“Ex Cathedra rang the changes at St Paul’s Church, Hockley in their Summer Music by Candlelight concert with an exciting new face at the podium. Associate Conductor, Sarah Latto has been with the choir since 2019 but this was her first time … programming a whole concert.
“The result was a thoroughly charming and engaging evening of music by candlelight that, despite being by diverse composers and drawn from a range of eras and styles, created a feeling of progression and development that took the audience on a coherent journey into the dying light…
“A first half dominated by early music allowed the choir to show off its rich and sonorous texture, with a wonderful sense of line, and variety of colour. Dynamic range was complemented by contrasts in intensity that enabled the music to pulse, flow, and really breathe. Diction was clear and crisp with some strong word painting, particularly during Palestrina’s Exultate Deo.
“After the interval, some lighter numbers acted as a bit of a palate cleanser, before we got into the mainly twentieth-century meat of the second half. This was a sequence of music that grew in emotional and harmonic complexity, richness, and depth, culminating in two pieces by Alec Roth, The Flower and Night Prayer, wrapped around a processional piece of seventh-century plainsong, Te lucis ante terminum.
“This procession took the choir back to the rear of the church, from whence they had started the evening, so they delivered the final piece of Roth under the balconies. This produced an interesting acoustic effect. Out of the sonic mixing bowl of the main church space, the individual voices became audible, creating a feeling of closeness and intimacy between performers and audience. It was quite magical and – after the journey we had travelled together – profoundly moving.
“A compelling and engrossing evening of choral singing which indicates that this magnificent musical outfit has a history ahead of it as long and distinguished as that behind.”