The King’s Singers bring ‘Great American Songbook’ tour to Columbia

The British group will hopefully be your cup of tea.

The chance to see a Grammy-award winning British a cappella group doesn’t come around often, but Columbia will feel the international love Thursday when The King’s Singers performs at the Missouri Theatre.

On the road for its North American tour, Great American Songbook, The King’s Singers will infuse traditional sounds of jazz with their own in a new project, member Chris Bruerton says.

"(The audience is) gonna hear some real classics, from Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra and all those wonderful singers from over the years,” he says. “All those beautiful songs that have been a hallmark of American jazz over the last century. So we're doing our take on it, and what they're going to get is really beautiful harmony. I think people who haven't heard us are gonna have a really wonderful time."

For new listeners, The King’s Singers has a style that has a bit of everything for both new and current fans of a cappella, Bruerton says.

“We have developed a sound that is easily recognizable to people who listen to a lot of a cappella music,” he says. “It's really balanced, and that's what we sort of aim for in the style that we sing. And we sing music spanning 600 years in musical history, from songs from the 15th century all the way to the modern day. So if (fans) come to a concert, they're gonna hear a bit of everything.”

‘A bit of everything’ includes 150 studio albums that have come out over a span of five decades, since the group's formation in 1968.

The first generation of The King’s Singers was part of the chapel choir at King’s College in Cambridge, and upon graduating, decided to continue performing, naming the group after the university.

Since then, the members of The King’s Singers have rotated but maintained the original group count. Bruerton says the current six members — David Hurley, Tim Wayne-Wright, Paul Phoenix, Chris Gabbitas, Jonathan Howard and himself — come from diverse backgrounds, but all had choral training and were eventually recommended for the job.

Another consistent feature is the unusual a cappella lineup of only one tenor and an extra baritone.

"What you end up with is a deeper sound because you have that extra bass-like voice,” Bruerton says. “That creates this wonderful foundation of sound for the top three parts. You might think there's more singers singing than just the six of us."

Bruerton says Great American Songbook deviates from the group’s previous works.

“It does go away from the more traditional projects that we've been prone to take in recent years, which have mostly been some pop albums,” Bruerton says. “This is on a different level, and I think people are going to really enjoy the fact that it's a studio album, but it’s recognized as The King's Singers and all the things we stand for … but with the assistance of the studio techniques available nowadays.”

Taking this unique sound to Columbia was also a no-brainer since a small town is just as viable relative to bigger venues, Bruerton says.

“We don't just go to the great cities. We go everywhere,” Bruerton says. “It’s so fun going to these smaller places as well and bringing our music to those communities."

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