Ex Cathedra Summer Music by Candlelight

EX CATHEDRA BRING SOME SUNSHINE TO A SODDEN SUMMER

Summer Music by Candlelight,
Ex Cathedra at St Philip's Cathedral ★★★★

After a miserable sodden start to summer here was a concert which raised a smile and elevated the spirits. At the 2017 concert candles were hardly needed as the setting sun blazed through the stained glass windows but here they were vital in dispersing the gloom. Ex Cathedra's director Jeffrey Skidmore, and associate conductor Sarah Latto, put together a programme of music and poetry that was amazingly diverse – from sixth-century plainchant to an arrangement of Cliff Richard's 1963 chart-topper Summer Holiday – yet which gelled perfectly. There was also a world premiere of Stevie Wishart's Voicing the Dawn which combined recorded birdsong with sopranos from the choir singing those same fragments of dawn chorus. They must have been devilishly difficult to pitch accurately (discreet use of tuning forks held near ears was needed) but very effective and were quickly succeeded by Britten's more conventional, but delightful, Cuckoo!

The Three Shakespeare Songs were unmistakeably Vaughan Williams but the sometimes astringent Hindemith was surprisingly elegant and soft-edged in his Six Chansons. Eric Whitacre's Sleep and Alec Roth's Night Prayer provided periods of repose and contemplation but solemnity was leavened with some of Skidmore's witty arrangements: Gershwin's Summertime featured luscious soprano singing while bass Lawrence White provided the gallic suavity in Charles Trenet's La Mer over the choir's slightly camp lapping waves. I loved Mostly Mozart! a marvellous mash-up where Eine Kleine Nachtmusik battles the Queen of the Night who is then trounced by Jupiter. This amazingly versatile choir even out-swingled the Swingle Singers.

Norman Stinchcombe

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