This Latin American Christmas concert was a welcome change from the traditional fare served up at this time of year – the musical equivalent of endless turkey dinners.
The imaginative programme of baroque music from Mexico and Bolivia was by turns extrovert and meditative, always fresh and tuneful and presented with theatrical flair by Ex Cathedra’s music director Jeffrey Skidmore.
Both halves of the concert featured a mass in Latin – Padilla’s Missa Ego Flos Campi and Zipoli’s Missa san Ignacio – interspersed with contrasting shorter works, many being settings of texts in Aztec and Inca dialects. Each half began with an empty stage with the choir and the Ex Cathedra Academies of Vocal Music entering singing a haunting polyphonic processional, accompanied by a single pounding drum. Highlights included Hernandez’s simple but beautiful Sancta Maria, Araujo’s haunting lullaby Silencio and his passionate Dime, Amor which uses imagery of fire and snow to express the mystery of divine love. The Ex Cathedra Baroque Ensemble, with some piquant Latin percussion, and Sandwell Youth Orchestra gave fine support. The concert ended with Dulce Jesus Mio, during which singers and players slowly left, until there was just an empty darkened stage with the music dying gradually away.