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UMS Concert Program, May 2, 1993: The King's Singers --

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University Musical Society
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Season: 114TH
Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor, Michigan

May 2, 1993 Dear Friends,
We are delighted to welcome you all to Ann Arbor this weekend to help us celebrate the 25th anniversary of the day when we first stepped out on to a concert platform as The King's Singers. We are also just 6 months short of the 20th anniversary of our first tour of the U.S.A. in November 1973 when we set out on the road for 6 weeks to sing 22 concerts scattered all across this country. Since then we have clocked up a total of some 550 concerts here, and have probably performed in as wide a range of venues as any other ensemble: from Carnegie Hall and Shea Stadium in New York, to the Hollywood Bowl, the Louisiana Superdome and even the garden of a private house in Lake Forest, Illinois. We have given 18 concerts in Minneapolis and 6 in Waco, Texas and even one in Moss Point, Mississippi, after a 500 mile drive each way. We have performed in Wisconsin, Florida and Quebec on consecutive days, and once flew over to Boston in the middle of a U.K. tour for just two days to make our U.S. television debut with the Boston Pops.
All these facts and statistics will be of little interest to anyone after the end of this year, except perhaps to two recently retired founder members who will have to pinch themselves occasionally to be sure that they have not dreamt the whole story! What will be clear to them and indeed all King's Singers past and present is that without the support, loyalty, enthusiasm and encouragement of our audiences (as well as our managers and agents) around the world and especially here in the U.S., we would have given up and gone back to a more sensible job long ago.
We have been fortunate enough to develop many good friendships over this last quarter century; indeed, our U.S. newsletter is now organised by a friend we made on that very first trip 20 years ago, when we were completely unknown and something of an acquired taste to the hardy souls who turned out to see what we were all about. This weekend we have a chance to express our gratitude to all of you from far and wide who have maintained an interest in our work over these many years. We are thrilled that we have played a small part in the marvelous growth of interest in choral music in this country, and the new generation of King's Singers will look forward eagerly to welcoming friends old and new to the next 25 years and beyond.
Warmest wishes,
Simon, Alastair, Bob, Bruce, Stephen and David
University Musical Society
David Hurley, Countertenor Alastair Hume, Countertenor
bob Chilcott, Tenor
Bruce Russell, Baritone
Simon Carrington, Baritone
Stephen Connolly, Bass
Robert Aubry Davis, Master of Ceremonies
25th Anniversary Jubilee Concert
Sunday Afternoon, May 2, 1993, at 4:00 Hill Auditorium, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Simple Gifts Traditional American Folk Songs, arr. Bob Chilcott
The Golden Vanity
The Lazy Man
Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair
I Bought Me a Cat
The Gift to be Simple
A Garland of Madrigals Madrigals from Around Europe
Now is the Month of Maying.................Thomas Morley
Innsbruck ich muss dich lassen .................Heinrich Isaac
Corten Espadas.....................Anonymous (Spain)
Paisible domaine ......................Orlandus Lassus
II gioco di Primiera ................... Alessandro Striggio
Tristan and Iseult.....................R. Murray Schafer
World Premiere
Forty-Fourth Concert of the 1 14th Season 22nd Annual Choice Series
Psalm of Life ......................Christopher Stookey
World Premiere-Winning Selection, 25th Anniversary Composer Search
Chanson d' Amour Love Songs from Around the World
Con amores, la mia madre ...........Juan de AnchietaArr. Chilcott
Love's Philosophy ...............Roger QuilterArr. G. Richards
Phyllis is My Only Joy ...............J. W. HobbsArr. Hy Smith
Chitarra d'amor..............Schmidseder-SiegelArr. D. Runswick
Arrangements in Close Harmony
Selections from the Lighter Side of the Repertoire
with members of the University Choral Union
The King's Singers wish to express their heartfelt thanks to the University Musical Society and the Grunyons for co-sponsoring the 25th Anniversary Composer Search.
The King's Singers appear by arrangement with IMG Artists.
The King's Singers record for the RCA VictorBMG Classics and EMIAngel labels.
Special thanks to Martha Corbin and Martha Lucander for yesterday's King's Singers Video Retrospective and to Robert Aubry Davis, Simon Carrington, Bob Chilcott, and Alastair Hume for this afternoon's Philips Pre-concert Presentation.
The King's Singers gratefully acknowledge assistance from the Ford Motor Company in international transport arrangements.
Recording Distributor for American Concerts: DJ Records, P.O. Box 95, McMinnville, OR 97128 King's Singers' recordings, videos, and other products available in the lobby.
Selected King's Singers choral arrangements are available from: Hinshaw Music, P.O. Box 470, Chapel Hill, NC 27514 and Hal Leonard Publishing Corp., 7777 West Btuemound Road, Milwaukee, Wl 53213
King's Singers Newsletter: Suzanne Zaffarano 3108 Ross Road Ames, Iowa 50010
Nationwide distribution of the 25th Silver Jubilee of The King's Singers concert
will be made possible by WUOM-FM Ann Arbor, American Public Radio,
and the University Musical Society of the University of Michigan.
Tune in WUOM-FM during Michigan Concerts, May 10 at 8 p.m.
and May 15 at 2 p.m. for this concert presentation.
Program Notes
Simple Gifts
Traditional American Folk Songs
Arranged by Bob Chilcott
Being faced with the prospect of choosing five songs from the American folksong literature was like looking for five needles in a haystack. My choice in the end was completely arbitrary, mainly consisting of tunes that I already knew.
I decided to start with a song of the sea that originated in England and was carried across the ocean to the New World, The Golden Vanity. This is followed by two songs from the Appalachian Mountains the second of these, Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair, is perhaps one of the best known of all American folksongs, having been arranged by almost everyone from the Hi-lo's to Luciano Berio. Bought Me a Cat is infamous for being one of the most chauvinistic songs ever penned I have taken the liberty of altering the lyric slightly to water down the sentiment! But 1 think the song is fun with its various animal noises, and I've tried to create a sort of 'folkapella' style in this arrangement. The set finishes with the lovely Shaker song, The Gift to be Simple. These songs were arranged in 1987 and first performed by The King's Singers in Eindhoven, Holland, in January 1988.
