College, where I happily spent my teenage years. Six years later, I returned to St John’s to study Music, and experienced three of the busiest years of my life! 

Through daily choir commitments, singing lessons and directing The Gentlemen of St John’s (the choral scholars’ a cappella group), I soon realised that singing could become a potential career path for me. So instead of following the “normal” path around me of trying to get a job or internship immediately after graduating, I went on a year abroad to Heidelberg University in Germany. Intensively learning German to fluency and planting myself in a completely different field (socially, geographically, linguistically) was a great way of taking some time out and deciding what to do with myself; and what a beautiful part of the world to live! That same year, I ended up applying for a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music for a Masters in Vocal Performance, and making friends for life from all over the world — something which struck a chord with my own international background, being half English, half Japanese. 

What followed was a highly inspirational year at the Academy, opening up my mind to many of the various art forms and states of mind that a professional solo singer encounters on stage. Then in the summer of 2014, while I was singing in the Opera Chorus at the Aix-en-Provence Festival in the south of France, I got a phone-call from Johnny, inviting me to audition for The King’s Singers — a completely different proposition to my very young solo career at the time. I was offered the tenor position minutes after the audition ended and the shock hit me: I knew that my life was about to change! 

Since then, I’ve enjoyed my time in the group more and more, developing as an individual, learning from my esteemed colleagues, and trying to pass on any gems of what I’ve learnt to the newest members. I feel lucky to be able to work everyday with five wonderful friends and colleagues – akin to family – whom I respect and admire, and I look forward to facing the inevitable challenges and adventures that lie ahead!

Christopher Bruerton

Baritone, Joined January 2012

 

It all started in December 1994. I was taken to the Anglican service of Nine Lessons and Carols at ChristChurch Cathedral, New Zealand, and as the choir proceeded down the aisle, I whispered to Mum and Dad, ‘I want to be in that choir.’ Then in 2010, after fifteen years in that very cathedral choir, I moved to England to pursue my lifetime ambition of becoming a professional singer, as well as being closer to Liz, whom I married in 2017. I had been teaching and conducting choirs at Burnside High School, where I had also been a student, but I got to the point where I felt that if I didn’t give singing a go then I’d always regret it. 

Little more than a year after taking the long flight over from New Zealand, a dream of combining my love of performing and travelling soon became a reality. I have loved every moment since making my debut with The King’s Singers. I am so fortunate to have been able to sing in world renowned concert halls from New York to Sydney to Beijing and everywhere in between. But I get the biggest buzz from being able to pass on my experiences to the next generation of musicians through the education work we deliver across the world, both in-person and online. There is no greater joy for me than seeing others making their first steps in a cappella and ensemble singing. 

Joining The King’s Singers has given me the opportunity to travel all over the world and sing in places I once only dreamed of. And for a humble Kiwi, having been an audience member for the group’s 40th Anniversary, being in The King’s Singers as it celebrated 50 years was more than I could ever have imagined. Add to that being happily married to Liz…I really am living the dream!

Nick Ashby

Baritone, Joined January 2019

 

For me the great pleasure of making music comes from the subconscious, unspoken connections with other musicians. I love blending my voice with others, and creating something larger than the sum of its parts. I’ve been singing pretty much constantly from as early as I can remember, and generally with increasing levels of success. Growing up in an intensely musical environment with four older sisters (all also professional singers), a career in music basically became inevitable – inspired no doubt by the King’s Singers tapes we listened to as we drove to Germany to visit my grandparents! I grew up in Oxford, and enjoyed being a chorister in various choirs, as well as playing French horn and violin in many youth orchestras and chamber music groups. This provided a whole load of opportunities to perform and tour the UK and Europe – something I still relish doing.

When I began my Music degree at the University of York, I quickly joined as many choirs and a cappella groups as possible. This gave me the opportunity to start penning some compositions and arrangements, some more successful (Kiss from a Rose) than others (Nessun Dorma)… After graduating in 2009 I moved straight to London to try and make my name as a singer. I toured frequently with the Tallis Scholars, Stile Antico, I Fagiolini, the BBC Singers, Ex Cathedra, and many more. As a soloist I loved performing oratorios and recitals, and was even asked to perform Mozart’s Requiem, and a concert of Purcell songs in Japan. 

One exciting but nerve-wracking moment closer to home was stepping in on the day of a BBC Prom concert, live on radio and to a packed Royal Albert Hall, to perform a solo off by heart in a Stockhausen opera alongside a (then pre-university) fresh-faced Pat Dunachie! I also relished the opportunity to sing a role in a broadcast performance of Stravinsky’s “Les Noces” with the Philharmonia Orchestra. On days that I wasn’t “gigging” I’d love going to the cinema, cycling around London, playing badminton (terribly), and cooking meals for my partner, for when she got home from a long day’s teaching. The meals were never worthy of a Michelin star, but the good intention was there.

Since joining The King’s Singers in 2019 I’ve learnt a huge amount. I’ve met fantastic people all around the world, performed phenomenal music, in incredible venues, all the time working tirelessly with my five other colleagues to strive for perfection, even in the smallest details of music-making. Though I now don’t get to the cinema, or cook meals as often as I’d like to, I do feel so lucky to work with these friends, exploring those subconscious, unspoken musical connections, and bringing the joy of a cappella music to the world!

Jonathan Howard

Bass, Joined September 2010

 

I wouldn’t have believed you if you’d told me there’d come a time in my life when I’d enjoy slowing down. For years, my existence was defined by its busy-ness: more subjects and extracurriculars than were necessary at school and university; more social commitments in my first years in London than a single human could ever honour – and yet I still tried to do everything. I’ve always adored singing – from being in chapel and community choirs and all kinds of a cappella groups to performing in musicals – so that’s been a constant feature in my life. But I’ve also always played lots of sports, acted in plays, and made plans for every night of the week. I could never fathom why anyone would plan to have a “night in”, “downtime” or “a relaxing weekend away”. 

I grew up in London, where I initially attended the German School, before moving to Christ’s Hospital, an extraordinary charitable foundation in West Sussex, and then on to New College, Oxford, where I read Classics and was a choral scholar.  What’s clear to me is that, during this time at school and at university, I had incredible bounce-back: the art of burning the candle dangerously close at both ends, and yet still having the energy to wake up at the crack of dawn the following day and do it all again. 

Now in my mid-thirties, and in my second decade as a King’s Singer, I’ve at long last discovered the joy in takings things at a more leisurely pace. I still love group exercise and I remain devoted to travelling and discovering new places (cool restaurants, hotels and waterfront bars are always at the top of my list). But I now rarely set my alarm quite as early as I used to, nor do I go to bed anywhere near as late (any event that extends beyond 10pm now really must be a special occasion). To me, a perfect afternoon looks like a pot of perfectly brewed fresh mint tea and a cryptic crossword in the sun, followed by a gentle walk and perhaps an episode of Ru Paul’s Drag Race or a scroll through Mr Porter to keep things nicely balanced – hardly a slog.

I live in the heart of Primrose Hill, a beautiful neighbourhood that feels like a village just a half-an-hour walk from Oxford Street in central London, and I couldn’t be happier (although I wouldn’t say no to a loft in New York or a house overlooking the Pacific in Malibu to visit on occasion). I still feel just as blessed to be a King’s Singer as when I started, doing something I love and that takes me all over the world and introduces me to so many extraordinary people and cultures. I’m no less excited to be part of shaping the next few years as we continue to celebrate the joy that comes from singing together, and the power it has to move people, and I can’t wait to champion more amazing corners of our rich global musical heritage.

 

 
 
History

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