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King's Singers ChristmasThe King's Singers
Signum Records is delighted to release The King's Singers debut album on the Signum label.
King’s Singers Christmas comprises 24 carols for each day of Advent, and a bonus 25th track which pays homage to one of their famous songs. Featured on the disc are such celebrated carols as Away in a Manger, specially arranged for the group and other traditional carols performed in their original versions.
Even though nearly every piece on this disc could be heard in an English church carol service, the variety of musical styles covered is immense. Five centuries of music are represented here including works from various different countries.
"As a group that spends much of its life on the road, we are fortunate to be able to gather music from many cultures and traditions beyond our own" says Gabriel Crouch. "Several pieces collected on our travels have found their way onto this playlist, including La Peregrinaçion by the Argentinian Ariel Ramirez, and the Polish-Ukranian song Szczo to za Prediwo, which we first heard performed by a choir from Warsaw at a King’s Singers workshop".
In addition to the choice of traditional Christmas carols we have chosen pieces by Peter Warlock, John McCabe, John Rutter, Bo Holton and our own Philip Lawson, as representative of the living tradition amongst English institutions for commissioning new carols. A King’s Singers Christmas album would not be complete, however, without a little musical twist or two. These are delivered in the form of Tchaikovsky’s The Crown of Roses which has been arranged by the great jazz arranger Jeremy Lubbock and a new version with Christmas words by Philip Lawson of the perennial King’s Singer’s favourite You are the New Day, sung to the accompaniment of a String Quartet.
What people are saying
|"on the Signum label, this premier ensemble has found a recording team that shows the group's talent to an even higher engineering standard than we've ever heard before in previous issues from EMI and RCA ... absolutely first-class musicianship, , top-notch arrangements, and always thoughtfully chosen, entertaining repertoire ... if you love Christmas music recordings, well, what are you waiting for? This is one of the best ever"
|"nothing fazes them, however tough the demands, and there is a combination of precision and warmth to the singing, captured in sympathetic acoustics"
|"The King's Singers' style is beautifully detailed, and even the most familiar carols sound fresh"
Classic FM Magazine
| "Precise intonation, instinctive articulation, a downy, luxuriant tone, all captured in an excitingly lifelike recording"
International Record Review
The King's Singers
Release date: 20th Oct 2003
Order code: SIGCD502
|1.||Veni, veni Emmanuel||(Trad. arr. Lawson)|
|2.||Angelus ad Virginem||(Trad. ed. the KS)|
|3.||This is the truth sent from above||(Trad. arr. Ralph Vaughan Williams)|
|4.||Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern||(Praetorius)|
|5.||Es ist ein Ros? entsprungen||(Praetorius)|
|6.||There is no rose||(Anon. ed. Stevens)|
|8.||Nowell sing we now||(Bo Holten ed. the KS)|
|9.||Remember, O thou man||(Ravenscroft)|
|10.||In dulci jubilo||(Trad. harm. J.S.Bach)|
|11.||Lullay my liking||(Philip Lawson)|
|12.||Bogoroditsye Dyevo||(Arvo Pärt)|
|13.||The Lamb||(John Tavener)|
|14.||Maria durch ein? Dornwald ging||(Trad. arr. Lawson)|
|15.||O little one sweet||(Trad. harm. J.S.Bach)|
|16.||Bethlehem Down||(Peter Warlock)|
|17.||The Crown of Roses||(Tchaikovsky arr. Lubbock)|
|18.||To us in Bethlem City||(John McCabe)|
|19.||Szczo to za prediwo||(Trad. arr. Barwinski)|
|20.||There is a flower||(John Rutter)|
|21.||La Peregrinaçion||(Ramirez arr. Knight)|
|22.||Away in a manger||(Melody W.J.Kirkpatrick arr. Lawson)|
|23.||Noël nouvelet||(Trad. arr. Lawson)|
|24.||Stille Nacht||(Gruber arr. Rutter)|
|25.||Born on a New Day||(David arr. Knight/Lawson)|
San Francisco Chronicle, 10th December 2003
Like many other musicians, England's famed 6 man a cappella ensemble the King's Singers (the original inspiration for Chanticleer) has switched to an indie record label, Signum, which has just released their new CD release for the holiday season. Signum is a small (some say 'boutique') label that lets its artists record pretty much what they want.
"Signum wants to record what we bring to them," says one of the group's members, Robin Tyson. "Whether it's our new Christmas release, or next year's Gesualdo, a pop disc, a re-release of an older deleted disc our fans still want to buy, or even a DVD. Being hands-on means we have more work to do ourselves, but the end result is much more satisfying." San Francisco Performances presents them in a Christmas programme at 8pm Dec. 13th at Herbst Theatre.
