Music Reviews : King’s Singers at Ambassador Auditorium

There were no convention delegates at stake, but it was a super Tuesday at Ambassador Auditorium nonetheless. By the time the King’s Singers finished its concert, the audience filling the hall and spilling over onto the stage would probably have elected them to anything available.

The British sextet is celebrating its 20th season, with two of the founders still singing with the group, and its UK/LA ’88 Festival program proved it can still tickle fancies and warm cockles with the best.

The agenda was the usual deliriously mixed bill. The most classically oriented set were four songs from Grieg’s wondrous Opus 30 Album for Male Voices. Baritone Bruce Russell, the newest King’s Singers member, delivered the solo parts with clear, smooth authority.

The King’s Singers treat madrigals and similar material with affectionate abandon, as frolicsome entertainment. Their “Madrigal History Tour” began with much mugging and miming in a negrilla by Juan Gutierrez de Padilla, and ended with props brought out and a card game played during the singing of “Il gioco di primiera,” attributed to Striggio.


“Lalela Zulu” is a modern madrigal cycle, written for the King’s Singers by South African expatriates Stanley Glasser and Lewis Nkosi. The ensemble sang the bumptious, extroverted numbers with characteristic brio and emphasis, and reached an unexpected level of still, restrained sorrow and poignancy in the lullaby “Lala Mntwana” and the anthem-like “Egoli.”

The more overtly popular numbers received the same measure of able grace and easy charm, in remarkably sophisticated arrangements. Bob Chilcott, the group’s tenor, was responsible for the varied folk-song group that opened the program. The final set lead directly into the encores, mustering pieces by the Beatles, Noel Coward, Duke Ellington and three Paul Simon numbers.