“See Amid The Winter’s Snow”…when Jeffrey Skidmore chose the climactic carol for Ex Cathedra’s 2010 Christmas Music by Candlelight concert at St Paul’s Church, he can hardly have guessed how appropriate it would turn out to be.
The wrong type of snow meant that this reviewer missed the first quarter-hour of the concert – and a good proportion of the capacity audience arrived only at the interval.
But the effort was amply rewarded. Skidmore’s Christmas programmes are one of Birmingham’s real seasonal treats – superbly chosen sequences of choral music from across six centuries, ravishingly performed by an invariably on-form Ex Cathedra. They’re the Christmas concerts of choice for those seeking quiet poetry rather than commercial schmaltz.
This year, that meant an anniversary tribute to Samuel Barber, a sonorous, Slavic-sounding processional by Alec Roth and an uproarious 17th century carol – complete with whoops of joy – by Juan García de Zéspedes. James MacMillan’s impassioned And lo, the Angel of the Lord was breathtakingly dramatic, with antiphonal choirs on the church’s balconies.
Best of all though, was Górecki’s Totus Tuus; a heartfelt tribute to this modern master sung with profound concentration and luminous warmth. Any remaining wintry thoughts simply melted away.
Rating * * * * *