By John Rushby-Smith

I first encountered The King’s Singers some forty or more years ago when I tweaked microphones to put them on the air. In 1968 they impressed everyone enormously with their uncanny blend, rock-steady intonation and precision of phrase and rhythm. Young and elegantly dressed, they looked good too. Every aspect of platform presentation was thought through in diverse programmes that spanned the centuries and managed to make the ancient and modern shine with a common light of musical brilliance. The ensemble has metamorphosed since then. The original members dropped out decades ago and have been replaced by singers so young that founder member Brian Kay refers to them as “the grandchildren”. I was curious. Like the old broom which has had many new handles and many new heads, are they still recognisable as the King’s Singers I knew so well?

You betcha they are! In a programme devised to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee, we found them one moment in the Good Companie of Henry VIII or attempting anonymously to seduce a young milkmaid, while the next minute they were singing madrigalian tributes to the Virgin Queen before amusing Good Queen Vic with a few noble, if ill-judged (given the date of composition) sentiments about long life.

After the interval we moved to the present. John McCabe’s setting of stanzas from Jo Shapcott’s Cartography proved a seductive blend of closely woven harmonies, while Howard Goodall’s All the Queen’s Horses was an affectionate take on a poem by U A Fanthorpe. Jocelyn Pook’s Mobile added the Nokia tune to Sir Andrew Motion’s luddite look at mobile phones, and as Paul Drayton’s A Rough Guide to the Royal Succession brought proceedings to a close, it was clear that this particular bunch of kings had certainly succeeded.