How we use Cookies

What's On

Your guide to everything in Birmingham

Review: Ex Cathedra at St Philip's Cathedral

It begins with David Matthews' stunning, antiphonal Lichfield commission Dawn Chorus and ends with an eventide plainchant.

Ex Cathedra at St Philip's Cathedral
****
Jeffrey Skidmore
Jeffrey Skidmore

Ex Cathedra’s candlelit Christmas concerts are a winning concept. Can the same idea translate to the longest day of the year? Judging from the capacity audience at St Philip’s Cathedral, no-one was too bothered by the fact that as the candles flickered, daylight was still pouring in through those big Georgian windows.

And why would they, with a programme as attractive as this? It’s based on a sequence that Jeffrey Skidmore devised last summer for Lichfield Cathedral, taking the same basic format as the winter concerts. It begins with David Matthews’ stunning, antiphonal Lichfield commission Dawn Chorus and ends with an eventide plainchant. In between it travels from the rising sap of Morley’s Now Is The Month of Maying to the sunset harmonies and lengthening shadows of Delius’s To Be Sung Of A Summer Night on the Water. Gershwin, Elgar and Cliff Richard appear along the way.

Skidmore and his choir performed it exquisitely. The acoustic of St Philip's gives Ex Cathedra’s sound a greater immediacy than in Lichfield Cathedral, and more bloom than in St Paul’s. It glowed from within, though there was plenty of space for descants to soar and wheel – the solo soprano who went careening over John Joubert’s To Mistress Isabell Pennell surely deserved a credit in the programme.

Skidmore’s programming is wonderfully thoughtful: the quiet aura that surrounds the opening lines of Alec Roth’s The Flower blossoms into a luminous halo in James MacMillan’s So Deep. And a central sequence of partsongs by Joubert, Britten and Vaughan Williams proved that there really isn’t much to choose from – in quality of inspiration, at any rate – between these three British masters. Expect similar revelations, as this beautifully-conceived programme evolves and ripens in summers to come.

Comments

Journalists

Graeme Brown
Editor (Agenda and Business)
Enda Mullen
Business Reporter
Tamlyn Jones
Business Reporter
Neil Elkes
Local Government Correspondent
Emma McKinney
Education Correspondent
Ben Hurst
News Editor
Jonathan Walker
Political Editor