The King’s Singers’ “Nowell Sing We Now” program Friday in Santa Fe encompasses pieces by many of the six-member ensemble’s favorite composers.
“At the center of the first half of our show at St. Francis Cathedral Basilica in Santa Fe, we’ve chosen to perform three pieces by the 20th-century English composer Herbert Howells,” said bass Jonathan Howard via email from Sussex, England. “I think all of us regard Howells as one of the finest choral composers England has produced. As choristers, many of us were exposed to his anthems, masses and canticles at a young age, but these three pieces – Here is the little door, A spotless rose and Sing lullaby – really capture the essence of Howells’ masterful choral writing and sincerity of his religious beliefs.”
Music by the Franco-Flemish composer Orlandus Lassus (1532-1594), whose sacred and secular works are integral to the King’s Singers’ repertoire, opens the program.
“The plainchant Praeter Rerum Seriem features in a number of Renaissance pieces we sing and here Lassus has used it as the backbone to his setting of the Magnificat,” said Howard. “Lassus’ Resonet in laudibus, which completes the first group of pieces, is an energetic celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.”
Contemporary music also is featured in the first part of the program. “It’s always a great pleasure to include contemporary compositions in our programs, and in Santa Fe we’re delighted to perform music by the Danish composer Bo Holton, by our friend Jim Clements (an arrangement of the famous Gabriel’s Message) and an original work by our very own Christopher Gabbitas (baritone), Mary’s Lullaby, an adaptation of the Coventry Carol,” Howard added.
The second half of the concert celebrates Christmas through arrangements of five popular Catalonian folksongs and Spanish carols that rejoice in Christ’s birth and contemplate which gifts the wise men should bring Jesus.
“It’s always a joy for us to be able to perform some of our favorite Christmas songs in close harmony, and we looking forward to closing our show with a selection of some of our favorite songs from the lighter side of the King’s Singers’ festive repertoire,” said Howard.
The King’s Singers, an award-winning British a capella ensemble founded in 1968 and named after the King’s College in England, won a 2009 Grammy for Best Classical Crossover Album. Their DVD “Live at the BBC Proms” won a MIDEM (Marché International du Disque et de l’Edition Musicale) award at the annual ceremony in Cannes in 2010 for Best DVD Performance.
One of the ensemble’s latest endeavors is a new studio recording and live performance project called the Great American Songbook, which was launched earlier this fall. The CD features 17 new arrangements of music by composers including Cole Porter, Richard Rogers and Irving Berlin written specifically for the group by jazz composer and arranger Alexander L’Estrange.