(c) Robert Chilcott, 1987
A Garland of Madrigals Madrigals from Around Europe
The first publications of madrigals in the 1530s and 1540s were highly successful and revealed an avid market of literate and sophisticated people who relished the fashionable pasttime of singing settings of poems about life and love. Each vocal line became equally important, so that no one with the necessary ability needed to feel left out at after-dinner entertainments.
Composers from Spain, Germany, and France travelled to Italy to learn, or obtained published music to study. They adopted the madrigalists' musical style and applied it to their own vernacular poetry. In Spain the villancico thrived well into the 16th Century and was gradually developed polyphonically by Juan Vasquez and others. In Germany many composers set Italian texts as well as German (and sometimes a mixture of the two) and delighted in folksong settings and satirical parodies. The French chanson composers specialized in "courtly love" songs and in lighter settings of the more frivolous aspects of love. In England the madrigal enjoyed a remarkable Indian summer during the last years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, mainly due to the influence of one man, Thomas Morley. In his much-quoted book, A Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke, he outlined the qualities appropriate to both composers and performers of madrigals: They should be of "an amorous humour . . . sometimes wanton, sometimes drooping, sometimes grave and staid . . . and the more variety (they) show the better (they) shall please!"
Tristan and lseult
R. Murray Schafer (b. 1933)
Commissioned by the King's Singers in 1992, Tristan and lseult receives it's world premiere at this afternoon's performance. For the text of this work, Mr. Schafer has adapted Andrew Lang's translation of Gottfried von Strassburg's Tristan (c. 1210). Strassburg's
version of this Arthurian legend was also the basis for Wagner's famous opera Tristan und Isolde (1857-59).
The text reads as follows:
Now, when the man and the maid, Tristan and Iseult, had drunk of the potion, Love, who never resteth but assaileth all hearts, crept softly into the hearts of the twain, and ere they were aware of it she had planted her banner of conquest, and brought them under her rule. They were one and undivided who were once at enmity. Gone was Iseult's hatred, no longer might there be strife between them. Each was clear as a mirror to the other. They had but one heart her grief was his sadness, his sadness her grief. Both were one in love and sorrow, yet both would hide it in shame and doubt. For though both their hearts were blindly bent to one will, yet was the beginning heavy to them and both alike would hide their desire.
When Tristan felt the pangs of love, then he recalled his faith and honor, and fain would have set himself free. So he would turn his heart, fighting against his own will, and desiring against his own desire. There was a strife within him, for ever as he looked on Iseult, and love stirred his heart and soul, then did honor draw him back. Yet he must needs follow Love, for Love looked smilingly upon his heart and held heart and eyes captive. And ever the more he looked into his heart, the more he found that therein was nought but Love and Iseult.
Even so was it with the maiden: she was as a bird that is snared with lime. When she knew the snare of love and saw that her heart was taken therein, she strove with all her power to free herself, yet the more she struggled, the faster was the hold Love laid upon her, and unwillingly, she must follow whither Love led. Never a thought might Iseult think save of Love and Tristan, yet fain would she hide it. Heart and eyes strove with each other; Love drew her heart towards him, and shame drove her eyes away.
Shyly she looked on him and he on her, till eyes and heart had done their work. And Tristan, too, was vanquished, since Love would have it none otherwise. Knight and maiden sought each other as often as they might do so, and each found the other fairer day by day.
So the ship sailed gaily onwards, even though Love had turned two hearts aside, for she who turneth honey into gall, sweet to sour and dew to flame, had laid her burden on Tristan and Iseult, and as they looked on one another their color changed from white to red and red to white, even as it pleased Love to paint them.
So the twain made their confession of Love. He kissed her, and she kissed him, and each drank of the sweetness that the heart may offer. Yet they kept the matter secret, that none in the world might know their heart's desire.
So they sailed on their journey, blissful in each other's love, yet fearful lest any should espy their secret; and sad at heart when they thought of how fair Iseult must needs be the bride of one whom she loved not. When they saw the coast of Cornwall, and all on board were joyous that their voyage was well-nigh ended, Tristan and Iseult were heavy at heart, for if they might have had their will, never again would they have looked on land, but sailed the seas together for evermore.
About the composer ....
Born in Sarnia, Ontario, R. Murray Schafer has won national and international acclaim not only for his achievements as a composer, but also as an educator, environmentalist, literary scholar, visual artist and provocateur. After taking a Licentiate at the Royal School
of Music in England in 1952, he pursued further studies at the Royal Conservatory of Music and the University of Toronto, followed by periods of auto-didactic study in Australia and England, which encompassed literature, philosophy, music and journalism. A prolific composer, he has written over 70 compositions, ranging from orchestral and vocal pieces to musical theatre and multi-media ritual. His diversity of interests and achievement is reflected in the enormous range and depth of such works as Loving (1965), Lustro (1972), Music for Wilderness Lake (1979), Ra (1983), Flute Concerto (1984), and the World Soundscape Project, as well as The Greatest Show (1986).
Mr. Schafer's most important book, The Tuning of the World (1977 and 1980), documents the findings of his World Soundscape Project, which deliberately broke through traditional barriers between the arts and sciences; the concept of "soundscape" unifies most of his musical and dramatic work, as well as his educational and cultural theories. His other major books include E. T.A. Hofman and Music (1975), Ezra Pound and Music (1977), On Canadian Music (1984), Dicamus et Labyrinthos (1985) and The Thinking Ear: On Music Education (1986).
R. Murray Schafer has repeatedly challenged and transcended orthodox approaches to music and the presentation of music. Through his unique explorations of the relationships between music, performer, audience and setting, he has expanded the potential and appreciation of music and its place in the arts and culture of his time.
Many of his compositions and writings stand as landmarks in the evolution of music and its communication in the twentieth century.
Psalm of Life
Christopher Stookey (b. 1969)
This afternoon's performance marks the world premiere of Psalm of Life, which was the winning selection in the King's Singers 25th Anniversary Composer Search. To celebrate this milestone year in their history, the ensemble decided to com?mission a new work by a young American composer to be premiered at this special performance.
