Ex Cathedra: SHARED GROUND Earthrise | Hymn to Gaia | Ponticelli Alec Roth, Vikram SethShared Ground

Earthrise | Hymn to Gaia | Ponticelli

Alec Roth, Vikram Seth

Ex Cathedra
Ex Cathedra Academies of Vocal Music
Jeffrey Skidmore
conductor
Philippe Honoré violin
Signum SIGCD270
2CDs: 42’30 & 49’09

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Over the last five years, Ex Cathedra has had the privilege of working closely with the composer Alec Roth. We are thrilled to release a recording of some wonderful pieces which we have commissioned or premièred.

The CD includes the amazing 40-part Earthrise, written for Ex Cathedra’s 40th anniversary; Shared Ground, a setting of texts by the bestselling author Vikram Seth; and Hymn to Gaia, which is inspired by the Olympics, sung in Ancient Greek and English and features a prominent role for children’s choir.

TRACK LISTING:

1. Part I: man's drive to explore and exploit
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2. Part II: contemplation of the Earth seen from space
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3. Part III: a plea for true wisdom and understanding
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4. Hymn to Gaia I (Homeric Text)
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5. Hymn to Gaia II (Orphic Text)
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6. Sol Justitiae
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1. Lost
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2. Oak
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3. And
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4. Host
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5. Flash
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6. This
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7. Flat Bridge
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8. Bridge of Sighs
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9. Arched Bridge
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10. Bridge of Sleepers
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11. Rustic Bridge
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12. The Flower
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REVIEWS FOR ‘Shared Ground’:

‘Alec Roth’s music is striking for its rich, beautifully crafted choral textures, ecological and metaphysical subject matter, and reference to the great heritage of European choral music. This double CD features Jeffrey Skidmore’s excellent choir and the violinist Philippe Honoré. Earthrise is a fabulous, 40-part unaccompanied choral work in three movements with the sort of poly-choral, lushly harmonised climaxes that send shivers down the spine. Just as impressive isShared Ground, in which Vikram Seth’s text pays homage to George Herbert’s poetry as deftly as Roth’s music pays homage to Bach.’ (The Times)

‘Alec Roth has collaborated with Ex Cathedra since 2007, and five of his works are immaculately sung here by the choir’ (BBC Music Magazine)

‘I’m firmly of the view that Earthrise is a very fine work indeed… It seems to me that Roth has selected some wonderful, rich texts and, having done so, that he has set the words in a way that emphasises their potency and which brings out the powerful imagery in the texts… if I may say so Hymn to Gaia seems to be an object lesson in how to expose young musicians to contemporary music and involve them in its performance in a way that challenges them and yet is not impossibly daunting… There’s some very fine choral writing in Shared Ground. Once again Alec Roth proves his ability to respond acutely to words in the music that he writes… There’s a lot of important and stimulating music here – all recorded for the first time – and, without exception, the performances are fully worthy of the music. Jeffrey Skidmore and his excellent singers clearly believe in Alec Roth’s music and not only do their performances demonstrate very high standards of singing, they also radiate conviction. (CD of the Month, www.musicweb-international.com)

‘It scarcely seems possible that Birmingham-based chamber choir Ex Cathedra and their founder- director Jeffrey Skidmore entered their fifth decade of performing together in 2009. The group’s repertoire has always been wide, but everything that marks out Ex Cathedra as one of the UK’s leading vocal ensembles can be heard on this memorable two-disc set of music by Alec Roth: even tone, perfect intonation, clarity of diction, but above all whole-hearted commitment to the material in hand. Skidmore offers authoritative readings of four of Roth’s choral pieces, several of which were composed for Ex Cathedra. It is an excellent follow-up to Signum’s earlier disc of Roth’s Songs in Time of War. Warmly recommended.’ (Choir and Organ)

‘Rather like the film of the book, this ‘concert of the album’ featured material from Ex Cathedra’s recently released 2-CD tribute to Alec Roth. For a contemporary composer to receive such acclaim must be extremely rewarding. Jeffrey Skidmore and his choir are obviously fans, as their finely polished, committed performances (including super tenor soloist Samuel Boden) demonstrated. Two works, Shared Ground and Earthrise, were premièred by Ex Cathedra not long ago, and on Sunday we heard the world première of a third major piece, Hymn to Gaia. Roth’s style – a lingua franca mixture of Tavener, Whitacre, Lauridsen and others – is very accessible and immediately appealing. He defines and to an extent empowersShared Ground with five pieces for solo violin (Ponticelli, played with expressive bravura by Philippe Honoré) to connect the six movements. On the other handEarthrise, a remarkably accomplished 40-part motet written for Ex Cathedra’s 40th, offers a more fundamental sense of wonder at Man’s relationship to the Earth and cosmos, utilising luminous close-harmony textures to suggest an elevated sense of light and space. In Hymn to Gaia Roth has gone the other way, employing chant-like melodies and textural simplicity to reflect the ancient Greek text… its elemental directness was refreshingly welcome – and the children’s choir (Junior Academy) and percussionist Simone Rebello were excellent.’ (The Birmingham Post)

‘Shared Ground, featuring Philippe Honoré and Jeffrey Skidmore’s super choir, Ex Cathedra, has just been released by Signum, timed with the publication of The Rivered Earth. It’s one of the most exquisite and involving recordings of the year… The discipline of Seth’s verses for those probing poems – he’s done this before – was making each word a monosyllable, which at the ground bass level you hear and feel as well as see. Honore’s playing is a pungent, true, ice-hot arrow, and Roth’s tirelessly inventive music is apt in every instance and rapt throughout. His choral writing is an idiom rather like Whitacre’s, but with greater specific gravity and lift. “Let me leave a hostage to fortune,” Seth writes, “and state that Alec Roth’s works are among the finest ever created by an English composer.” From my piece of shared ground, I’m inclined to concur.’ (Bay Area ReporterRead the rest of the review online…

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