EX CATHEDRA | Tom Lowen - bass

From our ‘Our First Love’ programme 2021

Hello there, my name’s Tom. For as far back as I can remember, music has been the focal point of my life. Being brought up by two music teachers, this was perhaps inevitable, and on being taken to my first choral concert in Gloucester Cathedral at the age of six, I turned to my mum midway through the opening piece and said (quietly!): ‘I want to do that’. And ‘do that’ I did: I started singing aged 8 as a Canterbury Cathedral chorister. After dropping several octaves, I graduated with first-class degrees in Music from the Universities of Oxford and York before moving down to London a couple of years ago to embark on a varied solo and ensemble singing career. 

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

I’ve been singing with Ex Cathedra for two years, and joined as one of the Graduate Scholars before becoming a fully professional member of the choir and consort. The Scholars scheme was a perfect introduction to the group and provided me with some stability and regular work which can be hard to come by as a fresh-faced freelancer! Even without a global pandemic (…), it can be tough to enter the singing scene and it takes a while to feel settled and a part of the community. Ex Cathedra’s welcoming environment was vital to my feeling like I’d made the right choice to pursue this career, and I always look forward to my jaunts to the midlands.

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

I’m not really sure. I had only been freelancing for a couple of months before the world turned upside down (and very quiet), so hadn’t really worked out what a typical day might look like. Happily, things have really picked up over the past few months, but a gigging musician’s lifestyle doesn’t particularly lend itself to routine. However, when I’m not running round the country singing low notes at unsuspecting audiences I can variously be found making coffee in increasingly convoluted alchemical methods, saluting the sun, noodling a new song, or playing assorted racket sports. I’m not very good at doing nothing. 

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

There have been some wonderful instances of discovery in the programmes I’ve performed with Ex Cathedra, the premiere performances of Liz Dilnot-Johnson’s setting of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ ‘The Windhover’ over the summer being a particular highlight. The award of most magical musical moment might have to go to the lullaby ‘Dulce Jesús mio’ that closed the group’s and my first concert back in front of a live audience for over a year back in May. As the echo of the backstage choir faded away you could have heard a pin drop in the auditorium as we all, performer and audience alike, realised what we’d lost, and missed, and could now start to regain. It would be impossible to recreate that moment with another performance, but it’s certainly lodged in my memory.

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

Now is probably the moment that I have to admit to my participation in the seedy underworld of a cappella (and I’m not just talking about sixteenth-century polyphony). If you look hard enough on the internet you can find my multitracked videos of Disney, Toto, Paul Simon et al. I have no shame though – give the people what they want!