The King’s Singers embody ‘hygge’ this holiday season
I’m chatting with Jonathan Howard, bass for The King’s Singers, over Zoom. For me, it’s mid-afternoon on one of those rare grey fall days that defies Colorado’s sunny reputation. I’ve got a fire going and I’m making my way through a pot of hot coffee. For his part, Howard is sitting in a small hotel room, similarly dressed down and eating a snack, fresh off a plane to Bologna (where it’s nearly 10 p.m.). We’re chatting about Christmas traditions. It’s all very hygge.
“Hygge” (pronounced hyoo-guh) is a Danish word for a specific mood or aesthetic: one defined by the quality of coziness and friendliness that creates a feeling of contentment. Wool socks pointed toward a crackling fireplace? Hygge. A mug filled with spiced cider paired with a well-worn book? Hygge. So, too, will be the Dec. 8 holiday concert Howard and I are discussing, which will feature repertoire from the new album “Christmas Carols with The King’s Singers.”
“Whereas other times of the year, it’s really important to innovate,” begins Howard, “during Christmas, we actually care more about reminding people of the power of singing together… and why they love it so much already.”
Though it’s not the first holiday release for the group—also comprising Patrick Dunachie, countertenor; Edward Button, countertenor; Julian Gregory, tenor; Christopher Bruerton, baritone; Nick Ashby, baritone—the inspiration for “Christmas Carols” is unique to the times. Last December, when the ensemble was grounded in the UK during the pandemic, they were asked to perform a last-minute holiday concert at King’s College following a COVID-19 outbreak in the choir. As the Singers pulled together their program, inspiration struck.
“We realized that Christmas music is right at the heart of why so many people love choral music. We wanted to create something wonderful and traditional that evokes the sense of happy families standing around the piano or fireside singing carols in different parts of the world,” Howard explains.
“The album is lovely: heartwarming and gentle but also uplifting! It should hopefully make you want to sing along.”
In addition to classic English carols that American audiences surely recognize, on the album and in concert the ensemble performs lesser-known carols from around the world that are famous to their respective cultures. These carols evoke that same feeling of warmth and happiness as English holiday tunes, but “you just haven’t heard them before. Though we all should have! They’re absolutely gorgeous.”
Following their stop in Boulder, the group will continue its tour of the United States, stopping in Indiana, Georgia and Washington—all before Dec. 25. This means celebrating the holiday season, at least in part, on the road. Howard says this is typical, and the Singers have their own traditions they travel with.
“We draw names for a gift exchange. Every year, we take turns writing or creating something different for the person whose gift it is. One year, we had to write an epitaph for one another’s tombstones. Last year, we each rewrote the lyrics to Christmas carols. We know each other so well in this group that we can each really get to the core of the person receiving the gift.”
Thankfully for The King’s Singers—and for us—“hygge” is a feeling, rather than a place or practice. Comfort and joy can be found anywhere when the mood is right. Whatever your typical holiday traditions this December, we hope they include an evening at Macky with The King’s Singers.
Join us for The King’s Singers holiday concert on Dec. 8. Tickets start at just $23 at cupresents.org.