The King's Singers bring award-winning vocal blend to Williamsburg

Contact Reporterhbridges@vagazette.com

Two countertenors, a tenor, two baritones and a bass.

The formation of voices within The King's Singers, a renowned a cappella ensemble from England, is relatively unusual, according to member Pat Dunachie.

But those six voices blend seamlessly into a sound distinctive to the group.

"At certain points, it sounds just like one voice," Dunachie said in a phone interview from Santa Fe, N.M., ahead of the fourth performance on the group's North American tour.

The award-winning ensemble stops in Williamsburg on Dec. 17 in a concert presented by the Virginia Arts Festival.

The King's Singers formed in 1968, with origins in cathedral singing, Dunachie said. In the nearly 50 years since, the ensemble has created an international reputation. In 2009, the group's "Simple Gifts" won the Grammy for Best Crossover Album. Another Grammy followed in 2012 through a collaboration with Eric Whitacre.

Having joined in September, Dunachie, 23, is the newest King's Singer, joining Timothy Wayne-Wright, Julian Gregory, Christopher Bruerton, Christopher Gabbitas and Jonathan Howard. Dunachie said he's only the 26th member of the ensemble in nearly 50 years.

He recounted a rather intense audition process.

At one point, rather than singing for the group, "you stand in the place of the person that you would be replacing," he said.

That meant singing in place of countertenor David Hurley, a vocalist who inspired Dunachie during his own development as a countertenor. In fact, Dunachie listened to recordings by The King's Singers while growing up.

"It's really, really exciting for me in particular to be on my first North American tour as a King's Singer," Dunachie said.

The concert in Williamsburg centers around the ensemble's latest album, "Christmas Songbook," released this year.

"It's a real celebration of the best vocal music written for Christmas time," Dunachie said of the program.

From medieval music to Christmas standards like "Silent Night," Dunachie said the selections get "lighter" as the performance progresses, ending with an arrangement of "Frosty the Snowman" and "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer."

"You can expect a mixture of British wit and humor, serious contemplative music and fun-loving Christmas spectacular," he said.

But Dunachie thinks the performance even more captivating for its juxtaposition of vocal uniformity and personality differences, revealed in readings between songs and comedy during songs.

"Hopefully, by the time the audience leaves the hall, they've built up a sort of relationship with us, as a group and as individuals," Dunachie said.

Bridges can be reached by phone at 757-345-2342.

Want to go?

8 p.m., Dec. 17 at Williamsburg Presbyterian Church, 215 Richmond Road, Williamsburg.

8 p.m., Dec. 16 at Sacred Heart Church, 520 Graydon Ave., Norfolk.

Tickets: $45/general, $40.50/seniors and military, $20/students. Visit vafest.org or call 757-282-2822

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