Ex Cathedra

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ex Cathedra
Ex Cathedra in the foyer of Birmingham Town Hall, where it is an Associate Artist
Background information
OriginBirmingham, England
Years active1969 (1969)–present
The Ex Cathedra Choir in performance at the Birmingham Town Hall – photographed on 1 March 2008
Ex Cathedra's logo
Ex Cathedra's logo

Ex Cathedra (/ˌɛks kəˈθdrə/ EKS-kə-THAY-drə) is a leading British choir and early music ensemble based in Birmingham in the West Midlands, England. It performs choral music spanning the 15th to 21st centuries, and regularly commissions new works.

Ex Cathedra was founded in Birmingham in 1969 by Jeffrey Skidmore OBE, who is its artistic director and conductor. It comprises a chamber choir of about 40 singers, a specialist vocal Consort made up of ten professional singers who feature regularly as soloists, and a Baroque ensemble/orchestra. It is known for its passion for seeking out the best, the unfamiliar and the unexpected in the choral repertoire and for giving dynamic performances underpinned by detailed research.

Each year, the choir presents a season of diverse programmes in a variety of venues in and around Birmingham, across the Midlands and in London. It has been a resident ensemble at Birmingham Town Hall Symphony Hall since 2007.[1][2] Since 2014 has made regular appearances at Hereford Cathedral, St Peter's Collegiate Church in Wolverhampton, Southwell Minster and St James the Greater in Leicester.

Ex Cathedra have been invited to perform in concert series and festivals across the UK and as far afield as Israel and New York, including the BBC Proms where it performed Stockhausen in 2013, the Barbican Centre, Brighton Early Music Festival, Cheltenham Music Festival, Edinburgh International Festival, Kilkenny Festival, Lichfield Festival, London Festival of Baroque Music, Spitalfields Festival, St David's Festival, Three Choirs Festival and York Early Music Festival.[1] The group has also appeared at festivals in Belgium, Finland, France, (Germany), Israel, Italy and Spain.

Ex Cathedra have collaborated with Fretwork (music group), the City Musick, His Majestys Sagbutts & Cornetts, Concerto Palatino, Birmingham Opera Company, Sinfonia New York, Birmingham Royal Ballet, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Quebecois dance company Cas Public, the Shakespeare Institute, and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

The first period instrument orchestra to be established in an English regional city,[3] Ex Cathedra's Baroque Orchestra was founded as part of the choir's 1983–1984 season and made its début with a performance of Bach's Mass in B Minor. Comprising the UK's leading period instrumentalists, the orchestra's principals regularly give master classes and coach students at the Birmingham Conservatoire as part of its early music programme.[1]

Music education[edit]

Ex Cathedra has its own youth and children's choirs, the Academy of Vocal Music, for children aged 4–20. In 2017 it launched a Scholarships scheme for young professionals and, in partnership with Birmingham Conservatoire, a Student Scholarships scheme.

In addition, since 1990 the choir have been involved in education programmes in schools and local communities. It established Ring of Sound, an intergenerational choir for the Perry Common Regeneration Project and runs Singing Communities Ladywood, a community choir in the Ladywood inner city district of Birmingham.

Ex Cathedra's 'Singing Medicine' project has worked with children every week across all wards since 2004 at Birmingham Children's Hospital, at paediatric wards at Birmingham Heartland's Hospital since 2011, and at Birmingham Women's Hospital since 2016.

For over 25 years, Ex Cathedra has worked extensively in schools, particularly focusing on primary schools. This activity expanded during the 2007–2008 academic year, when Ex Cathedra inducted its 'Singing Playgrounds' project in schools in Birmingham, Coventry, Derby and London as part of the government's Sing Up initiative. By 2017, 'Singing Playgrounds' had reached over 600 schools across the UK and as far afield as Belgium, China, New Zealand, Singapore and Thailand.


