Once again on Sunday, the King's Singers charmed and dazzled an enthusiastic Kennedy Center audience. So what else is new? Long ago this sextet of virtuoso musicians figured out what their audiences want, and regularly they have provided it with such skill, showmanship and good humor that they have audiences clamoring for more. Their forte is perfectly pitched close harmony and uncanny vocal sound effects. They manage these better than any other group on the concert scene and they maintain a large and eclectic repertoire that appeals to a broad spectrum of tastes.
Not all the music they sing adapts happily to this treatment. Sunday, for instance, their performance of the Lassus setting of the French folk song "Dessus le marche D'Arras" was so full of popping noises and rhythmically explosive attacks that the integrity of the melody, which is the basis of the piece, was lost. But for the most part, they find (or commission) settings that call for these techniques. King's Singers tenor Robert Chilcott's setting of the Canadian folk song "A la Claire Fontaine," with its background of fountainlike sounds, was intriguing. A set of "Scenes in America Deserta" by John McCabe, on five poems about the desert, was full of sounds that evoked impressions of heat and stillness and was sung with extraordinary control. A set of early-20th-century British part songs featured a wonderfully jolly drinking song by that monument of sobriety, Stanford, and the concert ended with a set of pops tunes sung with engaging insouciance.