Co-sponsored by the University Musical Society and The Grunyons (a local male a cappella ensemble), a nationwide search was conducted and Mr. Stookey's piece was selected by The King's Singers from among 24 other works submitted.
The composer writes ....
God has imbued us with an indomitable spirit. He has given us the power to change and ennoble ourselves and the world around us, and we must act to bring about that change. We can truly act only in the present; the future is unknown, and the past is gone. We must take every opportunity now to make our lives better, trusting God to give us the spirit to see these changes made real. This is a strong belief of mine, and it is well embodied in the text by Longfellow which 1 have chosen for this piece. We must fight against the despair that too often chokes modern man; we must instead nurture hope and faith and use these elements to face the very real world around us, and perhaps then humankind might leave something better in its wake. This work is a message of encouragement and a call to action for the human spirit to rise and gladly meet the challenges ahead, for it is then that life truly flowers.
About the composer ....
Christopher Lynn Stookey, a native of Ames, Iowa, began his musical training with piano lessons at age five and went on to learn singing, clarinet, and saxophone during his early school years. He became interested in composing at the age of twelve, and while in
high school, he wrote for solo piano and jazz ensemble. Mr. Stookey decided to make a career of the craft while attending Iowa State University, where he studied composition with Gary C. White and voice with Janet Alcorn. After receiving his Bachelor of Music degree from Iowa State in May 1992, he entered the University of Minnesota, where he is currently a graduate fellow studying composition with Alex Lubet.
In addition to Psalm of Life, Mr. Stookey's other compositions include: a string quartet; a trumpet solo; The Pardoner's Tale, an opera in one act; and a duet for bassoon and piano. Along with the commission for this afternoon's work, he has received a grant for the world premiere performance of The Pardoner's Tale and a Special Recognition prize from the National Federation of Music Clubs.
Chanson d'Amour
Love Songs from Around the World
There is perhaps no greater subject that has inspired so much music of unparalleled beauty as love. The Church has always demanded austerity in music for worship, and music about war must either inspire the troops or describe war's devastating effect. Even music for the dance is constrained by the regular movement of the dancer's feet. But love songs are restricted only by the limitations of the texts to which they are set, and, more often than not, these texts are given to elaborating on the "limitless" love two people may feel for one another.
England is perhaps less readily associated with the untrammeled expression of amorous feelings than some other European countries, especially those lying to the south. Yet through the centuries, England has produced a great variety of love songs as poignant and tender as has anywhere else; indeed many may say all the more so for the feelings being less overtly expressed.
With our selection of love songs we, The King's Singers, have attempted to reflect something of this "limitlessness" of love, in terms of geographical and historical range, and in terms of style, for composers from the most serious to the most popular are represented here.
Some may jibe at this eclecticism and others at our performing works originally intended for solo voice. We defend ourselves against the latter by saying that these melodies are so beautiful that we felt we just had to sing them!
(These selections on tonight's program can also be heard on The King's Singers' recent recording, also entitled Chanson a"Amour, on the RCA VictorBMG Classics label)
Arrangements in Close Harmony
Selections from the Lighter Side of the Repertoire
The King's Singers like to end their programs with such selections, which might consist of anything from arrangements of folk songs and spirituals, to standard evergreens and contemporary pop material. This afternoon's group features some of the most requested songs that we have performed over the last 25 years, and although we don't have time to cover them all, we hope that at least one of your favourites made our list!
About The Artists
England's phenomenally successful six-man vocal ensemble, The King's Singers, has performed everything from Renaissance to Rock for millions of delighted fans all over the world. In this, their 25th anniversary season, they reaffirm their place among the world's premiere vocal ensembles with a full schedule of performances, recordings and major television appearances. This weekend they commemorate the exact 25th Anniversary of their very first public performance May 1, 1968 with a gala concert at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Since that initial professional season, the ensemble, which was formed at King's College, Cambridge, has developed the most diverse repertoire of any vocal group in the world. With nearly 60 recordings and a Grammy nomination to their credit, The King's Singers will release four albums in 1993 on their new label, RCA VictorBMG Classics, to celebrate this milestone year. Their debut releases are the long-awaited Good Vibrations (March '93), featuring their unique arrangements of contemporary pop songs, and a collection of international love songs, called Chanson d'Amour, followed later in the year by an album of Gilbert &. Sullivan and a collection of previously unrecorded chansons of Josquin des Prez. These will add to their extensive catalogue still available on the EMIAngel label, including such recent releases as Get Happy, featuring renowned jazz pianist George Shearing, and an album of 16th Century Neapolitan popular songs, entitled La Dolce Vita.
The King's Singers are familiar to American television audiences through their regular guest appearances on the "Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson, and via numerous specials including the Emmy Award-winning ABC Christmas special with Julie Andrews, Placido Domingo, and John Denver, and The King's Singers' Madrigal History Tour, a six-part "Arts
and Entertainment" special, in addition to a feature interview on CNN. They are also a favorite of PBS viewers who eagerly await rebroadcasts of their popular shows: The King's Singers Holiday Special with the Kansas City Symphony; The King's Singers On Stage at Wolf Trap; and Evening at Pops with the Boston Pops. They recently returned to Boston to join the Pops in a tribute concert to Paul McCartney (broadcast on PBS in August '92), which also featured conductor Carl Davis, tenor Jerry Hadley and The Canadian Brass. On home video, 1991 saw the release of the documentary The Art of The King's Singers (Hinshaw Music), an educational program which lends new insights into the everyday life of the ensemble, featuring footage on the road, in rehearsal and performance, and also in a master class setting.
In 1993, The King's Singers begin their Silver Jubilee tour, which takes them to virtually every major hall in cities throughout the world. Highlights of their extensive '92-93 North American itinerary include recitals at the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall, Ambassador Theatre in Pasadena, and in such cities as San Francisco, Minneapolis, Portland (OR), Dallas, Philadelphia and Kansas City. Their orchestral concerts for this season feature return engagements with the symphonies of St. Louis and Utah, as well as their debut performances with the Pittsburgh and Milwaukee symphonies.
