Category: Countertenors

Robin Tyson, countertenor (2001 – 2009)

Robin joined the group in January 2001. He has sung his whole life, first as a chorister at Canterbury Cathedral, then as a ‘light-calibre’ baritone before biting the bullet and becoming a countertenor at the age of seventeen. A year later he was offered a choral scholarship to King’s College, Cambridge, singing every day in the chapel. He studied Theology, and was the only undergraduate to have a credit system set up in the library to pay fines on his overdue books! Despite gaining a very average degree, the musical life at Cambridge kept him busy. Singing with the college’s acappella group was part of that life, which came full-circle on joining the King’s Singers. Before joining up, he sang all over Europe, America and Asia, first as a choir member of various groups, including his own six-man outfit called the Acappellafellas, and then as a soloist in concerts and opera for whoever would have him! When he is at home in London he likes nothing better than spending time with his wife Christina and two sons, Henry and Magnus, showing new tricks he has learnt to dog Rosie, and indulging in cooking, walking and changing nappies. He also insists in going through the joys and agonies of supporting a second division football club, Reading.

With the King’s Singers:

Singing outside the King’s Singers:

Nigel Short, countertenor (1994-2000)

Nigel began his musical life as a chorister at Solihull Parish Church going on to study singing and piano at the Royal College of Music. He began his career as a soloist in opera and oratorio and as a member of specialist vocal ensembles such as The Tallis Scholars whilst maintaining a regular involvement in church music, firstly as a member of Westminster Abbey Choir then Westminster Cathedral. He joined the King’s Singers when he was 27 and stayed with them for seven years.

After a short break of about one ski season in the Swiss Alps he set about founding his own group, Tenebrae, aiming to bring together what he loved best as a singer – namely the more passionate sounds of large Cathedral choirs and the precision of ensembles like The King’s Singers – to create a new kind of choral group. Whilst embracing an eclectic repertoire he wanted to have some ‘signature’ works that would make Tenebrae different, adding a theatrical element that would involve singers moving around as if on stage. To that end he wrote ‘The Dream of Herod’, with a central role for baritone Colin Campbell, and commissioned Joby Talbot to write Path of Miracles, premiered in July 2005. Since its debut performance in 2001 Tenebrae has given concerts in Spain, Italy, Germany, France, Switzerland, UK, USA and Bermuda.

Nigel and the group have performed and recorded live with The Chamber Orchestra of Europe for Warner Classics and have given several performances with The English Concert. They record regularly with Signum Classics.

Nigel divides his time between directing Tenebrae and giving an ever increasing number of masterclasses and workshops for both professional and amateur vocal groups and choirs throughout Europe.

With the King's Singers:

Guest appearances:

Jeremy Jackman, countertenor (1980-1990)

Jeremy Jackman's musical education began as a chorister at St Paul's Cathedral, and continued at the Royal College of Music and Hull University. He began his career as a freelance countertenor and choral director. He sang throughout Eastern and Western Europe as a soloist, and with ensembles such as the BBC Singers, the BBC Northern Singers, the Alfred Deller Choir, the Tallis Scholars and The Sixteen. In the field of opera he created the part of Fulvio in Banchieri's La Pazzia Senile and sang the title role in Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice. He was appointed countertenor Lay Clerk at Westminster Cathedral in 1978, under the direction of Stephen Cleobury. Two years later he was invited to join The King's Singers, succeeding Nigel Perrin as their highest voice, and for the next decade shared their demanding international schedule, performing in the world's most celebrated concert halls and making countless broadcasts and recordings.

In 1990 Jeremy resumed work as a choral conductor, directing choirs, courses and workshops all over the world. As Chorus Master to the Belfast Philharmonic Choir (1991-97) and the London Philharmonic Choir (1992-94) he worked with the world's most renowned conductors in the preparation of a wide variety of music. In 1994 he was invited to form the Choir of the Orchestra of St John's Smith Square (now OSJ Voices). He is now Musical Director of the English Baroque Choir and also conducts the Cecilian Singers (Leicester), the Jay Singers (Norfolk) and the Haringey Young Musicians Symphony Orchestra.

