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Saturday, October 29, 2005

King's Singers and Sarband in Concert

Well, I had another fun time last night. Sarah, Lizzie and I went to the King's Singer's concert at GMU. I'm sure that enough people reading this know that the King's Singers are (and have been for a long time) one of my favorite groups, so, naturally, I jumped at the chance to see them in concert. Well, in the interest of saving money, we bought the cheap tickets -- well, $22 + fees. Anywho, the seating was good enough, even though it was in the very back of the auditorium. And, really, the King's Singers are not exactly know for singing too softly to be heard. Even when they sing softly, they are still audible and clear enough to be heard.

The concert was called Sacred Bridges. In it, the King’s Singer’s sang an assortment of Psalms. The thing that took me by surprise was their partner in the performing arts. The King’s Singers do not need accompaniment to sound awesome, but an Eastern band named Sarband was performing alongside them. The concert was a mix of Catholic, Jewish and Muslim arrangements of these psalms. The first one was Psalm 124:1-8 (arranged by Salamone Rossi Hebreo), and it featured the King's Singers in all their glory, with their six-part harmony and sounding really cool, as usual.

Next up was Sarband. Now, I don't know much about Jewish or Muslim music or prayer. But these guys in black robes and what looked like very large thimbles for hats came out towards the end of Psalm 124, and as Sarband began, the black robes were revealed to be only capes. The capes came off, and they were in solid white robes. They stood at the center of a couple lights, facing each other, and bowed. Sarband began playing Psalm 9:1,7,11,19 (Ali Ufki and Claude Goudimel). Then the men in white robes spread their arms, tilted their heads back and slightly off to the side and started spinning. Somewhere in the middle, the King's Singer's joined Sarband in Psalm 9. About eight minutes later, the song ended. The spinners stopped, bowed to each other, picked up their capes, put them on, bowed again, and left the stage. They stopped when the song was over. Over five minutes of just spinning. Neither drifted at all. The one on stage left was in perfect form the entire time. The one on stage right just slightly lost his form, but still did not drift.

The rest of the program was as follows: King's Singers then took over with Psalm 6:1-2 (Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck). Sarband joined them for a different rendition of Psalm 6:1-3,5 (Ali Ufki and Genevan Psalter). The King's Singer then did Psalm 113:1-9 (Traditional Sefardi) and Psalm 118:21-24,26-29 (Salamone Rossi Hebreo). [For anyone wondering, it's Psalm 117 that the Boston Byzantine Choir has immortalized, not this one. Sorry.] Sarband then took over, with an Instrumental Improvisation on Psalm 2. The King's Singers were ready to go again, and sang Psalm 7:1 (J.P. Sweelinck). Sarband backed them up on Psalm 2:1-2,5 (Ali Ufki and Genevan Psalter), and then they took a break while the King's Singers sang Psalm 2:1-2 (J.P. Sweelinck). At Psalm 5:1-3,12 (Ali Ufki and Claude Goudimel), Sarband began their final performance for the evening, accompanied by the King's Singers, and the King's Singers wrapped it all up with Psalm 128:1-6 (Salamone Rossi Hebreo).

At the beginning of (I think) Psalm 7, Paul Phoenix, the tenor for the King's Singers, came out to stage right. (A side note: the lights on stage left came on and then went off before the lights on stage right. It's good that Pat and Colin know what they're doing and have never done that, right, guys?) He did a couple minute solo and then rejoined his fellows where they took off with their piece.

Just before Psalm 5, the spinners came back out. Here was their biggest challenge: now they had to spin in place for practically 15 minutes. Quite a daunting task if you ask me, a guy who spins for 10 seconds and falls over, dizzy and giggling like a preschooler. I kid you not: 15 minutes. The guy on stage left who was perfect before was, once again, perfect. He never drifted, and his arms stayed in the same position. The poor guy on stage right was just outclassed. He kept spinning no problem, but his position and form changed. He drifted over a decent amount of the stage. Fortunately, he never collided with anyone or anything. He just drifted backwards. (It wasn't hugely noticeable that he was drifiting, unless you were higher than the stage, which we were.) Anyway, when they finished spinning, they left as they had before.

Just to "wow" about the King's Singers one more time. These guys are so awesome! No pitchpipe, no tuning fork. If they had any of that, they used them in the back and committed to memoery their perfect starting notes. Chances are, these guys all have perfect pitch. They all inhaled at the same time and began the concert in a rather loud but absolutely perfect sound. I've sing with several choirs, and these guys -- wow. No comparison. They did what I want to do: begin and continue all the way to the end perfectly on key. Even their vibrato blends! Simply amazing...

Maybe I'll write about them again later. For now, I'm sure that everyone is getting sick of me writing here, so I'll wrap up.

After the concert was over, they had a spot where they were selling CD's. I picked up a King's Singer's CD, one of their Christmas albums. Lizzie picked up "Annie Laurie". Sarah picked up both CD's, looked at them, and said that she wanted both. Crazy Sarah...

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