Highlights of past American tours have included appearances at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center (on the "Great Performers" Series), the Kennedy Center (both in recital and with the National Symphony Orchestra), the Tanglewood Music Festival and on the Minnesota Orchestra series. They have also performed recently at such prestigious venues as the Orchestra Halls of Chicago and Detroit, the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, Severance Hall in Cleveland, Jones Hall in Houston, the Symphony Halls of Boston and Atlanta, the Hollywood Bowl, Royce Hall and Ambassador Auditorium in the Los Angeles area, Davies Symphony Hall and Herbst Theatre in San Francisco, and the Seattle Opera House. In addition to the hundreds of a cappella recitals they have given in the United States, they have also collaborated with many American orchestras including the Minnesota Orchestra, National Symphony, Louisville Orchestra, Boston Pops, and the symphonies of Detroit, Kansas City, Atlanta, St. Louis, Toronto and Utah. Additionally, in May 1992, the group had a return engagement at Shea Stadium in New York City, where over 40,000 baseball fans were treated to a brief program and a special arrangement of "The Star Spangled Banner" prior to a game between the Mets and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Since the group's inception, The King's Singers have been committed to performing works by 20th century composers and have substantially added to the vocal repertory by commissioning new works by such outstanding contemporary composers as Ned Rorem, Richard Rodney Bennett, Gunther Schuller, Gian-Carlo Menotti, Gyorgi Ligeti, William Mathias, Thea Musgrave, and Krysztof Penderecki, among others. While they are masters at performing new music, they are equally at home singing Renaissance madrigals, sacred and secular choral masterpieces, folk music in various languages, and their trademark "Arrangements in Close Harmony," consisting of a wealth of pop music.
The King's Singers bring their unrivaled combination of musical excellence and charisma as performers to everything they do. In fact, their recent release entitled On the Beautiful Blue Danube, featuring the music of Johann Strauss, and their Billboard best-selling CDs, The Beatles Connection and A Little Christmas Music (with special guest Kiri Te Kanawa) would seem to indicate that The King's Singers do it all!
David Hurley, countertenor, was born in 1962 into a medical family, and he dismissed the medical life early on, opting for a musical career at the age of eight, as a chorister in Winchester Cathedral. He started singing alto at Winchester College, after which he went to New College, Oxford as a Choral Scholar. With a degree in geography, he found his way back to Winchester, where he rejoined the Cathedral Choir, combining it with a career as a free-lance singer from 1984 to 1990, when he joined The King's Singers. These days, the ensemble takes up all of David's working time. As well as being the group's high voice, he is also in charge of the travel, at last making use of his degree! When the group's timetable
allows, he enjoys returning to his small cottage in a pretty village near England's south coast. Other interests include horseback-riding and sailing, although these are often difficult because he owns neither a horse or a boat!
Alastair Hume, countertenor and founding member of the King's Singers along with Simon Carrington, emerged from Cambridge University in 1965 with a law degree, a squash "Blue," and a singing voice of no particular distinction. So, after the legal profession had breathed a collective sigh of relief when he elected to become a teacher and then a symphonic double-bass player, it was perhaps logical that he should end up as a singer in one of the most demanding disciplines of all, that of the small a capella ensemble, singing one to a part. Since the group's formation in 1968, his voice has gained nothing in distinction and he has used his law degree only occasionally, but he still plays squash, tennis, the double-bass, backgammon and Elton John! Alastair surprised and delighted many people with his recent marriage, and now he lives in Georgian London with his wife, who is a lawyer, his double-bass, his 1932 open Lagonda car, his clocks, and his collection of pipes, some of which he smokes when on holiday.
Bob Chilcott, tenor, recalled his first encounter with The King's Singers was while he was boy chorister at King's College, Cambridge. The group was then in its infancy, but when he returned to the school as a Choral Scholar in 1973, the group had become internationally renowned. It was an enormous surprise to him, therefore, when he himself became a King's Singer in 1986, as at that time he was working as a commercial composer and arranger. Being in the group has focused many things for him: his love of choral music and of performing, the opportunity to write and arrange, but perhaps most of all, the pleasure of being in an ensemble where individuality and teamwork go hand in hand. Bob is married to Polly, a cellist, and they live in Oxfordshire with their four children, along with two dogs and other assorted wildlife. Like many Englishmen, Bob follows cricket with a passion, and he also loves Grand Prix motor racing and Alfa Romeo cars.
Bruce Russell, baritone, was a chorister at King's College, Cambridge, where he joined the choir at the age of ten and where the Senior Chorister, then aged 12 12, was none other than fellow King's Singer Bob Chilcott! He continued his education at the Shrewsbury School and from there gained a choral scholarship to Christ Church, Oxford, where he studied music. After three years in London studying singing, he returned to Christ Church, where he combined singing in the choir with freelance work and teaching flute and voice in local schools. Before joining The King's Singers full-time in January 1988, Bruce was singing in the choir at St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle (where many Royal occasions take place), while continuing teaching at Radley College. He still lives in the town of Windsor with his wife Alison and their young son Oliver. He enjoys good food and wine, as well as exploring the historic buildings and, most of all, the vineyards and restaurants of France and England.
Simon Carrington, baritone, has been, to his constant amazement, a co-director and creative force with The King's Singers for all of the group's 25 years. Educated at Christ Church Cathedral School, King's School, Canterbury, and King's College, Cambridge, he drifted into a musical career as a double-bass player, first with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, then as principal with the Monteverdi Orchestra, and other London chamber orchestras. However, the steady development of the group's career following the 1968 debut, pushed the double-bass in the corner where it stands dusty and neglected! Nowadays, Simon and his wife Hilary divide their odd free moments between an old thatched house in the Vale of Pewsey, the family home since 1980, and a small cottage in one of the wine regions of southwest France, a marvelous place for holiday reunions with their "children," Rebecca and James, both students now living away from home! He runs choral courses, adjudicates, and conducts choirs when he can, and between times enjoys the countryside, reading,
gardening, inland waterways, and vintage cars, an interest he shares with Alastair Hume, a friend and colleague for over thirty years.
