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King's Singers coming to S.L. Tuesday

One of the world's greatest vocal ensembles, the King's Singers, returns to Abravanel Hall on Tuesday, Feb. 3, at 8 p.m. The Utah Symphony will accompany the group in a concert devoted in large part to popular musical fare. But whether the King's Singers perform pop or Palestrina, one thing is certain: the audience will be treated to an evening of finely crafted music-making that is sheer pleasure to hear.

According to Paul Phoenix, the newest member of the group, the King's Singers are a hit with audiences because "we're very accommodating and give people what they want. We also make program changes to fit the individual tastes in the different cities we perform in."Another important part of the success of the six-member King's Singers is the group's sound and look. Even though there are no original members left in the group, the sound hasn't altered much in the ensemble's 30-year existence, although Phoenix is quick to point out that, yes "the overall effect remains the same, but the sound changes with each new member.

There is a combination of factors that propel the King's Singers. It's not just vocal considerations - although that's extremely important, of course - but also the look: if you, as a potential new member, fit in in the overall look of the group, that too is important."

Another key to the King's Singers' success is their versatility. They made a name for themselves early on by singing everything from early music to pop to orchestral transcriptions. And every type of music they sing sounds as if that's the only music they have ever performed. They make Renaissance music come alive and sound vibrant. They make pop music exciting, and their vocalizations of a Rossini overture are pure joy.

Phoenix, who joined the group in September 1997, enjoys singing non-classical pieces, "I get more pleasure out of singing pop. But we as a group have no preferences" as to what type of music the group performs. "We play to our strengths," he adds, "and being able to work together as a group - that makes everything work."

Phoenix was a free-lance tenor for six years before joining the King's Singers. "I did a lot of pop music and teaching, anything that was available," he explains. He also sang in the Monteverdi Choir in the United Kingdom.

"I never entertained the idea about becoming a King's Singer," he adds. "I never thought I'd be a member. But about a year ago I found out about an opening that was coming up, and I contacted Nigel Short, a member of the group, and was sent sheets and sheets of music for the audition."

"Of the 24 who applied," Phoenix goes on to explain, "16 auditioned for the job, including me, and I got the job after my second audition."

And since becoming a member, "I've never worked so hard before. I had a huge amount of repertoire to learn. It can be a daunting task, but the reward comes when you're doing the concert."

The King's Singers maintain a busy performance schedule, averaging 110 concerts a year. They just recently returned from a five-day tour of Italy, and besides the current U.S. tour that brings them here to Utah, the next few months include concert tours of Hungary and France, and then Austria and Germany, where they will also be engaged in some recording sessions.

"Last year before Christmas, we toured Japan and South Korea," Phoenix adds, "and the South Koreans are probably our biggest fans. We're treated like pop stars and we sell more CDs there than anywhere else." The reason for that, according to Phoenix, is "that we're not afraid to sing in Korean. There's a song from our new album called "Magic Castle" that I sang in Korean, and the audiences just loved it."

"It goes back to what I said earlier," Phoenix concludes, "you have to make yourself as versatile as possible and give the people what they want. And you have to love what you're doing; in that way your audience doesn't leave wondering why you bothered to show up for the concert."

Tickets for the concert are available at the Abravanel Hall box office, 123 W. South Temple, or by calling 801-533-NOTE.