It was a brilliantly simple idea that Ex Cathedra should seal its fortieth anniversary celebrations (“XLent” – geddit?) with works written for gigantic
40-part forces, interspersed with modest (by comparison) compositions by the same composers.
Everything was seamlessly delivered, even the humming move from choir-gallery back to the main stage (Jeffrey Skidmore’s talents extend beyond mere conducting to choral choreography), and what was equally remarkable was the maintenance of pitch during these unaccompanied offerings.
Thomas Tallis’ famous Spem in Alium was naturally the keystone here, surging and pulsating, and, perhaps surprisingly, not resorting to any spectacles of spatial separation.
Those were partially conveyed in Striggio’s Ecce beatam lucem, the grand-daddy of all these polychoral pieces, sung from up aloft, before, back down below, this crack chorus delivered Gabriel Jackson’s Sanctum est verum lumen, cunningly wrought, but outstaying its welcome.
And the goodie here was the world premiere of Alec Roth’s four-movement Earthrise, almost a choral symphony, exploiting so many vocal resources for infinitely pure musical ends, and consummately delivered by Skidmore’s amazing choristers.