EX CATHEDRA | Lawrence White - Baritone

From our ‘Songs of Protest’ programme 2022

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

Having first auditioned in the summer of 2015, I’m pleased to say I’ve performed with the group every season since the start of 2016. So that’s about seven years! Despite being very much London-based, both in terms of my career as a singer and in where I have lived over the past 20+ years, I have been aware of Ex Cathedra for as long as I can remember really. This is probably due to various colleagues in London telling me on various occasions that they were off +again to embark on another interesting project with Jeff and the gang. I was always intrigued by what I heard from the Ex Cathedrans I knew – the wide variety of music the group explores together; the regular concerts around the UK in places other than London; the oscillation in scale between consort and large chamber choir, and the opportunities for responsibilities as a soloist; the minute attention to detail within intricately devised concert programmes – all contained within a devoted and friendly regular membership, under the enduring direction of a passionate and supportive conductor. However, it was only when a very good Ex Cathedran friend and colleague (with whom I’d travelled the world performing over several years) suggested strongly that I should think about joining the group that I actually made contact. And, as soon as I’d met a few of the people involved with Ex Cathedra, having made the trip up to Birmingham to sing to them, I knew it was something I wanted to do. Thankfully the audition went well, and seven years later I’m still getting booked!

Reading back over that last paragraph, I can see Ex Cathedra is a continuation of many of the threads of my life as a musician. I’m one of seven children, and part of a very musical family – my mother and father were both active singers in the hotbed of the Oxford choral scene of the 1970s, and my father is still a singer today, nearing the end of his career having been a principal at the Royal Opera for over 30 years. Music-making as I grew up was always fun, always with friends, and always incorporating individuals of different ages with different strengths in order to create a rather magical communal experience. It was usually informal, and always felt like something of a blessing. Nowadays, within the formality of a professional career, with paying audiences and more critical attention, there are other things at stake. But, as an Ex Cathedran, I have found that those things that first instilled a love of communal music-making in me all those years ago can still be very much part of my day-to-day activities as a singer. It’s great.

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

Since 2017, my partner Megan and I have had two beautiful children (they’re now 5 and 3), so naturally their needs and wants tend to direct proceedings of a morning and an evening..! Broadly speaking, though, once they’re safely at school or at nursery, I’ll either be off to a singing job somewhere in London, or at home (with some coffee brewing) getting ready to crack on with learning some music for an upcoming project, or possibly already having a bit of a sing at the piano. There are also domestic tasks that need doing every day of course – and in our case, living as we do in a wooden kit house on stilts on a hill, it seems the list of DIY and home improvement attempts is never-ending. So perhaps to sum up – earlier in the spring, for weeks on end, I was working intensively on a song recital I was due to perform in Mexico (!), whilst at the same time project-managing and actually building a sizeable garden room at the bottom of our garden in order that Megan and I might have a better facility for musical practice and photo processing (Megan is a very fine photographer). Oh, and ensuring piping-hot dinner is ready on the table as soon as the kids get back in. Absolute madness!!

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

I think it would be Seven Angels by James MacMillan. I haven’t performed it before or since, but it made quite an impression on me. Fantastical texts from the Book of Revelation and powerful scoring (natural trumpets, shofars – ram’s horns! – and huge percussion) combine to very dramatic effect. We performed it twice I think, within the same week. I’d love to revisit it, and occasionally mention this to the powers that be, in the hope it might make a return!

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

Undoubtedly that I’m bassist in a fully-fledged progrock band called ‘Giblet’. With musical roots firmly in the heavy, blue-based rock sound of the early 1970s, we never take to the stage unless we are wearing fantastical (ridiculous) costumes and probably make-up too. Among other creations, we have a fullscale rock opera, ‘Clayton: The Search for Laggerty Falls’. One hour and twenty minutes in length, with a dozen monumental songs (some with two guitar solo sections), recitative-style passages and spoken word character parts for all band members, ‘Clayton’ explores adult existential themes of love, loss and rank silliness with its tongue firmly in its cheek. We don’t get many bookings.