United Kingdom Highlights will include music of Bach, Britten and Alec Roth (JQ)
The Birmingham-based Ex Cathedra is much more than a choir. For instance, it does tremendous outreach work in its local community – and beyond – through the Singing Playgrounds scheme, already delivered to over 250 schools in the UK, and its Singing Medicine programme which currently runs in two hospitals in the Birmingham area. Besides the choir itself and the Ex Cathedra Consort, comprising up to a dozen professional singers, there’s also the Academies of Vocal Music which involves children from as young as six – if that’s not planning for the future, what is?
To many people, however, Ex Cathedra will be known primarily as a choir and they’ve recently announced details of their 2012/13 season, which ranges widely both in terms of music and in terms of the places where that music is performed.
As one of the leading musical ensembles in Birmingham it’s right that some of the concerts should take place in the city’s prestige venue, Symphony Hall. That will be where their annual performance of a Bach Passion on Good Friday will take place. This season it’s the turn of the St. Matthew Passion, which will be sung in English. Ex Cathedra’s very good 2009 performance of the St Matthew is available on CD (review) and several of the principal soloists from 2009 will be reprising their roles in 2013 (29 March, 2013).
There’s more Bach, this time in Birmingham’s Town Hall, before the turn of this year when the Magnificat in D is to be performed. That masterpiece will be paired, intriguingly, with a new work by Alec Roth, A Time to Dance. The new work has been written expressly for the same forces, including period instrument orchestra, that are required for the Bach. Ex Cathedra has championed Roth’s music in recent years and with good reason: their recent recordings of some of his pieces show him to be an important and distinctive voice (review). I understand that the first performance of A Time to Dance, a few weeks ago in Sherborne Abbey, had the entire audience on their feet, greeting Roth’s work with a standing ovation so this concert should be a memorable occasion (29 October 2012).
Moving from Birmingham’s premier concert hall to its newest one, Ex Cathedra help to inaugurate the Elgar Concert Hall at Birmingham University with a programme entitled ‘Gaudete!’ The main work is Missa ego flos campi by Juan Gutierrez de Padilla (c1590-1664), the sort of music that’s a real Ex Cathedra speciality. They’ll also sing Christmas music from Renaissance Spain and Latin America together with some European repertoire (8 December). After that they’ll celebrate Christmas, as usual, with their Christmas Music by Candlelight concerts in St. Paul’s Church, Birmingham (18, 19 & 22 December).
The centenary of the birth of Benjamin Britten will be marked with a concert of his vocal music as part of Symphony Hall’s ‘A Boy Was Born’ celebrations, including a performance of the work from which the mini-festival takes its name (12 January). For an enticing programme of music by Fauré (the Requiem) and Poulenc they welcome organ virtuoso David Briggs to play the Poulenc Organ Concerto (17 February, Symphony Hall).
There are several other equally attractive and intriguing programmes in the season. Full information about all programmes and how to book and, indeed, about Ex Cathedra itself can be found at www.excathedra.co.uk