Chorister royalty comes to Cork

GOOD news for fans of the King’s Singers; the legendary group are returning to Ireland with their blend of cadence and colour, and their irresistible good-fellowship.

It was 1968 that a group of choral scholars at King’s College Cambridge first got together. The current line-up is: David Hurley (joined 1990), Christopher Gabbitas (2004), Tim Wayne-Wright (2009), Jonathan Howard (2010), Christopher Bruerton (2012) and Julian Gregory (2014).

Howard, who sings bass, says he couldn’t believe his luck when the senior member of the group, David Hurley, contacted him. “I’m the only one who hadn’t been a chorister from childhood, and so I didn’t have that habit of daily attendance, evensong, all that,” he explains.

“But I did get an excellent musical education and was advised to apply to New College Oxford for classics and a choral scholarship.”

Howard laughs that he didn’t know how much work would be involved. “But I fell in love with the world of music and was absolutely hooked by the end.” He had even founded an a cappella group, The Oxford Clerks, with five friends, based on the King’s Singers.

Graduating with a classics degree, Howard moved to London and worked in advertising for six months, before receiving that call from Hurley. “He had been at New College as well, so got in touch with them to see who might be good and they suggested me.”

Howard is single, but some of his colleagues have children. “That makes it more difficult for them, admittedly, but it’s so lovely, because it really adds colour to the group’s make-up,” he says.

What stands out in his memory of the past five years since he joined the group? “Oh, heavens, how can I choose?

Sydney Opera House, Hong Kong City Hall, where the delighted screaming of the audience was something we’d never experienced before, the Royal Opera House in Rio. I only missed a flight once, which was a bit hairy.

“We had to skirt around ice storms in America once, and Carnegie was cancelled because of the appalling weather. We had to fit it in later, between Las Vegas and Seattle, which meant quite a bit of time in the air.”

Oddly enough, Howard’s favourite relaxation is travel — to the wildest and most remote corners of the world. “If I can’t do that, I get some running in, to keep fit.”

How do they cope with the group changing from time to time? “There is great sadness when one person moves on, but there has never been any difficulty for the new member of the group fitting in.

“There is so much corporate memory and muscle, if you like, that it can take these changes. And, also, because the new person will ask why we do this, why that, we are all forced to revisit our aims and values from time to time, which is a very good thing.”

The abiding image of the King’s Singers is a few jolly-good chaps having a sing-song.

Behind that, of course, is the sharp professionalism, the endless practising, rehearsing, and polishing that creates their incredible sound, but what the public experiences is the wonderful feeling of a friendly, happy get-together. That’s what has made them such a legendary, and lasting, success.

King’s Singers, Cork Opera House, February 3; UCH Limerick, February 4; NCH Dublin, February 5


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