Kjell Oscarsson, Sveriges Radio, Sweden September 2003
This morning I got the promo-CD of the new King's Singers' Christmas album - and I just wanted to say that I was totally blown away by this marvellous production!
It's farmost the best vocal album I've heard for many, many years! Thank you and send my best to the ensemble and the production team.
I'll see to this CD will be played nation-wide by the Swedish Radio in Advent.
Musical Pointers, November 2003
The King's Singers, perennial favourites (and not to be confused with the King's College Choir) are six male singers, with changing personnel as anno domini catches up, professional and unaccompanied (apart from a drum and a string quartet enlisted for two items). They maintain their reputation for 'blend, balance and intonation' and this latest of their recordings is fully professional in performance and recording. In this year's King's Singers Christmas they offer 25 tracks, old favourites and novelties from several countries collected on their travels. The arrangements rarely stray from comfortable tonal harmony, and I found the prevailing sweetness of tone palled well before the end.
Peter Grahame Woolf
35 Jahre King’s Singers - selbstverständlich befindet sich heute keiner der Gründer von 1968 mehr unter den sechs Sängern (die letzten schieden 1993 aus), aber mit einer Gesamtzahl von 18 aktiven und ehemaligen Mitgliedern erweisen sie sich als äußerst konstantes Ensemble. Der Erfolg gibt ihnen recht: Ein Blick auf ihren dichten internationalen Tourneeplan beweist, dass die King’s Singers auch im neuen Jahrtausend keineswegs ihr Publikum verloren haben. Ihre neue Weihnachts-CD "Christmas" gibt ihnen einmal mehr Gelegenheit, ihren seidenweichen Sound zu präsentieren: Besonders der ebenso samtige wie kraftvolle Bass Stephen Connollys und die glasklare Countertenor-Stimme David Hurleys bestimmen das insgesamt faszinierend homogene und überragend sinnliche Klangbild. Hinzu kommt die traumwandlerisch sichere Intonation: So sauber wie die King’s Singers singt kaum ein anderes Ensemble.
Das Programm ist eine bunte Mischung weihnachtlicher Lieder, bestehend aus Originalkompositionen Bachs, Praetorius’, Pärts oder Taveners sowie diversen Arrangements. Unüberbietbar zauberhaft macht Philip Lawsons (einer der beiden Baritone des Ensembles) einfallsreicher Satz von "Veni, veni, Emmanuel" den Anfang. Weitere Höhepunkte markieren etwa der bekannte Praetorius Satz "Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen", Peter Warlocks "Bethlehem down" oder Lawsons Bearbeitung von "Away in a manger". Dazwischen gibt es den einen oder anderen Durchhänger, verursacht meist durch nicht ganz so ansprechende Partituren oder das recht unidiomatische Deutsch. Macht nichts: Weihnachten wird trotzdem noch ein wenig schöner mit dieser CD.
Their new Christmas CD gives them once again the opportunity to display their silky soft sound: particularly the velvety yet strong bass of Stephen Connolly and the cut glass counter tenor voice of David Hurley which characterise the complete, fascinating homogeny and outstanding sensual sound. In addition comes the dreamlike secure intonation: nearly no other Ensemble sings as cleanly as The King's Singers.
The Programme is a colourful mix of Christmas songs, based on existing compositions by Bach, Praetorius, Pärt or Taverner as well as diverse arrangements ... In between there are one or two "sags", caused mainly by arrangements that aren't so appealing or by unidiomatic German. It doesn't matter: Christmas will be made that little bit more beautiful with this CD.
ClassicsToday.com - November 2003
In 35 years the British male vocal sextet known as the King's Singers has experienced many turnovers of personnel, including the retirement of virtually all of its original member - but three important things haven't changed one little bit: quality of the performances, camraderie among the singers, and compatibility of the voices. And on evidence of this new release on the Signum label, this premier ensemble has found a recording team that shows the group's talent to an even higher engineering standard than we've ever heard before in previous issues from EMI and RCA.
Throughout these 70-plus minutes and 25 tracks, we hear nothing but absolutely first-class musicianship, top-notch arrangements, and always thoughtfully chosen, entertaining repertoire that invariably and ideally suits the group's sound and style. Among the selections are a few standard carols and arrangements - Vaughan Williams' This is the truth, Ravenscroft's Remember, O thou man, Bach's harmonizations of In dulci jubilo and O little one sweet, and the familiar, anonymous settings of There is no rose, and The Coventry Carol - but there also are many more newer and captivatingly original pieces, several exceptional ones created by King's Singers member Philip Lawson (Lullay my liking; Veni, veni Emmanuel; No‘l nouvelet). Notable too are a nifty (and most uncharacteristic) Bogoroditsye Devo by Arvo Pärt, an exquisitely lovely and dramatic rendition of Tchaikovsky's The Crown of Roses, "transformed by the great jazz arranger Jeremy Lubbock", and the concluding re-working (with new, Christmas words by Lawson and a string quartet accompaniment) of the King's Singers signature You are the New Day.
