Not content with selling out amidst five-star reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last week, the boys from All the King’s Men are taking their music to unexplored territory by flying to Singapore and Hong Kong, and in the process will become the first British collegiate group to tour anywhere on that continent.
Their tour, which begins later today, represents a huge step for the future of not only the group but a cappella in the UK as a whole, and we hope the boys are able to develop and establish a large enough fanbase to make their tour worthwhile, although we don’t doubt that they will surely be in popular demand.
The story of the beginnings of the tour date back almost 18 months, according to Founder and Musical Director Henry Southern. “The whole thing started as a rather fanciful project almost a year and a half ago,” he explains, before discussing their process of choosing which specific places to take their music to. “We explored going to several cities, but eventually settled on Singapore and Hong Kong, as there are a lot of King’s College connections already in place between the two cities.” King’s College London has already established global partnerships with the National University of Singapore and Hong Kong University, and the group wanted to take advantage of these connections. The lack of language barrier was also a deciding factor: “People in both these cities speak English, which logistically and administratively is a huge advantage,” Southern extrapolates, before emphasising the importance of strong alumni connections: “We also have two alums in Hong Kong (Bernie Wong and Justin Chow) who have been a great deal of help, offering us advice and finding us really exciting performance opportunities.” Not only that, but they are also utilising the services of fellow students not directly involved in the group, having organised a concert and accommodation through a friend, Beverley Wong, at the Christ Church in Kowloon Tong.
The latter aforementioned concert is a rather special one for the group, as they will be premiering a brand new classical repertoire, inspired not only by the promoter, but also because the group have recognised that several professional groups, namely the King’s Singers, the Swingle Singers and Voces 8, maintain a classical repertoire while showcasing the more contemporary elements of a cappella. “This particular generation of the group is fortunate to contain a lot of singers with a musical upbringing within the choral tradition, so we thought it would be an interesting and refreshing twist on things,” informs Southern. The Men will thus be performing music by King’s College alum Graham Lack, who has composed for the King’s Singers and Voces 8, as well Tallis and Byrd and even a mass from Angus McPhee, a current member of the group. “This isn’t necessarily a direction the group will be heading towards in the future, but it certainly has been a challenging and interesting project.”
Including the concert in Kowloon Tong, the boys are planning to spend around six days in each city, with a whole range of concerts and workshops lined up. “During the mornings and afternoons, we’ll generally be in schools,” Southern clarifies, “But when we get to Hong Kong, we’re doing an open top bus performance around the city centre which will coincide with our press launch and a series of flash mobs.” When pressed for further information, Henry wouldn’t budge. “I’m not in a position to reveal anymore about that particular segment of the tour,” he said, secretively. “We have a couple of private gigs booked for Hong Kong as well,” he moves on swiftly, “Before concluding our tour at the infamous Fringe Club, where the Harvard Din and Tonics have recently performed.” It sounds like it’s going to be a great tour!
Drumming up support and finances hasn’t been a problem for the group. “Obviously the prior connections helped, but we’ve also been in touch with the Singaporean A Cappella Society, who we are performing for, and some of the schools we are workshopping at have their own groups, which is fantastic.” The group have also been in touch with fellow ICCA Finalists from Yale, Out of the Blue, who also recently toured the area. “Our creative funding partners, Fringebacker, have also been incredibly supportive not only in helping us to secure some of the finances for the trip, but also with liaising with promoters in Hong Kong.”
So what benefits does Henry hope the group will take from the tour in the long term? “For All the King’s Men, we hope that this is one of many Asia trips and it could even be an annual engagement. There is already talk of an Asia Tour Part II in the Summer of 2013 which is very exciting.” But the benefits don’t just stop with the group – Henry believes the benefits could stretch to the rest of UK collegiate a cappella: “I believe this demonstrates, to the collegiate scene across the world, a bold statement of what the Brits can achieve. I knew the Asia market would be very responsive to our style, which has already been confirmed by the reaction from our contacts in Asia, and we hope that the trip is a success.”
On a more personal note, Henry’s time in the group is coming to an end, and he is delighted to be going out with a bang! “My very last performance with the group will be at the end of October when this generation sing together for one last time, on our home turf at the Greenwood Theatre,” which will be a fitting way to end Henry’s tenure in charge of the group. “The last three years have been a blast, and the last year in particular has been extremely successful. I have full confidence that the group will continue to go from strength to strength under our MD-elect, Jonny Stewart.”
We wish the boys all the luck in the world on their tour and hope it opens doors not only for future generations of the group, but also for other groups across the UK.