Stephen Connolly, bass, was a boy chorister and, at the age of sixteen, a lay-clerk at Leeds Parish Church. He was also baritone soloist with the National Youth Choir of Great Britain. While in the North of England, he performed as a soloist with many choral societies, as well as pursuing his love of ensemble singing. On leaving school he accepted a scholarship at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama where he studied singing with Rudolf Piernay. While at the Guildhall, he made his operatic debut in a production of Nicholas Maw's The Rising of the Moon. A King's Singer since 1988, Stephen's home now is in London where he lives with his wife Melanie. There doesn't seem to be too much time for hobbies these days, as most free time is devoted to restoring each of the ten rooms of their Victorian house, not to mention the fact that they are just now "recovering" from their wedding in April 1992!
Robert Aubry Davis is a native Washingtonian and an active member of D.C.'s cultural community. He hosts weekday afternoons on the P.M. program with classical music, news, and arts features including interviews with guest artists and critics on the leading public radio station in nation's capitol WETA FM91. He also hosts Desert Island Discs and co-host Songs for Aging Children with Martin Goldsmith. Davis is the creator and host of Millennium of Music, a program dedicated to music of the thousand years before Bach. The program is carried by over 100 public radio stations nationwide. WETA TV26 audiences enjoy him as the moderator of the Emmy Award-winning arts discussion program Around Town, and in 1992 Davis was nom?inated for an Emmy as the host.
Davis joined WETA FM91 in 1978 after first
hosting and producing shows in commercial and public radio stations in Florida. He has also produced weekly classical music programs for National Public Radio.
He is the chair for the University of Maryland Community Concerts Early Music Series Symposia and the Folger Consort Early Music Series. He is a founding member of the James Joyce Society, co-founder of the World Folk Music Association, serves on the boards of the Baltimore Consort and the Paul Hill Chorale and is on the advisory board of the Washington Conservatory of Music.
King's Singers Chorus
Thomas Hilbish, conductor
Jean Schneider-Claytor, rehearsal pianist
Sopranos Debra Joy Allen Young Cho Elaine Cox Lori Kathleen Gould Carolyn Leyh Beth Macnee Christina Miller JoAnne Ripley Catherine Wadhams Dr. Rachelle B. Warren Margaret Warrick
Yvonne Allen Leslie Austin Margaret Counihan Carol Kraemer
Jeannette Luton Nancy Swaugei Sarah Piper Marianne Webster Ann Woodward
Fr. Timothy Dombrowski Robert Douglas John V. Etsweiler III Marshall Grimm Alec CM. Jeong Robert MacGregor Steven C. Pierce David Rumford Carl Smith Micheal Smith Vince Zuelliu
James David Anderson
Hohie Cash
Don Faber
I toward Grodman
Charles T. Hudson
David Jaeger
Tom Litow
Joseph D. McCadden
Robert A. Markley
Gerald Miller
Marshall Schuster
Robert D. Strozier
Terril O. Tompkins
Personal reflections of UMS executive director Kenneth Fischer on the occasion of the King's Singers' 25th anniversary weekend in Ann Arbor, May I and 2, 1993:
Left u right-Alastair Hume, Bruce Russell, Bob Chikott, UMS Executive Director Ken Fischer, Stephen Connolly, David Hurley, and the King's Singers manager Linda Marder following their April, 1990 concert in Hill Auditorium, (not pictured-Simon Carrington).
What a special honor and privilege it is to host the Silver Jubilee Weekend of the King's Singers in Ann Arbor. It was a goal of mine to be able to do something special for these wonderful guys after they gave me one of my life's most memorable experiences ten years ago in the winter of '83.
I first heard about the King's Singers in 1981. My brother Jerry was working for Ford Motor Company in England on a special two-year assignment at that time. When he returned to the Detroit area, he brought back some recordings of a remarkable British men's vocal ensemble that he'd discovered in England. He knew that I, as an avid madrigal singer living in Washington, D.C., would love these guys, and he was right. He played me I'm a Train, New Day, Phyllis is M31 Only Joy, Georgia, The Long Day Closes, and scores of others. 1 was hooked, and so were my wife Penny and son Matthew.
Wanting to share this new-found group with others in the Detroit area, Jerry joined forces with two of his friends under a presenting organization called "Brethren Productions" and brought the King's Singers to Orchestra Hall in February of 1982. The concert was a big success.
I began to wonder, "If my brother Jerry can have success with these guys in a recession-ridden Detroit, imagine what the Kings could do at the Kennedy Center, especially considering the rich choral tradition and recession-proof nature of the Capitol City." The King's Singers had performed in Washington in the mid-1970s at the Library of Congress, but they had never played "The Big House." I talked to two of the principal presenters in Washington about bringing the guys to the Kennedy Center, but neither expressed interest.
So I decided to do it myself. Friends considered me a pretty good organizer, and I was making a living as an independent consultant helping organizations design their meetings and special events. I figured I could find some extra time to mount a Kennedy Center event, so in late February of 1982, I got in touch with Beverly Taylor, the King's Singers'
U.S. "agent-enthusiast" at that time and the woman my brother had worked with for the Detroit concert. Bev told me that the guys would indeed like to perform at the Kennedy Center and would be available during February of 1983.
1 went to the Kennedy Center to see about booking the Concert Hall. 1 had never presented a concert like this before. When I sat down with the person that keeps the calendar, she greeted me with a look that seemed to say, "Now who the hell are you" After a bit of chit-chat that resulted in the pleasant fact that she had known my younger brother Norman at Dartmouth, 1 was told that my priority for access to dates in the hall was about as low as you can get. "First comes the National Symphony Orchestra, then the Washington Performing Arts Society, then the Choral Arts Society, then the . . . ." She went on and on. I interrupted to ask, "Well what dates can I get" And she replied, "For you, my friend, Mondays in February." Mondays in February are to the concert business what rain is to a Fourth of July picnic. The only reason they were available to me is that no one else wanted them. I asked, "Well, what Mondays do you have" She opened the calendar book and said, "Let's see. There's the 7th, the 14th, the 21st, the . ..." I jumped up and said, "You mean the 14th of February is available! No one's taken Valentine's Day yet Put me down!"