For sheer vocal beauty, you can't beat the performances of Rutter's There is a flower and Stille Nacht, Lawson's Away in a manger, Praetorius' Es ist ein Ros' entsprungen, or Bach's O little one sweet. But then, the whole thing is just gorgeous, and if you love Christmas music recordings, well, what are you waiting for? This is one of the best ever.
International Record Review - December 2003
After a 3 year holiday from recording, the King's Singers have burst back onto the scene with their first Christmas disc in over a decade.
King's Singers Christmas marks something of a break with the past as the boys forsake the luxuries of the studio, with its multiple mics and the technical trickery, to stand naked before a straightforward stereo pair in the church of St Michael's, Highgate. The results take your breath away. In the raw, these gents sound better than ever.
Frighteningly precise intonation, instinctive articulation, a downy, luxuriant tone, all captured in an excitingly lifelike recording. There are 24 carols, one for every day of Advent, plus a bonus track Born on a New Day, which is a seasonal reworking (with string quartet) of one of the group's crowd pleasers. They traverse five centuries in seven languages, from well-known carol service fare sung in unadorned versions, through to the 'living tradition' - Part's epigrammatic Bogoroditse Dyevo and Tavener's The Lamb, both originally commissioned for the famous Christmas broadcast from King's College, Cambridge. The prevailing mood is more reflective than popular - it's a red-nosed-reindeer-free zone - but there's plenty of unexpected colour.The lovely Szezo to za prediwo is a Polish-Ukranian song which they first heard in Warsaw, sung by one of the choirs at a King's Singers' workshop. My favourite track, though, is a refreshing and revitalized Veni, Veni, Emmanual: ond of several perfectly calculated arrangements from the group's baritone Philip Lawson. Christmas close harmony at its best.
Classic FM Magazine, December 2003
Four Stars out of five
In many ways, Praetorius was the most versatile German composer of his period. Whatever he turned his hand to, whether psalms, motets or hymns, the result was always highly imaginative and engaging, even though he wrote over 1000 choral settings. Es ist Ein Ros' entsprungen is sung here by the King's Singers, taken from their new album. The piece also exists as one of 11 chorale preludes written by Brahms in 1896.
A great antidote to all those 'Yet more Carols from St Tedious' Cathedral, Dullshire' compilations that flood the market at this time of year. The King's Singers' style is beautifully detailed, and even the most familiar carols sound fresh. The diction isn't always as clear as it might be, but it's hardly a problem with works as popular as these.
Ludwig Van Web - December 2003
The soft-focus cover, full of reassuring colours, reflects the content of this disc perfectly. The World-famous King’s Singers brings its not inconsiderable talents to a well-balanced selection of pieces. Some bring back memories of carol services, while others are the fruits of the choir’s travels. Neither is the music of our time ignored, with music by several living composers included. As one listens to the purity of execution, it is indeed difficult not to get reflective …
The recording (St Michael's, Highgate) is pure and natural without being in the least bit clinical. There is an almost devotional aspect to much of this recording: it breathes an intimacy that speaks of warm firesides and mulled wine.
As a programme this works well. They decide to juxtapose Arvo Part (in bright mood) and John Tavener's interior 'The Lamb', grouping them with a piece by Philip Lawson and surrounding them by a gently lullaby-like 'In dulci jubilo' and a truly beautiful 'Maria durch ein' Dornwald ging’ (track 14). Of course, these days a Christmas disc would not be a Christmas disc without at least some input from John Rutter, and here indeed he is in the form of 'There is a flower'. For this reviewer, it is the Tchaikovsky (arr. Lubbock) item that is the highlight (track 17): it grows organically from the opening monody to the agonised harmonies at the words 'Red drops of blood'. The group of three favourites near the close of the disc are guaranteed to bring great delight. After all, where would we be without an ‘Away in a Manger’? (a Rutter arrangement: track 22).
Throughout the programme choral discipline is of the highest order. Phrases always breathe naturally, tuning is universally spot-on and atmosphere becomes all.
The great surprise of the disc is the final track. Except for a drum in 'Angelus ad Virginem', the disc has been for unaccompanied vocal group. Here, in a Seasonally-adjusted version of ‘You are the New Day’ (now called ‘Born on a New Day’) the King's Singers is joined by a string quartet, whose unobtrusive accompaniment and commentary adds a welcome depth to the listening experience, rounding off what has become more of a moving experience than just another Christmas compilation.
