King's Singers

Christmas Presence [13 tracks]

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This 2016 release by the King's Singers is relatively short, only 13 tracks compared with its 2003 Christmas release with 25. The transitions between the various aspects of the live concert involved might seem a trifle less abrupt in a wider and more varied program that would also show off the group's facility with languages, but there's plenty in this 35-minute program to attract both King's Singers fans and those new to this most durable of all the small a cappella groups (they date back to 1968 and have maintained a remarkable standard of consistency through numerous changes in personnel). The Singers always include a segment featuring inventive treatments of popular songs, and for listeners who favor the ornate arrangements of which they are capable, that of Jingle Bells makes a good place to start sampling. But equally attractive, and perhaps a trifle more unusual, are the King's Singers' renditions of Renaissance Christmas pieces, uniquely bright and joyous in sound. Only one of the Singers' pieces, Es ist ein Ros' entsprungen, is really familiar (there's an interlude by the National Youth Choir of Great Britain on the equally famous In dulci jubilo), but the likes of Sweelinck's Hodie Christus natus est sound as intimate as could be desired. The live King's Singers sound is effectively captured by Mike Hatch of Signum in the Chapel of King's College, Cambridge, where the singers have spent most of their musical lives. A satisfying King's Singers release that, when it appeared, was their first in several years.

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