Ex Cathedra have made a number of critically acclaimed recordings for ASV Records, NMC, Orchid, Signum Records, Somm Records, Hyperion Records, and on its own label.[4][5] It is well known for its recordings of French and Latin American Baroque music.[1]

In 2015 the CD 'Britten to America' was shortlisted for a Grammy Award, whilst 'A French Baroque Diva' won a Gramophone Award 2015 (Recital category): "It is no longer enough for recitals merely to bunch together a dozen or so favourite lollipops. The most stimulating essays in the genre are revealing a clear fashion for a proper conceptual theme that requires some scholarly research and creative programming, placing musical entertainment and philological exploration on an equal par. The shortlisted finalists for this year's Recital Award typify this trend, and best of the distinguished crop is Jeffrey Skidmore and Carolyn Sampson's exposition of the career of Marie Fel (1713–94)... Skidmore's expert direction, Ex Cathedra's stylish orchestra (and expert choir) and Sampson's sincere singing ensure that this is both musically thrilling and a fascinating contextual journey."[6]

Title and CD number[7] Release date[8] Performers[7]
Vivaldi: Vespers
1991 Ex Cathedra Chamber Choir and Baroque Orchestra
Jeffrey Skidmore
Michel-Richard de Lalande: Regina Coeli; De Profundis; Cantate Domino
ASV Gaudeamus CD GAU 141
16 January 1995 Ex Cathedra Chamber Choir and Baroque Orchestra (leader Micaela Comberti)
Jeffrey Skidmore
Sanctus: Baroque Music for the Nativity
ASV Gaudeamus CD GAU 166
Ex Cathedra Chamber Choir and Baroque Orchestra
Jeffrey Skidmore
Monteverdi: Madrigali Fatta Spirituale
ASV Gaudeamus CD GAU 174
[Unknown] Ex Cathedra
Jeffrey Skidmore
Sir Christèmas: Carols Old and New
ASV Gaudeamus CD DCA 912
21 February 1995 Ex Cathedra
Jeffrey Skidmore
Orlande de Lassus: Sacred Choral Music; Missa ad Imitationem Vinum Bonum
ASV Gaudeamus CD GAU 150
13 March 1996 Ex Cathedra
His Majesty's Sagbutts and Cornetts
Jeffrey Skidmore
A New Heaven: 1,000 Years of Sacred Choral Music
2000 Ex Cathedra
Jeffrey Skidmore
Christmas Music by Candlelight: Alleluya, a New Work
2001 Ex Cathedra
Jeffrey Skidmore
New World Symphonies: Baroque Music from Latin America
Hyperion CDA67380
7 April 2003 Ex Cathedra
Jeffrey Skidmore
Charpentier: Messe à Quatre Chœurs; Salve Regina à Trois Chœurs; Salut de la Veille des 'O'; Le Reniement de St Pierre
Hyperion CDA67435
5 January 2004 Ex Cathedra
Jeffrey Skidmore
Rameau: Règne Amour: Love Songs from the Operas
Hyperion CDA67447
3 May 2004 Carolyn Sampson
Ex Cathedra Choir & Baroque Orchestra
Jeffrey Skidmore
Peerson: Latin Motets
Hyperion CDA67490
3 January 2005 Ex Cathedra Consort
Jeffrey Skidmore
Moon, Sun & All Things: Baroque Music from Latin America – 2
Hyperion CDA67524
29 August 2005 Ex Cathedra
Jeffrey Skidmore
Fire Burning in Snow: Latin American Baroque 3[5]
Hyperion CDA67600
28 January 2008 Ex Cathedra Consort
Jeffrey Skidmore
J.S Bach: St Matthew Passion
Orchid ORC100007
1 November 2009 Ex Cathedra
Jeffrey Skidmore
Grace Davidson – Soprano I
Mark Chambers – Alto I
Jeremy Budd – Tenor I & Evangelist
Eamonn Dougan – Bass I & Jesus
Greg Skidmore – Bass I & Pilate
Natalie Clifton-Griffith – Soprano II
Matthew Venner – Alto II
Christopher Watson – Tenor II
James Birchall – Bass II
Joy in the morning
Orchid ORC100008
1 November 2009 Ex Cathedra
Jeffrey Skidmore
Andrew Fletcher – organ
Orlande de Lassus: St Matthew Passion
1 April 2011 Ex Cathedra Consort
Jeffrey Skidmore
Nicholas Mulroy – Evangelist
Greg Skidmore – Jesus
Alec Roth: Shared Ground
Signum SIGCD270
1 November 2011 Ex Cathedra
Ex Cathedra Academy of Vocal Music
Jeffrey Skidmore
Philippe Honoré – violin
Giovanni Gabrieli: Sacred Symphonies
Hyperion CDA67957
1 November 2012 Ex Cathedra Consort
His Majestys Sagbutts & Cornetts
Concerto Palatino
Jeffrey Skidmore
Benjamin Britten: Britten to America
NMC D190
9 November 2013 Ex Cathedra Consort
Jeffrey Skidmore
The Hallé
Mark Elder
Andrew Kennedy
Huw Watkins
Samuel West
A French Baroque Diva
Hyperion CDA68035
1 June 2014 Carolyn Sampson
Ex Cathedra Consort & Baroque Orchestra
Jeffrey Skidmore
Brazilian Adventures
Hyperion CDA68114
1 November 2015 Ex Cathedra Consort & Baroque Orchestra
Jeffrey Skidmore
Alec Roth: A Time to Dance
Hyperion CDA68144
1 February 2016 Ex Cathedra Choir & Baroque Orchestra
Jeffrey Skidmore
Grace Davidson – soprano
Matthew Venner – alto
Samuel Boden – tenor
Greg Skidmore – bass
Tim Harper – organ
Roxanna Panufnik: Celestial Bird
Signum SIGCD543
1 September 2018 Ex Cathedra
Jeffrey Skidmore
Penelope Thwaites: From Five Continents
1 April 2020 Ex Cathedra
Jeffrey Skidmore
Carolyn Sampson - soprano
James Gilchrist - tenor
William Dazeley - baritone
Penelope Thwaites - piano
Rupert Jeffcoat - organ

