|The King’s Singers|
Cadogan Hall on Saturday 15th June sees a tribute concert to two great jazz pianist/ composers who both made their home in America, George Shearing and Richard Rodney Bennett.
The King’s Singers worked with both. They recorded a disc back in the early 1990s with Shearing, entitled Get Happy. Richard Rodney Bennett was one of the arrangers for the CD, and that continued his long association with the group, dating back to the early 1970s. For this concert The King’s Singers are joined by Gwilym Simcock, Malcolm Creese and Tim Garland together comprising Acoustic Triangle.
DAVID HURLEY OF THE KING’S SINGERS WRITES:
When we first started planning our tribute to these two great musicians, we knew we wanted to work with a jazz group that understood how we approach our music. The perfect fit was Acoustic Triangle. We knew Malcolm Creese from his persona as the artistic director of the Swaledale Festival. Last year he invited us to sing at the Festival, and that was the last time we saw Richard Rodney Bennett, who was the artist-in-residence. Richard penned many arrangements for The King’s Singers, but also composed two amazing classical contemporary pieces for us. He had written a new piece for Malcolm Creese, Gwilym Simcock and Tim Garland, and scored it for them and mixed choir.
For me, being grounded in the English choral tradition and the narrow world of early music, joining The King’s Singers’ in 1990 was a revelation. As a countertenor I was suddenly performing an incredibly wide repertoire of music, including jazz. Working in 1991 with George Shearing on Get Happy was an incredible experience, coming so early in my time in the group. As a classically trained musician, I was used to the precision of music scores, which ensured that one performance of a song was remarkably similar to the next. Suddenly I was hearing different things from George and his bass player, Neil Swainson, each time they played a tune. The other thing that struck me was their innate understanding of harmony. Singers tend to be more concerned with melody, but an ensemble singer has to develop a sense of harmony, and those days with George helped hugely to develop this.
Improvisation, which is not a thing we attempt in The King’s Singers, at first seemed a thing of great mystery, but over the years I have come to see the great logic in the framework that holds it together. We have worked with early music groups that do a form of improvisation, in particular Ensemble Sarband, who specialise in Middle Eastern classical music. They use established modes and themes to weave together long improvised passages in their music, and the more we performed with them the more I began to understand it. Working with a group like Acoustic Triangle is very similar, although the early part of the process can be rather daunting. We classical musicians are simple animals who like to be able to see what is going to happen next. The skill is in relaxing, and going with the flow.
In our show at the Cadogan on the 15th June, we are making tribute to two great jazz musicians, and while we will be reflect their styles, we don’t want the collaboration between The Kings’ Singers and Acoustic Triangle to be a mere pastiche of the Shearing sound. With some of the arrangements penned by Richard Rodney Bennett, we have the starting point for our own interpretations of the songs, and maybe something unforeseen will emerge as the two ensembles perform together. As long as it is not too unforeseen we King’s Singers will be happy.