The a cappella vocal group Quink, which sang to a packed house is just as rare a breed not for its funny name, but for its talent and versatility. Hailing from the Netherlands, this quintet exemplifies a handful of scholar-entertainer ensembles, such as the King’s Singers and the Orlando Consort, who can put on a rousing show right after moving you to tears. Quink’s program revealed an ensemble capable of a homogenous blend, yet one that never lost sight of their individual vocal character. Switching to the 20th century, Quink tackled its most substantial offering, Benjamin Britten’s “Hymn to St. Cecilia”, with care and sensitivity, each poignant phrase more doleful than the last. Its subtle, delicate tonal shifts were impeccably executed.
–The Birmingham News
Results that anyone should adore. It may be lunacy to jump so vividly from style to style, to seduce listeners one moment and tease them the next, but Quink regards such variety as intrinsic to its mission. Key to the ensemble’s success is how the singers treat every component of their recital, whether it be from the 16th century or the 20th, as being worthy of complete respect. Britten’s “St. Cecelia,” customarily sung by a moderately large chorus, was fascinating to encounter as a light, textured rendering for five voices. In Quink’s vocal universe, smaller doesn’t necessarily mean lesser. –The Courier-Joumal Louisville
The musicians of Quink, a splendid vocal quintet from the Netherlands rocked easily into and out of the changing rhythms of the texts, raced nimbly through fa-la-las without ever sounding mechanical and dealt with the slings and arrows of love with a delightful blend of joy and despair. –The Washington Post
The singers’ intonation was impeccable, their blend beautiful. (.. .)Britten’s magnificent “Hymn to St. Cecilia” was sung with deep feeling, radiant timbre and weightier tone. The rest of the program was just musical fun and games. The singers crisply articulated the tongue-twisting texts of Matyas Seiber’s “Three Nonsense Songs, and they performed Paul Patterson’s “Spare Parts” with the verve of a pops group. –The Plain Dealer, Cleveland
How do you spell vocal excellence? Many would say it should be: ‘Quink’.–Seattle Times
The singers rendered each piece with razor-sharp precision, infallible intonation and a blend of timbre and vibrato that transformed them into a magnificently unified composite instrument. –Pittsburgh Post Gazette
They delivered an astonishing array of music with expert vocal technique, a finely calibrated sense of ensemble balance and an infectious sense of musical fun. Each singer is a secure musician in his own right, able to function independently in a complicated web of five part counterpoint. It was the seamless teamwork they showed that most impressed the audience. –Cleveland Plain Dealer
…fulfilled every promise made by the advance publicity, giving us an evening of sheer vocal beauty –The Delaware Gazette
One could listen to a series of interpretations that were rich of emotional participation and with an absolute respect for the various styles and characteristics. –La Stampa, Italy
Palpable Joy, Expressive Sensitivity
A group of…splendid singers comprise Quink, vocal quintet of Amsterdam. They gave the large audience a unique musical ex-perience, and their choice of music expanded the horizons of all serious music lovers who heard it.
The ensemble originated in Amsterdam, Holland, and all four composers listed on their program are likewise Dutch. Their 20 years of singing together have given them exceptional blending of their voices, rarity of diction, and phenomenal accuracy of pitch–all the singing was a capella. They also sing with palpable joy and expressive sensitivity.
The first part of their program consisted of church music from the 13th and 14th centuries. Various combinations of singers–first, the tenor and baritone, sang an Introit, mostly in succeeding open fifths, sounding as if sung in a distant corner of a large cathedral. Moving gradually to five Laude Spirituals, the women’s voices were added and the harmony expanded, though the cathedral atmosphere prevailed. The composers of these numbers are unknown and copies of the music exist in only a few libraries. The audience seemed to listen attentively to these rare examples of Early Music.
With the music of Jan Sweelinck (1562- 1621), the concert seemed to move to the Renaissance period, with madrigal-like Pseaume (Psalms), written for a group of amateur singers who spoke French. Some of these pieces sounded like five-part rounds. All were sung joyously; the thicker harmonies were full of the chromaticism and variety for which Sweelinck is known.
After the intermission, the .ensemble presented a “Missa Brevis’ of composer Ton de Leeuw (1926-1996). Considered one of the outstanding Dutch composers, de Leeuw seemed to be seeking to incorporate both the traditional and modern characteristics of religious music in this work. It had a medieval as well as contemporary “feel.” R contained fine soki passages for both the tenor and soprano, answered in each case by soft interludes in the other three voices. This is a piece that should appeal to every listener and should be performed often.
Quink’s final two offerings were written by the same composer: Daan Manneke (b.1939). The first, “Cantique de Simeon (for Arvo Pärt), was in a slow tempo; moving middle parts sang against the outer voices, which sang in minor seconds. Later, a very high soprano line moved against a strong bass solo, with the inner voices singing open fourths, These combinations made it interesting, if not wholly enjoyable, for its musical structure.
