In celebration of the group’s 50th anniversary, the six King’s Singers performed a gala concert in the Chapel at King’s last week, which is now available as a webcast on the King’s College website. Originally formed by six King’s College Choral Scholars in 1968, the group has seen 26 singers pass through its ranks. The current line-up includes former King’s Choral Scholar Patrick Dunachie, and many former members were in the audience for the concert.
The King’s Singers were joined by King’s College Choir and Stephen Cleobury for a world premiere performance of To stand in this house by New York-based composer Nico Muhly. The four-moment work is based on thoughts about, and responses to, the world by prominent individuals with connections to King’s. Two ancient prayers – The Prayer of King’s Henry VI and The Prayer of Sir Thomas Ken – were set alongside writing by two of the most celebrated graduates of the last century: authors Salman Rushdie and Zadie Smith.
The contemporary texts reflect upon the ancient prayers and how human civilisation has come short in realising their hopes. Rushdie talks of the beauty of King’s and its chapel, and highlights the irony that such a majestic building, which is able “to give solace and to inspire”, can still coexist with the “hours of howling loneliness” experienced by Rushdie as an undergraduate. Smith, in an extract from a speech she gave upon winning the Welt Literature Prize in Berlin in 2016, expresses how, despite writings that hope for the contrary, like The Prayer of Sir Thomas Ken, in our world right now “the conductors standing in front of this human orchestra have only the meanest and most banal melodies in mind”.
You can listen to the world premiere of Nico Muhly’s work on the concert webcast until 16 February 2018.