EX CATHEDRA | Greg Skidmore - bass

From our ‘Gaudete!’ programme, December 2015

Greg is a professional singer based in London. He is absolutely no relation to Jeffrey (a fact Jeffrey likes to make very clear to everyone!). Greg grew up in Canada and arrived in the UK half way through an undergraduate music degree in 2003. Upon graduating in 2005, Greg entered the cathedral singing world, his Choral Scholarship at Wells Cathedral leading subsequently to Lay Clerkships in the choirs of Gloucester Cathedral and Christ Church, Oxford. In 2011 he went fully freelance and now lives in London where he works as a singer and conductor, giving workshops, editing music, and generally busying himself in all things choral!

Greg works with most of the major early music choirs and consorts in the UK. These include The Tallis Scholars, I Fagiolini, the Gabrieli Consort, Alamire, The Sixteen, and many others. He also is busy as a soloist, singing oratorio engagements around the UK and abroad, and appearing as a soloist regularly with Ex Cathedra. He is Musical Director of The Lacock Scholars, an amateur consort based in London focussed on Renaissance polyphonic music and Gregorian plainsong. He is a member of the Choir of the London Oratory, one of London’s finest professional church choirs. He can also be found singing in recitals and chamber music collaborations in London and elsewhere.

For a while, Greg pursued his academic interest by reading for a DPhil in Musicology at the University of Oxford but this was eventually overtaken by his love of performing. The dusty books still sit on the shelves, however, and Greg’s academic interest in the historical music he loves informs how he performs and communicates his passion for this music.

1. How long have you been a member of Ex Cathedra and why did you join?

My first concert with Ex Cathedra was in December 2004, while I was still an undergraduate at Royal Holloway College. It was a concert of French Baroque music by Lalande and I’ll remember it forever. Jeffrey is wonderful at bringing young singers into the profession and having been in the UK for only a little over a year at that point, I was thrilled to be singing alongside Paul Agnew, performing this amazing music. Jeffrey and Ex Cathedra were recommended to me by someone I met on a singing course who was already a big fan. I remember my audition well – the name coincidence was (of course) discussed, as it would be many times by many other people in the subsequent decade!

2. What does a typical day look like for you?

I’m not sure there is any such thing as a typical day for me. Being freelance means every day is different and that’s exactly how I like it. Being truthful, I do keep musician’s hours, so I’m usually in bed long after most other contributing members of society. I travel quite a lot, however, so my early morning trips to various airports and train stations here and there are punishment for the number of lie-ins I get, I suppose! The admin never seems to cease, so there is a healthy amount of that every day too. I do sing most days in some capacity and almost never get as much time to practice as I should. I love the unpredictability and variety and when I compare my lifestyle now to when I was in the cathedral singing world, I am very happy to have much more freedom in my schedule.

3. If you could choose to perform again any piece you have performed before with Ex Cathedra, what would it be, and & why?

Oh, what a question. This is very difficult to answer and, in fact, I try to live by some amazing advice I received when I was younger about what my ‘favourite’ piece of music should be; whatever is in my hands at any given moment! This is a great way to think about it and means you give your all to whatever you are looking at, trying to refrain from making excuses for yourself by blaming the music. This is of course difficult, especially when faced with truly astounding music that demands to be recognised as masterful. I love French Baroque music and the projects I’ve done with Ex Cathedra that contain this repertoire have been rare treats. The Monteverdi Vespers of 1610 is one of my most cherished works and I’ve performed this with Jeffrey many times. Some of Alec Roth’s commissions are also extraordinary and I think singing his 40-part Earthrise is an experience that will stay with me forever. There are some magical moments in his upcoming cantata A Time to Dance as well. I’ve been lucky enough to sing pretty rarely performed Stravinsky choral music as well and that was pretty special. My favourite piece? Surely Bach has to figure somewhere up there, and I’ve certainly done a lot of Bach with the group. I especially love his Magnificat and the B Minor Mass. Being a Renaissance polyphony nut, I’d have to say Lassus’ two motets Musica dei donum and Videte homo are really very near and dear to my heart. So many! You asked for one! Sorry…

4. What’s your musical “guilty secret”?

Well, if you must know, I have a serious weakness for a few kinds of music that most of the rest of the classical music world doesn’t really appreciate (perhaps with good reason…). I love R&B, hiphop, and rap! Yes, I admit it. I grew up in the 90s in Canada and was a huge lover of basketball and American sports in general and the two things very much went together at that time, and still do. The love has never left me. My other very guilty passion is for electronic house music, but this is purely a musical interest and not a lifestyle one! It’s like American minimalism (Steve Reich, Lamont Young, Philip Glass) but with a beat! My dad was always into American jazz from the 40s, 50s, and 60s, which  forms as much of a foundation in my musical personality as classical music does. If I were to get annoyingly academic about it, I might say there was something about the importance of rhythm in these kinds of music that somehow does it for me. I don’t tend to listen to very much classical music when I’m relaxing, as I don’t like relegating it to ‘background music’ and find it hard to concentrate on anything else when there’s Bach or Tallis on. Instead, I sometimes listen to these other kinds of music, where less ‘goes on’ but a really strong, relaxing, exciting, mellow, whatever mood is created. Jay Z and Tomas Luis de Victoria together in one mind? But, of course!