‘At first glance one wondered if the choir’s selection for Summer Music by Candlelight had over-stretched that capacious category “eclectic”. Could a coherent midsummer evening’s entertainment embrace sixth-century plainchant, 13th century polyphony and an arrangement of Cliff Richards’ 1963 chart-topper Summer Holiday? Absolutely.
‘Ex Cathedra’s director Jeffrey Skidmore is a canny programmer and the evening was paced expertly, presenting us with music from the meditative to the manic – Ernst Toch’s tongue-twisting Geographical Fugue with lyrics consisting of place-names – and all points between. The 75 minutes, interspersed by poetry readings but without an interval, whizzed by.
‘The Cathedral’s acoustics and layout were exploited to fine musical effect with the 17th century Hymnus Eucharisticus and the plainchant Iam lucis orto sidere emerging from the building’s lower level and Alec Roth’s newest composition, Dawn Chorus – Die güldene Sonne (receiving its world premiere) sung from behind the audience with the music flowing over our heads, followed by a joyful procession towards the altar with Sumer is icumin in.
‘The choir were simply splendid as were the soloists drawn from it, who demonstrated impressive vocal versatility. The textures of Saint-Saens’ Les fleurs et les arbres and Calmes des nuits were sensuous and velvety while Ravel’s demanding Trois Chansons were delivered with winning exuberance and joie de vivre.
‘Two of Skidmore’s own arrangements were highlights: Charles Trenet’s La Mer with the choir as gently lapping waves and a charming delivery from the bass soloist and the ingenious and funny Mostly Mozart.’