Spine-chilling cadences from the King’s Singers

[King's Singers]

Worlds Colliding: Renaissance Heavyweights, June 12, 8pm,
Jordan Hall, Boston

I had a favorite note on this concert. This occasionally
happens when I’m playing or singing — altos especially tend to
end up with mostly boring parts, with one note that changes the
whole harmonic landscape. But I don’t remember it happening in
a performance I was just listening to before.

In this case, it was at the very end
of the Schütz
ist je gewißlich wahr
. As you can see, just before the
resolution to the A major chord at the end, the top line hits
the already established “A” harmony with a “B”.


Most experienced singers and instrumentalists can make that
final chord “ring” on a good day. But this one “rang” on that
dissonant note. It sent chills up my spine. I asked a number
of very experienced musicians who were at the concert if they’d
noticed it, and none of them had.

There are a lot of similar cadences in the repertoire they were
performing, and I listened to see if it would happen again. The
Josquin Baisez Moi
had two of them near the end, and they almost had
that effect on the first one, and didn’t have it at all on the
second one.

So I don’t know whether this was something they try to do
consciously and only succeed some of the time, or just a strange
effect of the acoustics of Jordan Hall, or even that seat (N20) with
that arrangement of performers in Jordan Hall. But it was
definitely worth the price of the ticket.

The concert as a whole was good but the program was less
tightly focused than I’ve sometimes heard from the King’s
Singers. The commentary from the stage tended to border on the
sophomoric, as if they’d spent a little too much time playing to
college audiences. In general, I think BEMF should not let groups
get away with “greatest hits” programs as much as they do. I
the same thing
when the Hilliard Ensemble played in
2013 as well.

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