HESSTON, KAN. – Hailing from Britain and lauded as the world’s greatest male a cappella vocal ensemble, The King’s Singers will headline the next Hesston-Bethel Performing Arts (HBPA) series event.
The renowned sextet returns for their seventh appearance with HBPA in a concert Feb. 23 at 7:30 p.m. in Yost Center on the Hesston College campus (click here for directions and HC campus map).
Feb. 9, Jane Chu, chair of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), announced that HBPA is one of only 163 nonprofit organizations nationwide to receive an NEA Challenge America grant. The $10,000 award will support The King’s Singers’ visit to Hesston College.
"I'm pleased to be able to share the news of our support through Challenge America, including the award to Hesston-Bethel Performing Arts,” Chu said. “The arts foster value, connection, creativity and innovation for the American people, and these recommended grants demonstrate those attributes and affirm that the arts are part of our everyday lives."
“We are so thrilled to have the support of the NEA for this project,” said HBPA Director Matthew Schloneger. “It is only with the combination of public and private support that we are able to bring world-renowned artists such as The King’s Singers to rural Kansas.
“The master class in particular is only possible because of the grant,” he added, “and will provide a unique opportunity for a large number of students to work directly with some of the finest choral artists in the world.”
The Challenge America category supports projects that extend the reach of the arts to underserved populations whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited by geography, ethnicity, economics or disability. The NEA received 347 eligible Challenge America applications and will award 163 grants for a total of $1.63 million.
Reserved seating and general admission tickets for The King’s Singers are available through the HBPA website at hesstonbethel.org or by calling 620-327-8158 (general admission tickets are also on sale at the Bethel College bookstore). Ticket prices range from $23 to $27 with discounts for students and senior citizens.
Thanks to the NEA grant funding, The King’s Singers will present a choral master class Feb. 23 from 11:45 a.m.-1:15 p.m. at Hesston Mennonite Church. The class will feature performances by the Hesston College Bel Canto Singers, Bethel College Concert Choir and Goessel High School Elbiata Singers. The master class is free and open to the public.
The King’s Singers’ appearance at HBPA is part of a three-week U.S. tour in which they will treat audiences to their “Great American Songbook” program.
The “Great American Songbook” program offers up sunny, sophisticated versions of the group’s favorite tunes by Rodgers & Hart, Cole Porter and Irving Berlin, arranged by the fast-rising British jazz composer and bassist Alexander L’Estrange.
Derived from The King’s Singers’ 2014 recording of the same name, the tunes evoke nostalgia for a golden age of American musical culture.
After a performance of this program last spring, the Richmond Times-Dispatch wrote, “Each arrangement was simply breathtaking, especially when performed by such an outstanding ensemble. They may be cheeky Brits, but they show real love and appreciation for these American classics.”
Founded in 1968, The King’s Singers’ current incarnation is David Hurley and Timothy Wayne-Wright, countertenors, Julian Gregory, tenor, Christopher Bruerton and Christopher Gabbitas, baritones, and Jonathan Howard, bass.
Acclaimed for their life-affirming virtuosity and irresistible charm, The King’s Singers are in global demand. Their work – synonymous with the best in vocal ensemble performance – appeals to a vast international audience.
They perform more than 120 concerts each year, touring regularly to Europe, the United States, Asia and Australasia, where they are admired for their musical excellence and recognized as consummate entertainers – a class act with a delightfully British sense of humor.
The King’s Singers have premiered more than 200 new works, including landmark compositions by Luciano Berio, György Ligeti, James MacMillan, Krzysztof Penderecki, Toru Takemitsu, John Tavener and Eric Whitacre, and commissioned thrilling arrangements of everything from jazz standards to pop-chart hits.
They are double Grammy® award-winning artists, honored in 2009 for their Signum Classics release, Simple Gifts, and again in 2012 for their contribution to Eric Whitacre’s Light & Gold album on Decca.
In June 2013, The King’s Singers were chosen as one of only two vocal ensembles to enter the Gramophone Hall of Fame, honored for their unique discography of over 150 albums.
Highlights of the group’s 2014-15 season included a Dec. 22 Christmas performance in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.
Of that event, Patrick Rucker wrote in the Washington Post, Dec. 22, 2014: “There is a tendency for ensembles of a certain vintage, both vocal and instrumental, to fall into routines, if not stagnate. Not so the King’s Singers, now in their 46th season. As was amply evident in this often touching, occasionally thrilling and always satisfying program, the group embodies many of the best aspects of British music-making today.”
The King’s Singers wind up their current U.S. tour with a performance at the American Choral Directors Association annual conference in Salt Lake City, where they will give the world premiere of a new work by Jake Heggie.
One event remains in the 2014-15 HBPA season – Trio Voronezh, April 15 at Hesston Mennonite Church.
In addition to funding from the NEA, the HBPA King’s Singers concert is supported in part by KMUW-Wichita Public Radio, which is a media sponsor for this event.
HBPA is also funded in part by the cities of Hesston and North Newton, Excel Industries and Hustler Turf Equipment (Hesston), the Hesston Community Foundation, the North Newton Community Foundation, Hesston AmericInn and other area businesses and patrons. HBPA receives support from the Mid-America Arts Alliance, whose funders include the NEA and foundations, corporations and individuals throughout Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas.
The Hesston-Bethel Performing Arts series, now in its 33rd year, is a collaborative effort of Hesston College and Bethel College, presenting five performances each year by world-renowned or regionally acclaimed artists.
Located 30 miles north of Wichita, Hesston College is the two-year liberal arts college of Mennonite Church USA.