- A Rough Guide to Royal Succession, for men's vocal ensemble
Royal Rhymes and Rounds is the King's Singers' contribution to the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's accession to the throne in 2012. There are ballads, part songs, madrigals, rounds, and anthems written during the reigns of (and some also in honor of) Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Victoria, and Elizabeth II. The music from the times of Henry and Elizabeth I is especially strong since it was the era of a flowering of English song, which then lay relatively dormant for several centuries. The composers include such luminaries as William Cornysh, Orlando Gibbons, John Dowland, and Thomas Weelkes, as well as Henry himself, whose rousing ballad "Pastime with good companie" opens the album. It's in this transparent repertoire that the group sounds its absolute best. The singers' immaculate intonation, focused tone quality, and sensitive musicianship are remarkable. The plummy tributes to Victoria are significantly less distinguished musically, but the group delivers performances of complete conviction. Elizabeth II is represented by the "Choral Dances from Gloriana," the opera Benjamin Britten wrote in honor of her coronation, and here again the material gives the singers the opportunity to dazzle with the beauty, clarity, and liveliness of their tone. The album closes with a piece written especially for the occasion: "A Rough Guide to the Royal Succession" (It's just one damn King after another…), a witty and informative traversal of monarchs, right up to an irreverent, if not downright disrespectful paean to Elizabeth II and her family, with words and music by Paul Drayton. Signum's sound is clean, detailed, and intimate.