400 years ago, in 1623, England lost two of its greatest composers: William Byrd and Thomas Weelkes. In a pro- gramme marking this double anniversary, The King’s Singers and Fretwork turn their focus to the bold personalities of these two men, Will and Tom. Featuring well-known gems by the two composers, alongside works which had never been recorded before and which are rarely heard live, Tom and Will unlocks some of the humanity behind these two giants of Elizabethan music. Presented in The King’s Singers’ unique style, this programme is filled with beauty, drama and storytelling.
As part of this project, The King’s Singers and Fretwork have commissioned two new works for their joint forces, by two of Britain’s great living composers: Sir James MacMillan and Roderick Williams. These works only feature in the version performed by The King’s Singers and Fretwork, but represent a commitment to keeping the spirit of Byrd and Weelkes alive in today’s musical landscape.
THE KING’S SINGERS have represented the gold standard in a cappella singing on the world’s greatest stages for over fifty years. They are renowned for their unrivalled technique, versatility and skill in performance, and for their consummate musicianship, drawing both on the group’s rich heritage and its pioneering spirit to create an extraordinary wealth of original works and unique collaborations.
What has always distinguished the group is their comfort in an unprecedented range of styles and genres, pushing the boundaries of their repertoire, while at the same time honouring their origins in the British choral tradition. They are known and loved around the world, and appear regularly in major cities, festivals and venues across Europe, North America, Asia and Australasia, including Carnegie Hall, Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Mozarteum Salzburg, Tonhalle Zurich, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Edinburgh International Festival, Helsinki Music Centre, Sydney Opera House, Tokyo Opera City and the National Centre for the Performing Arts, Beijing. They also work with orchestras, recently including the NDR Radiophilharmonie and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, with whom they performed a specially commissioned work by Sir James MacMillan.
The King’s Singers’ extensive discography has led to numerous awards including two Grammy Awards, an Emmy Award, and a place in Gramophone magazine’s inaugural Hall of Fame. As part of their 50th anniversary celebrations in 2018, the group undertook a series of major tours worldwide, supporting the release of a special anniversary album GOLD (also nominated for a Grammy Award), which featured important works in the group’s history and new commissions by Bob Chilcott, John Rutter and Nico Muhly. This commitment to creating a new repertoire has always been central to the group, with over 200 commissioned works by many leading composers of the 20th and 21st Centuries, including John Tavener, Judith Bingham, Eric Whitacre, György Ligeti, Luciano Berio, Krzysztof Penderecki and Toru Takemitsu. These join a unique body of close-harmony and a cappella arrangements, including those by individual King’s Singers past and present. Many of their early collaborators’ own experience with brass bands helped to inform the distinct ‘King’s Singers sound’ and a large number of their commissioned works and arrangements are available in their own signature series with Hal Leonard, selling over two million copies worldwide. A key to the group’s success has been their ability to evolve and innovate over many years – and through 28 individual members – while always retaining this special sound and musical integrity.
They also lead educational workshops and residential courses across the world, working with groups and individuals on their techniques and approaches to ensemble singing. In 2018 they founded The King’s Singers Global Foundation to provide a platform for the creation of new music across multiple disciplines, coach a new generation of performers and provide musical opportunities to people of all backgrounds. The King’s Singers were formed in 1968, when six recent choral scholars from King’s College, Cambridge gave a concert at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall. By chance, the group was made up of two counter-tenors, a tenor, two baritones and a bass, and the group has maintained this formation ever since that debut.
“Fretwork is the finest viol consort on the planet” Stephen Pettitt, The London Evening Standard.
FRETWORK has been around for nearly 40 years, performing music old and new, and look forward to a challenging and exciting future as the world’s leading consort of viols. They have expanded their repertory to include music from over 500 years, from the first printed consort music in Venice in 1501 to music written this year – and, in between, everything that can be played on a consort of viols – Byrd & Schubert, Purcell & Shostakovich, Gibbons & Britten, Dowland & Grieg. While they used to fly all over the globe, they have now committed to reducing their carbon footprint by travelling in Europe only by train or electric cars – recently, they have toured Germany, France, Spain, Austria & Slovenia in their two Teslas. The future sees many exciting projects based on the thrilling juxtaposition of old and new; making the experience of old music new and bringing the sensibilities of past ages to bear on contemporary music.