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Fifty years ago, a group of six guys walked on a London stage to perform for the first time as The King's Singers. They were choral scholars and graduates from King's College, part of England's venerable Cambridge University.
The group quickly earned a reputation for its precise and warm close-harmony singing, which is as strong as ever today. There have been more than 150 King's Singers recordings, Grammy and Emmy awards, and countless concerts and television appearances. New singers, of course, have cycled through over five decades, but the six-man vocal setup has remained constant: two countertenors, one tenor, two baritones and a bass. Also unchanged is the group's penchant for singing just about every style of music.
So it is no surprise that the current iteration of The King's Singers — in the midst of their 50th-anniversary tour — brings a diverse set list to the Tiny Desk, including a Beatles tune and a bawdy madrigal from the 1500s.
Notice the glistening top end on Lennon and McCartney's "I'll Follow the Sun," courtesy of countertenors Timothy Wayne-Wright and Patrick Dunachie. "Shenandoah," the traditional American song, sports a velvety carpet of accompaniment for baritone Christopher Bruerton's lead. The blend of light and color shifts beautifully in Bob Chilcott's diaphanous arrangement.
"Horizons," with its cinematic hissing, humming and other special effects, tells a tragic story of the San people of Southern Africa, while the rhythmic and risqué "Dessus le marché d'Arras" channels a bustling 16th-century French marketplace.
The King's Singers remains a vocal juggernaut, playing 150 concerts in this anniversary year. With its power, finesse and silky blend, the group is like some close-harmony Ferrari that can purr and growl, leaving you amazed at the splendor of the human voice.
Patrick Dunachie, Timothy Wayne-Wright (countertenors); Julian Gregory (tenor); Christopher Bruerton, Christopher Gabbitas (baritones); Jonathan Howard (bass)
Producers: Tom Huizenga, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineers: Josh Rogosin, Suraya Mohamed; Videographers: Niki Walker, CJ Riculan, Maia Stern; Production Assistant: Joshua Bote; Photo: Eslah Attar/NPR.