Five centuries, seven languages, and six singers with 35 years of remarkable experience inform this rare collection of choral music. In the world-renowned King's Singers resplendent voices, ancient and modern choral music comes to life with all the blazing immediacy and timeliness of the gospel of the nativity. With 25 pieces of music--ranging from familiar works such as "Coventry Carol" to the obscure Tchaikovsky piece "The Crown of Roses"--the King's Singers move through this hallowed and festive set with the vocal mastery that only three-and-a-half decades of accomplished work together is capable of creating. A number of contemporary carols written in the last century by composers such as John McCabe, Philip Lawson, John Rutter, and others are balanced by pieces by Bach and a host of traditional works. Lawson's "You Are the New Day," performed with a string quartet, stands out as one of the more notable performances Like most of their music throughout Christmas, it reminds listeners that the art of music often interprets divine aspects gladly realized "Here on Earth.
The Times, 12th December 2003
The King's Singers have spooned out some sugar in their 35 year existence, though on their new release Christmas (****) they seem determined to prove themselves serious and slim. Signum SIGCD502 begins with plainsong (Veni, veni Emmanuel), immaculately delivered, though nothing beats the 16th-century Coventry Carol six tracks later, its passing harmonic abrasions particularly striking in the Singers' unique colouring (six voices, all male). They avoid red-nosed reindeer territory, but sprinkle the familiar with novelties such as a bubbling hymn to the Virgin from Arvo Part, and Jeremy Lubbock's arrangement of Tchaikovsky's Crown of Roses, deftly laced with the blues.
Daily Telegraph, 22nd November 2003
The King's Singers' latest disc of carols deserves a warm welcome for its musical sincerity and its quality of execution. The choice of repertoire is wide-ranging, here from Praetorius and the ubiquitous "Anon" to Part and Tavener, though there is a strong theme of traditional Christmas melodies newly arranged for the group.
Although all the original members of the King's Singers have now retired from the group and gone on to other things, the new generation maintains the standards first set by those six Cambridge choral scholars 35 years ago.
This, the first recording by its latest line-up, established two years ago, brings the sense that nothing fazes them, however tough the demands, and there is a combination of precision and warmth to the singing, captured in sympathetic acoustics. There is no gimmickry, no over-the-top arrangements - at least until the final track, a souped-up version of You Are the New Day.
Elsewhere, it is just good, honest music-making, whether in the refined harmonised plainsong of Veni Veni Emmanuel, the restrained poignancy of Warlock's Bethlehem Down or in the novelty of carols from France, Poland and Argentina.
The Sunday Telegraph, 21st December 2003
No, not the old brigade who formed this vocal sextet 35 years ago! Their successors, who came together in 2001, keep up the standard in a wide-ranging selection of Christmas music, from the plainsong of Veni, veni, Emmanuel and some Praetorius to the holy minimalism of Pärt and Tavener, more to some tastes than to mine. I prefer Warlock's Bethlehem Down and the new arrangements of traditional melodies specially made for these singers, in which their sterling musicianship is demonstrated. They sound particularly good in the church acoustic of the excellent recording.
Carols from Argentina, Poland and France provide novelty. I could have done without the extravagant version of You are the new day. Since this and the disc are reviewed above are both full mentions of Christ and Christmas, and therefore wonderfully politically incorrect, I assume they won't be played in Tessa Jowell's so-called Department of Culture. What a treat she is missing."
I've saved the best 'till last. The Kings Singers new carol album is sensational. Everything about it, pure class. The title says it all - Christmas. Nothing extraneous, no fripperies, just the best in the world doing what they do best. <extract>
Scarily good ensemble singing! Do you think The Kings Singers brush their teeth together? Those Mediaeval Baebes should be bowing down in worship before them or at very least bringing them gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Just because the Kings Singers have been part of our musical landscape for so long its easy to take them for granted. Well, don't. Give them all knighthoods. Put them on an open top bus through London. Because the more you listen to this disc the better it gets. Is there any language in which they can't sound effortless, any style in which they can't "doo-be-doo". <extract>
Smooth as a baby's bottom. Apart from anything else these boys sure do know how to use the microphone. A delicious Argentinean carol there called La Peregrinaçion. This disc is called Christmas, it's on Signum, and if you can't find something in these 25 tracks to cheer you up as you wrap your presents, well you should be in therapy.
I'm going to leave you with a new discovery, something rarer than a star over Bethlehem. Behold I bring you tidings of great joy, a jolly piece by Arvo Pärt. It must be Christmas. Have a good one.
The Kings Singers in superb form, that Christmas number by Arvo Pärt, Bogoroditsye Dyevo, from the pick of the Christmas pack as far as Iain Burnside is concerned. The King's Singers Christmas is on Signum. He's absolutely right, it is a peach of a disc.