Julian Gregory (St John’s 2009), tenor, King’s Singers, shares the sounds which shaped his student days at Cambridge.
When I went off to be a St John’s chorister at the age of seven, my brother gave me OK Computer as a parting gift and I listened to it every night on my Walkman. I was struck even then by Thom Yorke’s beautiful countertenor-ish voice. When I returned to St John’s as an undergraduate, Radiohead had a new album out: I played Nude at top volume all through Freshers’ Week. It’s a very slow, lilting song. Radiohead creates such atmosphere – I love their sound world.
My first ever supervision was with Tim Brown, in A1, Clare Old Court. It turned out it was my father’s old room when he was the organ scholar in the 1970s! So I was sitting there, playing the piano he would have played, and this was one of the counterpoint pieces Tim gave me to study. It’s a beautiful, melancholic piece, fantastic for variation. At the time, my instrument was violin rather than voice, so it really spoke to me. My ears always prick up when I hear it.
In my second year I was joint Ents Officer for the May Ball committee with my friend George Johnston, who was also a DJ. Our job was to fill six or seven stages, with different styles of entertainment, all night. But of course, the big thing is always who is going to be the headline act. We finally found Big Boi, who is one half of the duo, OutKast. Years later, just before joining the King’s Singers, I went to see Aida in the incredible open-air Arena di Verona, and as it began I thought, “Hang on, why do I know this?” That’s when I realised Big Boi had sampled Aida on this album.
This is one of my favourite pieces. I’ve sung it as a boy chorister, then at Eton and again as a student, most recently in 2012 in St Thomas Church on Fifth Avenue in New York during a St John’s College Choir trip to the US. We could hear the subway rumbling underneath us as we sang! It’s a real supertanker piece – you’ve got this enormous ship but it glides along so slowly for its size. It just radiates.
The King’s Singers celebrate their 50th anniversary this year. They are currently on a worldwide tour promoting their album, Gold.
Music, St John's College
Composer, Jonathan Dove (Trinity 1977) shares the sounds which shaped his student days at Cambridge.
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