For Ex Cathedra's highly-popular, long-established annual series of offerings of "Summer Vespers by Candlelight" within the sumptuous, evocative surroundings of the Birmingham Oratory, Jeffrey Skidmore has never been content merely to rotate through the small number of established settings that exist in the canon.
Wednesday's sequence of "Parisian Vespers", candles galore illuminating the midsummer gloom, was one of these brilliant concoctions Skidmore creates with such a magic touch, bringing the English composers Pelham Humfrey, Purcell and John Blow (all influenced by the French taste of the newly-restored Charles II) into the equation, and focusing on the miraculously expressive music of Henry Du Mont, a name scarcely known in this country.
Du Mont's music is big, emotionally searching material, vocal lines dovetailed and terraced to convey the utmost effect, and with substantial instrumental paragraphs to add to the gravity of atmosphere (richly delivered here by the tiny but sonorous Ex Cathedra Baroque Ensemble).
His Magnificat was the culmination of the entire sequence, a work of impressive stature, though diction from the normally so eloquent choir, singing so naturally in Frenchified Latin pronunciation, was uncharacteristically foggy in this demanding acoustic.
Ex Cathedra's legendary gifts for tonal balance, depth of chording and clarity of line were much in evidence, and the continued democratic practice of allocating solos to members from within the choir once again paid dividends - but also left the listener wishing he knew whom to thank for this or that beautiful, well-projected and gripping contribution.
Textures ranged from the chant-like unisons of antiphons by Nivers to the semitonal dissonances of our own Blow, and the flow of the whole late-night presentation was seamlessly marshalled by the enthusiastic Skidmore.