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The King’s Singers music spans medieval to modern

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – The King’s Singers make their fifth appearance on a Harvey County college campus when they perform in Bethel College’s Memorial Hall next month.

The all-male a cappella sextet from England will give the next Hesston-Bethel Performing Arts series concert Tuesday, Feb. 10, at 7:30 p.m. on the Bethel campus. They will conduct a short choral workshop the afternoon before.

The HBPA concert will be one of the first for Timothy Wayne-Wright, second countertenor, as a member of The King’s Singers. He replaces Robin Tyson, who is retiring. The other members of the group are Stephen Connolly, bass (20 years with The King’s Singers), David Hurley, countertenor (18 years), Phillip Lawson, baritone (15 years), Paul Phoenix, tenor (15 years), and Christopher Gabbitas, baritone (four years).

The King’s Singers’ last appearance in the area was as HBPA artists during the 2005-06 school year. They were also featured as part of HBPA’s predecessor, the Hesston Performing Arts series, in the 1984-85, 1986-87 and 1990-91 school years.

Named for King’s College Cambridge, where the original group members were choral scholars, The King’s Singers regularly perform more than 100 concerts every season, along with recording and teaching. In 2008, the group celebrated 40 years of music-making. They are counted among the world’s elite classical and a cappella performers.

Also in 2008, The King’s Singers made their first studio recording in 10 years, Simple Gifts, a collection of 16 ballads, folksongs and spirituals – ranging from Billy Joel’s “She’s Always A Woman” to “Greensleeves” – that has been nominated for a Grammy® award (announcements will be made Sunday, Feb. 8).

The King’s Singers’ repertoire encompasses medieval music to masterpieces of the Renaissance, lieder to folk, pop and jazz. With contemporary commissions from leading composers, they are constantly expanding their repertoire. Since their debut concert in 1968, The King’s Singers have commissioned works from many well-known composers, including Krzysztof Penderecki, Luciano Berio, Peter Maxwell Davies, Richard Rodney Bennett and Gyorgy Ligeti. With a dozen such commissions since 2000, the latest will come from John McCabe, Eric Whitacre, Michael Nyman and Ivan Moody.

The list of venues at which the group has appeared is equally diverse, including cathedrals, palaces and many of the world’s major concert halls. They have joined forces with orchestras such as the London Symphony, the Cincinnati Pops and the Chicago Symphony, as well as the chamber ensembles Concordia, Sarband and L’Arpeggiata.

The group has also teamed with distinguished soloists such as soprano Kiri te Kanawa, classical pianist Emanuel Ax, jazz pianist George Shearing, percussionist Evelyn Glennie and Bruce Johnston of the Beach Boys, collaborations that have often resulted in recordings to add to the group’s discography of nearly 100 albums on the Signum Classics, BMG and EMI labels.

Renowned for their commitment to blend, balance and intonation in their own performances, The King’s Singers are keen to pass on their knowledge through educational work. They conduct master classes in many countries and have for 10 years been Prince Consort Ensemble-in-Residence at the Royal College of Music, London. The group will lead a choral workshop with Hesston College and Bethel College choirs Monday, Feb. 9, from 4-5 p.m. at Hesston Mennonite Church that is free and open to the public.

Their obvious enjoyment of what they do has captured the imagination of audiences all over the world. As the London Times put it, The King’s Singers are “still unmatched for their musicality and sheer ability to entertain.”

Other concerts in the 2008-09 HBPA season include traditional Irish music with the David Munnelly Band (3 p.m., Sunday, March 1, Memorial Hall) and the Russian folk group Trio Voronezh (3 p.m., Sunday, April 5, Hesston Mennonite Church).

It is still possible to purchase partial season tickets for the remaining concerts, beginning with The King’s Singers, with prices ranging from $45 to $22 depending on seating location and discount eligibility. A partial season ticket entitles the holder to attend the dessert reception following Trio Voronezh’s concert, the last of the season.

Single tickets for The King’s Singers range from $19 to $23 with all other concerts individually priced between $14 and $17. Discounts are available to students and senior citizens. Free child care is available to patrons who request the service in advance. Call 620-327-8158 for tickets or to arrange child care or call 316-284-5205 for tickets only.

The King’s Singers program is presented in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency that believes that a great nation deserves great art, and by Mid-America Arts Alliance, with generous underwriting by the Kansas Arts Commission and foundations, corporations and individuals throughout Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas.

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