Jeremy has conducted at the Royal Albert Hall, Royal Festival Hall, Birmingham Symphony Hall, St Andrew's Hall (Norwich), Belfast Cathedral and St John's Smith Square (London) as well as at concert halls around the world in Spain, Germany, Belgium, France, Sweden, Singapore and Taiwan. He is frequently invited to give workshops and masterclasses with established choirs in the UK and overseas.

With the King's Singers:

Guest appearances:

Alastair Hume, countertenor (1968-1993)

Alastair Hume was one of the founding members of the group. He wrote the following for the Newsletter in 1993:

"You are the worst alto we have ever had in this Choir." Thus spake David, now Sir David, Willcocks to a rather twitchy alto in the early sixties amid the Gothic splendour of King's College Chapel. It is a remark he denies ever making, but, although a Brit's upper lip remains pretty stiff at such moments that might have felled a lesser man and blighted a promising career – well, a career anyway. It is the sort of remark a chap might make that cuts a chap to the quick without a chap realising it, if you follow my meaning.

It goes without saying that the twitchy alto was I, and David had caught me at a slightly unfortunate time in my life when I couldn't tell the difference between a fourth and a hole in the ground. My eyes were just beginning to be opened to the glories of sacred music of the Renaissance, but at that point they were still only a couple of slits. I had not been through the experience of being a boy chorister in a cathedral choir, and so was unfamiliar with virtually the entire concept and reality of the English choral tradition, to the extent that I remember vividly thinking (what sacrilege! what heresy!) that W. Byrd Esq. was possibly the most boring composer whose music had gone wrong. All this looks like a less than ideal preparation for a 23-year stint in the King's Singers, but having emerged from Cambridge with a law degree, there was a clearly audible sigh of relief breathed by the legal profession when I returned my attentions towards music.

In fact I think I have the best of both worlds, in that on April 1, 1991 I married a really lovely girl called Diane who is a lawyer, as well as being a keen and good amateur singer…..(for our wedding) I wore the kilt, of the Hume tartan, naturally.

" Since Al's retirement from the Singers, he has opened the City of London Festival in 1995, and he and Diane now have a son, Alexander, who was born at the end of that summer.

With the King's Singers:

Guest appearances:

Nigel Perrin, countertenor (1968-1980)

Nigel Perrin initially went to work for the Church Army after leaving The Singers in an effort to promote and encourage music in churches around the country. However, after two years, he felt that the would prefer to return to the world of professional music and so set out on a freelance career. He has made two solo recordings with lutenist David Parsons; established his own chamber choir, Bath Camerata; taken over as Musical Director of the City of Bath Bach Choir and the Chamber Choir of the Welsh College of Music and Drama, where he is also on the teaching staff and is Head of Singing at Marlborough College. As an adjudicator for the National Federation of Music Festivals, Nigel travels all around the country and somehow manages to fit in the odd singing engagement, particularly his one-man show "The Secret Diary of a Counter-tenor!" Any spare time he has left is more than taken up with private singing pupils, choral workshops, judging national and international choral competitions and, occasionally, seeing his family!

With the King's Singers:

Guest appearances:

David Hurley, countertenor (1990 – present)

David began his life on a wet August bank holiday Monday in 1962. His next significant day was Saturday, February 7th, 1970, when his parents gave him the choice of enjoying a football match at Southampton, or enduring the ‘Voice Trials’ for Winchester Cathedral Choir. Rather to his surprise now, he chose the ‘Voice Trials’ and even more surprising – was given a place as a chorister in the choir. At thirteen, he went to Winchester College where, rather later than he would have liked, his voice made the short drop to countertenor. After three years as a choral scholar at New College, Oxford, and armed with a geography degree, he began his career as a freelance singer before joining the King’s Singers in 1990. When he is not travelling with the group, he tries to spend as much time as possible with his hard-working wife, Sarah. They look forward to having enough time to sail their boat, and to the completion of the seemingly never-ending renovation of their home.

With the King's Singers:

Guest appearances:

Singing outside the King's Singers