If Simon Carrington had his druthers, audiences wouldn't applaud after his choral performances. They'd be reflecting instead at least for a moment or two on what they had just heard.
As director of choral activities at Boston's New England Conservatory, and cofounder of The King's Singers, the popular British a capella group, Mr. Carrington thinks the choir has a special place in today's fast-paced world. The choir, he says, carries a special message for audiences that might even include silence.
"We've almost lost touch with that," says Mr. Carrington. As a former chorister himself in his youth, he was one of 14 choral scholars at King's College in Cambridge, England, from which The King's Singers derived their name Carrington is especially attuned to the chemistry that exists between a good choir and its listeners.
A baritone who sang, toured, and conducted with The King's Singers for 25 years, Carrington saw audiences responding enthusiastically to a wide-ranging repertoire throughout Europe, the US, Russia, Japan, Korea, and South Africa. Originally calling themselves the Six Choral Scholars from King's College, Carrington and friends gained international acclaim for their unusual style. The group added versatility by singing with several countertenors, and the upper-register voices contributed to the group's trademark sound.
The name changed in 1968 with their London debut, and The King's Singers' popularity grew.
Now in its 34th year, with more than 40 recordings to their credit, the Singers have shared the stage with such music legends as Placido Domingo, The Boston Pops, Paul McCartney, and others. They are "Prince Consort Ensemble in Residence" at the Royal College of Music in London, and regularly conduct workshops and master classes all over the world.
Often asked why he left the Singers, Carrington says, "The time was right. After 25 years, cofounder Alistair Hume and I began to reflect a bit and decided to make it to the Silver Jubilee and then call it a day. Also, by that time," he recalls with a grin, "I discovered I was five years older than the mother of a newly appointed bass singer."
So he turned his attention "across the pond" to academia and a position as professor, artist in residence, and director of choral activities at The University of Kansas in Lawrence, where he developed a world-class University Chamber Choir whose performance tours drew acclaim for purity of sound and quality of ensemble.
"Choral singing, in my opinion, should be a wonderfully rewarding and uplifting experience good for the soul," he says. "In some ways, I think the singing we did in the cathedrals [of Europe] was the most inspiring work I've done."
Carrington is intent on inspiring the choral conductors and singers of the future with a vision of the many ways a choir can reach its audiences most effectively. His teaching focuses on "essential ensemble skills," and the performances of his students have been praised for polished elegance, balance, and diversity of style. In his free time, he travels across the country as a freelance choral juror and adviser.
With his current commitments, keeping up with his family has its challenges. His wife teaches piano in London and travels to Boston as much as possible. Daughter Rebecca, a cellist, has a successful professional career and musical-comedy gig in Europe.
But if applause at this early stage of his daughter's career is music to her ears, silence may be golden to Carrington.
"The greatest tribute is when we get to the end of a piece and the audience doesn't clap immediately. They're silent. And you reflect a bit and when you've collected your thoughts, then you applaud the artists for their efforts, but the music hopefully makes you listen and think about a wide range of things."