The holder of the calendar then told me how much money somebody like me would have to pay up front before I would be given a contract by the Kennedy Center. After all, she said, the Kennedy Center didn't know who I was and had never worked with me before. When I heard the figure I took a deep breath. No way could I put up that kind of money. It was coming out of my own pocket, and I just didn't have it. She then sat quietly, recalling my brother Norman, whom she liked very much
Then she said to me "Look, instead of $10,000, why don't you give me $2,500. That guarantees the hall rental, and that should be enough. And when you see Norman, give him my best."
After talking with Penny and Matt, who were supportive from the start, I called Bev Taylor later that day, and we struck a deal. The King's Singers would perform in the 2,759-seat Kennedy Center Concert Hall on Monday, February 14, 1983.
So I had given myself just about a year to figure out how to do this thing. I was feeling pretty good about booking Valentine's Day. After all, I thought, half my marketing was done. No one would come alone to a concert on Valentine's Day, so all I really needed to do was reach 1,379 people who wanted to buy tickets, each of them would bring a date, and 1 was home free.
I realized that, first and foremost, I needed to find a private box office so that I could collect ticket revenues to pay the bills that would come in. You see, if you use the Kennedy Center's box office exclusively, you can't gain access to those funds until after the concert. And I was going to need money to pay for the promotional brochure and other expenses that I would incur in advance of the event.
uo I put out the word to eleven non-profit organizations that I thought might want to raise some money. To each I said, "I'll take 100 of the financial risk. What I need your organization to do is to help sell tickets, and you'll be well rewarded for it. Here's the way I'll work the finances. I'll first pay all of the direct expenses of putting on the event -the artists' fee, the promotional brochure, postage costs, hall rental, stagehands, etc. Then, since I'm taking the full financial risk, I'll pay myself $10,000. Then I'll give your organization everything else, which, if the concert sells out, could be as much as $20,000. But let's be clear about this. It means that about 1,800 seats need to be sold before your organization will see any money at all. But the up side is that you'll receive the full amount of each ticket sold between 1,800 and a sold-out house." There was a clear incentive for the organization to work hard until the very last seat was sold.
One group leaped at the chance to participate, and I signed them up immediately. It was the Alexandria Harmonizers, a 170-member men's barbershop chorus based in Alexandria, Virginia. This marvelous chorus was ranked 2 in the world and wanted to be
1. They had two reasons for wanting to get involved. First was to make some money to help cover their expenses to the barbershoppers' convention the following summer in Seattle where they would compete for the world championship. Second was to gain some visibility and respect by associating themselves with one of the world's finest men's vocal ensembles, the King's Singers.
1 he Harmonizers regularly sold out each of their own concerts using an excellent mailing list and an unusual but highly effective box office approach. The "box office" was the home of one of their retired members, Linton Reed, of Springfield, Virginia, a Washington suburb. He'd sit at home all day, go to the mail box to receive mail orders, and take credit-card orders over the phone. He was pleasant with the patrons, meticulous with the figures, and trustworthy with the money. Linton said he'd be happy to be the private box office for the King's Singers' concert. We agreed that we'd run Linton's box office for about four months prior to the concert, and Linton offered his services free of charge as a contribution to the Harmonizers and their portion of the arrangement.
The Harmonizers' representative, Chuck Harner, and 1 then signed a contract mapping out the approach we'd take, identifying our respective assignments, and specifying the financial arrangement. We were ready to get moving.
Without going into all the details, the approach we took was to promote the event through a mailed brochure to the Harmonizers' mailing list and to other barbershoppers and choral groups in the region. In addition, I worked with every school district music supervisor and got their help putting the brochures into the hands of every music teacher along with a group-sales form. We did not want to buy expensive newspaper advertising unless we felt we had to and then only as a last resort. What we really needed to do was get the King's Singers' music on the radio. Only a few people in Washington knew who these guys were, but, we figured, as soon as they hear 'em, they'll love 'em.
One radio guy who did know their work was Robert Aubry Davis of Washington's public radio station WETA-FM. He and I became fast friends as he not only played their music but regularly mentioned that "If you like these fellows and want to hear them live, come to the Kennedy Center on February 14 at 8:00 p.m. For tickets, call..." Linton Reed's phone would ring off the hook. WETA-FM's morning drive-time host Bill Cerri discovered one of the King's Singers' favorites, New Day, and began to play it every morning. The first time he did so, 33 people called the station asking, "Who are these guys," "Where can I get that record," "Can you play that song again," and "Just what are the words anyway" After I got a call from the station, I duplicated several hundred copies of the words to New Day, put them oh stationery that gave the date, time, and place of the concert (plus Linton Reed's phone number), and the station sent these to the hundreds of people that requested them.
The Harmonizers had a relationship with WMAL-AM, the area's 1-rated station. They knew the afternoon drive-time team, especially John Lyon, who happily promoted all of the Harmonizers' own concerts. We got John copies of the King's Singers' more popular albums, and he began to play these recordings almost daily, also mentioning details of the concert. Soon he and his listeners discovered New Day, and the results were the same as WETA's. I got King's Singers' albums to several other stations. Ticket sales began to take off as Washingtonians were beginning to discover who these guys were and how extraordinary their singing was.
Let's jump to February 2. It's now 12 days before the concert. We've sold about 1400 tickets, about half the house. Lots of group sales had come in from choral groups. We haven't bought any advertising yet. I had arranged with Bev Taylor and the guys to have them come to Washington on February 2 and 3 for a pre-tour press conference at the National Press Club, a record signing, and a television appearance on Maury Povich's morning talk show, Panorama.
