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Ex Cathedra is delighted to perform on this recording, introducing the melodious, rhythmically vibrant choral music and songs of Penelope Thwaites.

Featuring 19 premiere recordings, From Five Continents celebrates a lifetime of making music around the world to showcase Thwaites’ distinctive compositional signature. The disc’s centrepiece, a moving new Missa Brevis, is coupled with four Psalm settings, songs influenced by the sounds of Indian and African music, folk-styles from the Americas and an evocation of the vast Australian outback.

From Five Continents features three outstanding singers venturing into new musical territory. Making their debuts on the SOMM label are Carolyn Sampson – whose brilliant soprano ranges from shimmering choral solos to guitar-accompanied folk song – and baritone William Dazeley, who vividly conjures the inherent anger of the much-set Fear no more the heat o’the sun, one of five Shakespeare settings.

Enveloped by drums and saxophone, tenor James Gilchrist returns to SOMM for a stirring tribute to Nigeria’s second-largest city, Kano. The composer herself provides exceptional accompaniment on piano throughout the disc.

First recordings (except track 10)

Read the full liner notes.

Read a blog by Penelope Thwaites at www.gramophone.co.uk


“The Australian composer and pianist Penelope Thwaites (b.1944) has risen somewhat gradually to prominence, but she is arriving not a moment too soon. All except one of these choral compositions and songs receive their first recordings in this set and to say they are lively, catchy and imaginative is probably not saying enough… The beautifully wrought Missa brevis is a model of concise, integrated and well contrasted writing, with some inspired moments (the Gloria is irresistible); and the four psalm settings and the Shakespeare Songs offer vivid responses to their celebrated words… The performances match the music in warmth, directness and communicativeness, with Ex Cathedra in finest fettle and Jeffrey Skidmore picking strong tempos and balancing the voices beautifully. The all-star soloists Carolyn Sampson, James Gilchrist and William Dazeley offer excellent diction and projection, and Thwaites herself is at the piano.” (BBC Music Magazine)

“The variety is remarkable, as is the level of invention and the concise, effective way Thwaites composes. … Being authentic, too, comes across in Thwaites’ disc.” (Classical Music Magazine)

“This thoughtfully programmed album of choral music and song brings together a range of melodious and interesting pieces, mixing both sacred and secular repertoire. … In Thwaites’ Missa Brevis, each of the five sections have strongly contrasting settings. The opening Kyrie is solemn, and here Ex Cathedra excel, while the melodious Gloria is delivered by the choral forces and Sampson with clarity and exemplary diction… The Five Shakespeare Songs are a delight from beginning to end. They possess a rich, modern harmonic vocabulary. Scored for solo voice, choir, piano and percussion, they reveal Thwaites’ insightful ability to write for choir and to create drama and contrast. Ex Cathedra navigate the complex chromaticism with complete conviction… Thwaites has a voice of her own in these and creates something intriguing and original. … The recording captures the acoustics of the auditorium well and is ideally engineered for vocal music with changing sizes of ensemble. Thwaites’ style is accessible, interesting and varied. Any choral music enthusiast would take much pleasure from this commendable release.” (The Classic Review)

“open-hearted vitality, joy and simplicity – the art that conceals art… a lovely performance by Ex Cathedra under Jeffrey Skidmore” (Birmingham Post)

“an enticing roster of performers…The songs, performed variously and excellently by Carolyn Sampson, Janes Gilchrist and William Dazeley, share the world of Quilter and Butterworth – rueful, nostalgic, intensely English… Both Forestry and Reverie as well as a set of Shakespeare Songs for chorus and soloists see her at her best. A wonderfully earthy, almost Falstaffian Fear No More the Heat O’the Sun from Dazeley banishes memories of Finzi in its contrasting spirit, while O Mistress Mine and It was a Lover have the lean-back lightness of revue numbers… strong performances from Ex Cathedra.” (Gramophone)

“top-notch performers – the result is extremely attractive” (Choir & Organ)

“Thwaites’ is a charming and confident musical voice, and there is no doubting the very real sincerity underlying all her music here. It is this latter quality which shines through this disc, thanks to the exceptional work of Ex Cathedra and their founding director, Jeffrey Skidmore, who produce impeccably tended performances all of which sets each song as a real musical gem … direct and unpretentious harmonies, the delicious flexibility and lightness of touch from Ex Cathedra and the immaculately dovetailed piano accompaniments from Thwaites herself make these [Five Shakespeare Songs] really worthy additions to the long tradition of Shakespeare verse settings.” (www.musicweb-international.com)


India — Australia — Africa