The second piece by Manneke was really the ensemble’s “tour de force.” Each of the singers moved to a station on the outer perimeter of the church sanctuary. Here each singer demonstrated his or her superb skills in projecting the voice to the corners of the auditorium, widely separated from the other singers and over the heads of the large audience. The mezzo-soprano soloist at the front of the church held her sustained tone as the other voices intertwined around it.
One listener said, “It was like being inside an organ!’ Another mentioned the sense of “round music.” Many listeners found the piece “thrilling.” A beautiful twentieth-century piece, “At the Close of Day,” served as a quiet encore. The Quink Ensemble gave us an unforgettable evening.
How Do You Spell Vocal Excellence? Many Would Say It Should Be Quink
The singers — have been singing together for many years, and their superlative blend has made them famous among vocal connoisseurs as a sort of coed King’s Singers of the Netherlands. Their concerts of wide‑ranging repertoire, concluding with “close harmony arrangements,” also recall the format of the older and more famous King’s Singers.
The Seattle program, opening with madrigals of de Wen, Gastoldi, Monteverdi, Scarlatti, Stradella and the contemporary Daan Manneke, continued with a Saint-Saens set, Poulenc’s “Petites voix” and Ravers “‘frois chansons,’.’ concluding with an assortment of songs encompassing everything from “Für Elise” to “Besame Mucho.”
Stylistically, this group is highly adaptable, ready to employ wit and humor as well as beautifully precise diction and clarity.
The evening’s most impressive work came in the Monteverdi madrigals, supple and elegant and evocative enough to make you wish for a whole Monteverdi program. The good‑sized audience was enthusiastic in its response, with a standing ovation suggesting the hope that these singers will return to Seattle very Quinkly.
A Cappella Quintet Glows with Seamless Beauty
In five psalm settings by J.P. Sweelinck (1559-1621), especially, they were so seamless in vocal quality, top to bottom, that they could have been a consort of viols or recorders, or pipes in the same rank of an organ. Their straight, pure tone and dead-center pitch enhanced the impression of unanimity.
Their placid, mellifluous flow served the psalms, godly imagery. Vanity was banished; individual voices slipped in and out, with no accents to mark arrival. No variation in color broke the crystalline perfection of the sound.
This is not to say that the music was dull; Sweelinck’s unfolding counterpoint is so breath takingly intricate and so satisfyingly proportioned that it needs no tarting up. The subtle welling of religious fervor reflected in Quink’s subtly measured, harmonically aware dynamics, was all Sweelinck needed.
After opening in the heavenly regions of the psalms, the quintet came to earth in sets of amorous madrigals and laments by Sweelinck and Monteverdi. Lofty abstraction gave way to impassioned plea, forceful declaration and sighing despair. The singers made the emotion of the moment felt in phrases, that surged and expired, in attacks that hammered home points of argument, in timbres that ranged from honey to vinegar, in tempos that rushed ahead toward erotic thrills or slowed under the weight of loneliness. Again, unity prevailed, as their five voices merged into one.
Monteverdi’s “Lament of Arianna” made for especially affecting musical drama. This scene, all first-person from Arianna’s point of view, has the rhetorical feel of recitative.
Tenor van Berne quoted Monteverdi as to tempo being “dictated by the feehng of the moment, not by the beat.” They sang Arianna’s lament with the haughty freedom and fiery urgency of a diva.
Quink Glides Over Letters and Music Notes, Noord-Hollands Dagblad, March 26, 2002, Onno Hoedeman
Music is considered to be a universal language, and the vocal ensemble Quink made clear that familiar speech can be transformed into universal music. Six contemporary composers delivered the package wherein true Dutch was presented as international flavor.
The audience was offered a perfect demonstration of artistic use of speech and was able to testify how poetry and music are closely allied. Not only complete sentences but also single words and even syllables were musically interpreted.
Simeon ten Holt only used the sounds Bi Ba Bo with variations to let the Quink vocalists very motivated to sing his work. The singing quintet achieved melodically and rhythmically the utmost power and even made clear that ten Holt can writes with humor as well. The Flemish poet Paul van Ostaijen (1896-1928) was an advocate of expressive use of speech; in his poems the words were taken out of their context for merely musical or expressive reasons. Lex Schoorel composed a small vocal cycle in which he used 5 poems by Van Ostaijen. Quink felt very much at home in the delicately balanced world between declamation and song. The floating between words and notes was continued in “Wie is Ljlith? (Who Is Lilith?)” by Bemard van Beurden.
Sometimes a dear Kyde Eleison floated through the sounded text fragments. Kyde Eleison also were the opening words of Ton de Leeuw’s “Missa Brevis” which was being performed integral. The Quink vocalists knew how to offer this beautiful piece with stunning expressiveness. An ear-pleasing blended sound decorated the unity of the ensemble, but also the individual rendering was executed with the most possible care. Heart stirring texts from a rich literary past were put in a contemporary outfit in the works of Ton de Leeuw and Jetse Bremer. The most beautiful musical instrument, the human voice, was skillfully used by Quink to demonstrate once again how well music and words fit together.