The King’s Singers return to Mason’s Center for the Arts on March 6 at 8:00 p.m., performing some of the world’s most romantic songs through the ages from Randy Newman’s “When She Loved Me” to the Finnish folk song “Tuoll on mon kultani,” and even some works from the Renaissance, including Orlandus Lassus’s “Toutes les nuits.”
Jonathan Howard, bass in The King’s Singers, took time to talk with the Center about their “Love Songs” program, the ensemble’s ambitious tour schedule, and even tips of the trade for our vocal students.
Can you share what inspired this program of love songs?
Howard: There are so many songs written about love in our library that we thought we could make a really interesting program by putting an unexpected selection of them together. I like to think of concert program like art exhibitions: you take a selection of works—whether they’re paintings or musical pieces—and you try to create a fresh experience for the people who come by arranging those works in a way they haven’t been arranged before. Love Songs puts very different kinds of music from across the last 600 years across the world side by side to prompt the audience to think about that music in a new way.
Through the songs selected for the evening, can you share a little bit about the “musical love journey” you will take the audience on?
Howard: The key thing you can learn about love in this program is that there are lots of different sides to it. It explores everything from the control that new love holds over us to the temptations of lust (in a number of guises…), or the grief when love passes, or the power of certain kinds of love to stay with us eternally. It’s not a program with one continuous story but more of a catalogue of lots of different episodes where love has played a central role. Perhaps the key underlying idea is to show just how much amazing music the notion of love has inspired, all over the world and throughout the ages.
Why is performing a diverse program, featuring a range of musical styles and time periods (pop songs, folk songs, songs from the Romantic era, Renaissance, and more), important to the overall mission of The King’s Singers?
Howard: For me, there are two key reasons. One, it’s quite rare to hear and experience so many different kinds of music in the same concert. Apart from the binding fact that all this music was written for only voices, they all come from different times and places. That means that, hopefully, the audience gets a richer musical experience than if they only heard the same style throughout the program. Two, we love so many kinds of music that we want to perform them all. It’s that simple. Hopefully, that enjoyment really comes across from the stage because jumping between the centuries and between different composers and languages really excites us, and we want to share that.
How do you find time on your tour to spark creativity and curiosity?
My brain is always whirring. I’m so grateful that I love what I do, and I can’t stop myself from coming up with all sorts of ideas. Thankfully, everyday life—particularly when you do as much traveling as we do—is so rich with different stimuli, whether that’s the music you hear in stores when you’re out buying groceries, or reading a headline on a newspaper, or scrolling through your Instagram stories, that as long as your brain is open to coming up with new ideas, there’s no shortage of fuel for them. So, for me, the hard bit isn’t coming up with new ideas—it’s finding the time to convert them into projects!
For our vocal students, I wonder if you had some tips for vocal rest while on the road?
For me, it’s simple: lots of water, lots of sleep (for me, eight hours a night is ideal), and lots of vocal rest—trying to avoid raising your voice too often and giving yourself some time each day when you don’t have to talk too much. It’s taken me more discipline than it might do others actually to achieve these things, but it’s an easy list to write down.
Lastly, WQRX recently named The King’s Singers as one of their “20 For 20”: Artists to Watch for the Upcoming Year. Congratulations! What does this recognition mean for you?
What’s so lovely about being chosen as one of WQXR’s 20 for 20 is that that list is all about people who are redefining classical music in the modern world. As a group that’s been around for over 50 years, it’s more important to us now than ever before to try to do things that can make a difference to people today and to prove that music has an unbelievable power to do good in the world. We believe in what we’re doing, but it’s incredibly nice when other people tell you that they believe in what you’re doing too.
The King’s Singers: Love Songs:
Friday, March 6 at 8:00 p.m. at the Center for the Arts