Washington's professional football team, the Redskins, had just won the Super Bowl for the first time. February 2 was the day the 'Skins would be celebrated by their hometown
fans with a huge parade. Everybody loves the hometown team, and everybody was celebrating. When I picked the guys up at National Airport, 1 greeted all of them four for the first time and quickly got them to the borrowed van I used for transportation. There they were, finally: Jeremy Jackman, Al Hume, Bill Ives, Tony Holt, Simon Carrington, and Colin Mason. After loading up the luggage, I asked them to listen carefully to what I was about to say. If they followed my instructions, 1 said, they would have Washington in the palm of their hands. 1 handed each of them the sheet music for Hail to the Redskins, the football team's fight song that everybody in Washington knows, loves, and sings with great gusto. I then played them a taped version of the song by the Singing Sergeants of the U.S. Air Force on a portable cassette player. I urged them to learn this song and to incorporate it into their Press Club program. If they did so, I said, they'd be a big hit, especially on this day, and we'd sell hundreds of tickets.
it's now 5:00 p.m. and we're at the National Press Club. The format has the guys singing a couple of pieces, then being interviewed by the press, then ending with two songs. We've got the Washington Post there, representatives of several other papers, a couple of folks from the National Endowment for the Arts, Robert Aubry Davis, and a few other radio types. There's a nice group of friends, family, and fans in the audience, since these sorts of things are open to the public. The guys sing beautifully and handle the interview superbly. Now it's time to wrap it up with two songs, the last of which I'm certain will be Hai! to the Redskins. They announce the first one: Rossini's The Barber of Seville Overture. It's a big hit with the crowd.
Now I'm on the edge of my seat. I get a big grin on my face as I await their introduction. Then they announce: "For our final piece today, we'd like to do a popular 16th-century madrigal, Now is the Month of Maying.
I stare at them from the front row. I'm in shock. Don't these guys know anything about marketing Why don't they listen to me Maybe they're just having some fun.
I sit back and, as I'm shaking my head in disbelief, they begin to sing, in fact, Now is the Month of Maying. I'm very disappointed. I could wring their necks. Then all of a sudden, instead of beginning the third verse of the madrigal, they leap into "Hail to the Redskins" not missing a beat. During the four hours between the van discussion and the press appearance, the guys had arranged Hail to the Redskins as an adaptation of Now is the Month of Maying, just as they had done with the Beatles' tune Can't Buy Me Love. The audience went wild. The next day on Maury Povich's Panorama show they did the same thing, and Linton Reed's phone was ablaze with calls. These guys know what they're doing.
It's now Thursday, February 10, four days before the concert. We've sold 1800 tickets. The Harmonizers will now start to make some money with the sale of every ticket from now on. Whew!
Dy the time midnight would arrive, Washington would receive 29" of snow, the largest accumulation in decades. Washington doesn't know how to handle snow except to close everything. The schools closed. The government closed. The Kennedy Center closed. Not just Friday. But Saturday and Sunday, too. We didn't sell one ticket through the Kennedy Center during the weekend. But thank God for Linton Reed, who kept his box office opened and continued to sell tickets. Incidentally, we did make the decision to run one newspaper ad in the Entertainment Section of the Washington Post on Friday, February 11. Guess what Because of the snow, only half of the Friday papers ever got to their destination, and, of course, the phone number on the ad was the Kennedy Center's, and no one was there to receive the calls. Big bust.
It's now 8:00 a.m. Monday, February 14, the day I'd been awaiting for a year. The guys would be arriving in the late morning from Minneapolis where they'd performed the day before. I listen to the weather report, and the word is that a storm is brewing in the Carolinas and would hit Washington in the afternoon. More snow is expected. Oh no.
Washington is still digging itself out from Thursday's storm. The schools are still closed. The government is on "liberal leave" meaning you don't have to come to work if you don't feel like it and nobody asks any questions. The Kennedy Center has reopened. Thank God.
I continue to monitor the weather station and am relieved to hear that the storm has blown out to sea over southern Virginia. Good. I don't have to worry about more snow.
I he guys arrive. I pick them up in the same borrowed van and take them to the Watergate Hotel where I've been able to get each of them a nice suite at a regular room price. I also got the Presidential Suite at a discount rate for Penny, Matt, and me, and for the post-concert party for the guys and family and friends. The Watergate is right next to the Kennedy Center.
The guys are relaxed and happy. I'm relieved that they're in Washington and that the Kennedy Center is open. At 3:15 p.m. the guys and I walk to the Kennedy Center Concert Hall to begin the standard one-hour sound and light check. 1 introduce the fellows to Paul Simerman, manager of the Concert Hall, and to the two stagehands working the show.
At 3:45 p.m., while the guys are in the middle of rehearsing a tune, the lights go out. All the lights. The stagehands check backstage and discover that all of the power is out in the hall. We go out into the main lobby where the Kennedy bust is located and discover that the power is out throughout the entire building. I look outside the window and see no lights at the Watergate. We learn that a transformer has blown nearby and that much of Foggy Bottom is out of power. Hey folks, we're in the middle of a blackout.
The exit lights provide enough illumination for the guys to continue the rehearsal. I find Paul Simerman and ask him how long he expects the power to be out. He says, "This has happened only once before, Ken, and it took 24 hours before power was restored." Now there's a confidence-builder. It's now 4:00 p.m., and the concert's at 8:30 p.m. Paul goes on to say that he'll do everything he can to put this show on, but that if there is no power, there is no show.
At 4:30 p.m. the fellows return to the Watergate, walk up the 10 flights of stairs to their floor (no elevators are running), and enjoy cold tea in the Presidential Suite. These creative chaps heat up their bread using the flames from the candles, so at least they had some toast. I remain at the Kennedy Center with Paul.
There are four events scheduled for the Kennedy Center that evening one at 7:30 p.m., two at 8:00 p.m., and mine at 8:30 p.m. Paul and I agree to meet with the other presenters and hall managers at 6:15 p.m. if power has not been restored by then to determine the fate of the evening's events.
By 5:45 p.m., the press has started to gather near the Kennedy Center. The satellite vans and remote news teams are preparing for live broadcasts to report on the power failure. I call the Kings and ask if they can prepare a ditty about the power failure that they could sing in front of the cameras. I figured if we were going to have to cancel the concert we might as well turn the crisis into an opportunity and give the guys free exposure on TV. The guys start working on something.
It's now 6:15 p.m. We learn that the utility people are working on the problem, but there is still no power. We begin our meeting with the other presenters. They all decide to cancel their shows. All eyes are now on me. What am I going to do Paul and I huddle for a minute. We decide to give it another half hour. I announce that we'll have a decision at 6:45 p.m. That way, if 1 had to announce a cancellation, I'd still have 15 minutes to get the guys on each of the local affiliates, now positioned adjacent to each other in front of the Kennedy Center, before the national news comes on at 7:00 p.m.
