Review: Christmas By Candlelight, Ex Cathedra at St Paul's Church, Hockley
A candlelit Christmas evening by Jeffrey Skidmore and his incomparable Ex Cathedra choir is not to be missed.
St Paul’s Georgian church is the perfect venue, both for atmosphere and acoustics, and as in previous years we were treated to a truly wonderful, imaginative programme telling the Christmas story in all its guises.
Unidentified soloists and readers are drawn from the choir: well balanced, clear, sensitive and fully communicating with the capacity audience.
Sad, however, that the spoken voice so often seemed to trigger hacking coughs from the assembled listeners.
Yes, it is winter, but surely discretion should help temper such interruptions?
Perhaps the interval with mulled wine and mince pies should have helped any such noisome disturbances . . . but sadly, not on this occasion.
A delightfully jazzy version of The Holly and The Ivy contrasted with 13th century Chester nuns’ voices. Barber’s Adagio for Strings was transformed into a heart-stopping Agnus Dei with interwoven soaring phrases, after which childhood memories were stirred by the achingly beautiful Away in a Manger.
This is a choir with perfect entries and immaculately clear words, flawless consonants and evocative blending expression throughout.
Torches by local composer John Joubert was welcomed as a favourite inclusion.
The church balconies were used to special effect when three choirs were required, but never any problems with balance.
Seamless continuation from one musical gem to another as delightful readings offered time for natural changes of direction.
Discreet organ and piano accompaniments were in the care of Andrew Fletcher.
Repeated on Thursday, December 22, 7.30pm and Friday, December 23, 7.30pm. www.excathedra.co.uk