Ex Cathedra Summer Concert:
Various: Rogers, Mathews, Morley, Joubert, Britten, Vaughan Williams, MacMillan, Rose, Rutter, Gershwin, Welch & Bennett, Brown, Elgar, Roth, Delius.
Conductor: Jeffrey Skidmore
Birmingham Cathedral, Tuesday 21 June 2016
Ran: 1h 20m, no interval
Review: David & Paul Gray
So much variety, yet a satisfying whole
The choir emerged from the gloaming and disappeared into the night.
Regular attendees at Ex Cathedra Concerts will expect imaginative and clever use of the space. This concert did not disappoint. From the back of the Church the evening opened with a full-toned rendition of Roger’s Hymnus Eucharistus. The choir then moved to surround us for David Matthews’ Dawn Chorus; an evocative work requiring, from a handful of soloists, dazzling coloratura technique to mimic the call of birds, and we recognised many, if not all.
This was an evening characterised by controlled singing, music of many contrasts and a beautifully balanced and structured programme; a programme which mixed the very familiar with the less well known. This varied selection of music showcased the choir’s ability to deliver a wide and apposite range of tonal colours.
The tight dissonant harmonies of Joubert elicited powerful and well balanced blocks of choral sound. The interpretation of Britten’s Five Flower Songs was characterised by purity of tone and precision. The music of Vaughan Williams, Delius and Elgar was performed with a rich, lush tone and plenty of fruity bass resonance.
Diction throughout was impeccable and the attention to the details of punctuation impressive. The evident rapport between conductor and singers facilitated performances of tremendous detail and nuance.
During the third quarter of the evening the mood was lightened by Rutter’s delightful, bluesy setting of It was a Lover and his Lass and arrangements of some popular classics. Many choirs approach this lighter repertoire either by sounding too precious or by relaxing and losing discipline. In contrast Ex Cathedra achieved a wonderful sense of swing without sacrificing any control.
This was a fun set which prompted elements of the audience to break the “no applause until the end” etiquette of the evening and express their appreciation. Appreciation well deserved.
Mention must be given to the readings which punctuated the concert; beautiful texts, all well-read; as well as to the talented young vocal soloists.
The evening ended with an encore by Parry: a taster for their forthcoming Cheltenham Festival concert at Tewksbury Abbey. On the basis of tonight’s performance, an event not to be missed. (See their website for full details).