CHRISTINE MACHADO | NT KURIOCITY
Charlie Watson began singing in the church choir when he was 8-years-old. Today, about a month short of his 18th birthday, Watson still enjoys singing as part of ‘The King’s Barbers’ choir, a boys’ a cappella group from the school King’s Ely, UK.
“I’ve been part of this choir for the last five years and we do different styles from sacred to theatre, and also do popular music that you hear on the radio, etc,” he says.
Indeed, ‘The King’s Barbers’ consists of members who are all former cathedral or college choir choristers. It was started back in 1992 by Peter North to keep the boys singing through the voice-change, but also to introduce them to different performance styles.
“Quite often when these boys reach the age of 13-14 years and their voice changes, they stop singing. There’s a sense of loss because for many of these young singers their voice is their personality. But if you keep them singing through the change, because they enjoy singing, and because they are together with their friends, they grow in confidence and capability,” explains North.
Also, he says, at the cathedral the music is very serious and religious. “But as musicians they should be able to perform styles too,” says North. And this is what ‘The King’s Barber’s allows them to do, as they sing everything from timeless classics to contemporary songs.
The group primarily sings a cappella but at times they do performances with musical accompaniment. In fact, the group travelled to the University of Birmingham for the fiercely-contested Voice Festival in April 2018 and sang their way to victory, being crowned UK Youth Champions. It was the second time that ‘The King’s Barbers’ had qualified for the competition but this is the first time they have won. They were runners-up in 2017.
And while the group has mainly been performing in Europe, they have been to Thailand twice. Their Ketevan festival appearance marks their India debut. The performance on the opening day saw them tracing their journey as a choir starting with ‘plainsong’, a style of music of the monks (given that the cathedral which is attached to their school was originally a monastery). They then went through different styles of music. “While choosing the music, I also wanted to show the inward journey of the boys from starting off as little choristers to how far they have come today,” says North.
They are now all set for their next performance ‘Passion Landscapes’ which was specially composed for this festival by Santiago Lusardi Girelli and which will also include the Goa University Choir, Hindustani singer Vidya Shah and the Ketevan Ensemble.
At the same time during their stay here they are also doing a few outreach programmes at St Michael’s School, and Bethesda Life Center Boys Home, Santa Cruz.