Ex Cathedra Rachmaninov Vespers review


Ex Cathedra at Birmingham Town Hall *****
A packed house greeted this fine choir, (50 years of inspiring singing) with numerous vocal soloists shining from within, inspired by discreet Birmingham conductor Jeffrey Skidmore OBE, pioneering and performing choral works from as far back as the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. What a star!
Additional singers were also included from twelve Midlands choirs and used in specific movements in the Vespers.
The lovely resonance of Birmingham's fine Town Hall was perfect for this music, enhancing the fullness of tone throughout. A joy to listen to. The programme provided was obviously well created, only occasionally difficult to follow for many of us 'out front' – with titles being in Russian for each movement - difficult to keep track of unless we had word clues such as recognisable 'Alleluias' to hang on to. This splendid choir also has fine 'in house' soloists – their textures covering a wide vocal range for all (Oh, the hair-raising low B flats from basses), supporting exquisite beauty from all concerned. Mezzo soprano Martha McLorinan and tenor Jeremy Budd gave of their all to a hushed audience with perfect phrasing and impressive Russian script throughout (even if intriguingly incomprehensible for British listeners for the most part)
In 1931 Rachmaninov's sacred music was banned by the USSR, but thankfully his all night vigil was again published in Russia in 1989. Today's performance was sung in the original Church Slavonic.
Maggie Cotton

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