By 6:30 p.m. word is out among the employees of the Kennedy Center that there's this one guy holding everybody up from being able to go home early. Scores of people come out of the woodwork from the kitchens, backstage, parking garages, gift shops. They surround me as I go to the pay phone to call my contact with the Alexandria Harmonizers, Chuck Harner. Also surrounding me fortunately are members of the Alexandria Harmonizers
and other volunteers who are beginning to gather to help us sell recordings and provide other assistance. Each of the employees wants me to say "Let's go home." Each of "our" people wants the power to come on.
As I'm talking to Chuck, I'm thinking of all of the groups of barbershoppers to whom we've sold group tickets, coming from as far away as Pennsylvania. They're already on the road. I'm thinking of all of the school choirs and church choirs in the area whose buses are now just picking them up. And I'm thinking of all the single ticket buyers who'll be leaving their homes in the next half hour.
vt 6:41 p.m. exactly, just as Chuck and I are strategizing how to staff each entrance to explain to our patrons that we've had to cancel the concert because of a power blackout, the lights come on. Tom Kendrick, the 2 person at the Center under Roger Stevens, calls the utility company and learns that "they think they've fixed the problem, but can't assure us 100 that it won't blow again." Tom, Paul, and I determine that we'll go ahead with the show, and take our chances. My kind of guys.
Tom and Paul make a quick determination that only a skeleton crew of Kennedy Center employees will be needed to staff our show. They dismiss the bartenders, the parking attendants, and most of the custodial staff, leaving a handful of people, plus the ushers. Most everyone now has a smile on his or her face.
A team of our volunteers goes to the phones and, with help from the Kennedy Center media relations people, they call all of the media saying that "While every other show at the Kennedy Center is cancelled, the King's Singers are still on." Another team goes outside and tells the same thing to the TV news crews, who report it to their listeners. And another group is dispatched to each of the entrances of the Kennedy Center to encourage those patrons coming to attend one of the cancelled shows to "Get a refund for your show and buy a ticket to ours." It worked.
When the lights in the Concert House were dimmed to begin our concert at 8:30 p.m., there were 2200 people in the hall. Probably 200 of them had arrived at the Center with no intention of attending our concert, yet there they were. The 2000 others made their way through snow-covered streets or had come great distances to be there. I loved every one of them. My wife and son who had provided so much encouragement over the past year were at my side, and now the concert I'd been working so hard for was about to begin.
1 he guys were sensational. They did Paul Patterson's Time Piece and Thomas Tallis' Lamentations of Jeremiah. They sang 16thand 17th-century madrigals and some of the Victorians like my favorite Phyllis is M31 Onl) ]oy. Then there were Lazy Bones, Just One of Those Things, and other popular tunes. They wrapped it up with The Barber of Seville and a couple of encores. They were perfect. In fact, that's exactly how the press described the concert:
The Washington Post said: "Avoiding constant superlatives is difficult if not impossible in describing the King's Singers' concert. They really must be heard to be believed. But it hardly would do them justice merely to say that each selection technically was perfect. Their perfection also extended to areas such as phrasing, style, dynamic range, diction, and intonation areas for which talent and hard work are required in equal measure."
The Washington Times reported: "Despite the weather and a power blackout that only ended some 75 minutes before curtain time, some 2,000 slogged their way to the Kennedy Center Monday to hear the King's Singers. Their intrepidity was rewarded by a performance that was as close to perfection as anyone could ask."
The Columbia Flier said: "If you wanted to put together the perfect concert, what elements would you want to include For me, it would include at least a couple of moments when the sheer beauty of sound would transport me out of my seat. A few more moments would raise goose pimples all over; others would literally take my breath away. The performers would have such technical command that I'd feel they could have done the music any way they'd wanted to ... There would be some old favorites . . . The performers would speak
a bit with the audience to relax both sides ... It would be alternately exhilarating, breathtaking, enlightening, amazing, and fun. I'd wish it would go on forever, and any audience, no matter what its supposed erudition, could feel the same way. In short, it would be like the concert recently given at the Kennedy Center by the King's Singers. Let me put it simply: this may well have been the best concert I've ever heard."
The party at the Presidential Suite was wonderful. Everyone was thrilled with the concert. The Alexandria Harmonizers and I had made some money, and, just as important, we'd had a ball working together. We asked the Kings if we could present them again. Conversations began about a possible October date. Matt took a vacation from school the next day, and I slept in 'til 9:00 a.m., a record.
A few postscripts:
The Alexandria Harmonizers went on to become the World Champion Barbershop Chorus not once but twice. They also got the visibility and respect they were looking for when the Kennedy Center itself invited the Harmonizers to perform as part of the nationally-televised "Kennedy Center Honors" program when the Center honored Irving Berlin in the late '80s.
Robert Aubry Davis and WETA-FM became so closely associated with the King's Singers that the station would eventually devote an entire evening during each of their pledge weeks in the mid-80s to the playing of King's Singers recordings. They made more money for the station on those "King's Singers' Nights" than any other except for one -Saturday night and Garrison Keillor.
Some old pros around the Kennedy Center were asking me during the power failure how I was able to be so calm. I said, "I don't know." The fact is that I had taken out an insurance policy two months before that protected me against the loss of gross ticket sales should the event have to be cancelled by a reason beyond my control. What I was protecting myself against was the possibility that the King's Singers might get stranded in Minneapolis and not be able to arrive in Washington on time. I never dreamed that bad weather or a power failure in Washington might be the reason. Knowing that my investment was fully protected financially did help me stay calm.
As a result of my doing this event, I learned a few things about presenting a concert and started to think that this might be an exciting way to make a living. I did three more King's Singers' concerts over the next three years and learned a few more things. In 1986, when the University Musical Society of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor was looking for a new executive director and when Penny and Matt had concluded that it was time for me to get a "real" job, I was offered the position and started here in June of 1987. That I am now able to present the King's Singers in their 25th Anniversary Jubilee Concert is a great thrill for me and my family. Thank you, fellows, for enabling it to happen.
And what about those two professional presenters that said "no" to the guys in 1982 One now happily presents them at the Kennedy Center. The other was requested to look elsewhere for employment.

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