Hyperion lawsuit[edit]

In 2001, Ex Cathedra recorded four works by Michel-Richard de Lalande for Hyperion Records. The sessions used editions prepared by scholar Lionel Sawkins. Sawkins went on to sue Hyperion for royalties arising from his claimed copyright in the editions.[9] The recording was issued but subsequently withdrawn from the market after Sawkins won the lawsuit and subsequent appeal.[10][11]

Upon Hyperion's appeal, the Court of Appeal held on 19 May 2005 that Sawkins owned the copyright in his modern performing editions of the de Lalande music, even though de Lalande's music itself was out of copyright.[12] The decision was not welcomed by all. Peter Phillips, the director of the Tallis Scholars and a music editor himself, said: "All the music I perform has to be edited, or we couldn't read it. But copyright should be there ... to reward creativity, not scholarship or diligence. How much an editor did or did not write should never be asked and judged upon during a million-pound lawsuit involving a small and innovative recording company."[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Ex Cathedra, Ex Cathedra, archived from the original on 9 May 2008, retrieved 19 June 2008.
  2. ^ Terry Grimley (11 October 2007), "Ex Cathedra launches new season", Birmingham Post, archived from the original on 21 May 2011, retrieved 19 June 2008.
  3. ^ Ex Cathedra Baroque Orchestra, Goldberg: The Early-Music Portal, 2003, archived from the original on 27 November 2006, retrieved 18 December 2008.
  4. ^ See, for instance, Andrew McGregor (19 May 2003), Ex Cathedra; New World Symphonies, BBC, archived from the original on 21 October 2007, retrieved 18 December 2008, Ex Cathedra and Jeffrey Skidmore are first-rate ambassadors for this music. ... [T]he overall sound is beautiful and the performance, from instrumentalists and singers, has great conviction and energy. ... An album of unexpectedly wicked delight.; Christopher Morley (20 October 2005), "Classical CD review: Celestial sounds sourced from sunny Latin America; Moon, sun and all things – Ex Cathedra", Birmingham Post; and John Quinn (2008), Fire Burning in the Snow/Skidmore, Ex Cathedra, ArkivMusic.com, archived from the original on 8 June 2011, retrieved 18 December 2008, The standard of performance is unfailingly excellent. Ensemble work, both vocal and instrumental, is tight and the many vocal solos are all taken extremely well. The performances display flair and finesse on the part of all concerned. Jeffrey Skidmore's direction is perceptive, lively and, above all, persuasive..
  5. ^ a b Andrew Clements (1 February 2008), "Fire Burning in Snow, Ex Cathedra/Skidmore (Hyperion)", The Guardian.
  6. ^ "A French Baroque Diva". Hyperion Records. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  7. ^ a b Recordings, Ex Cathedra, retrieved 19 May 2017
  8. ^ Amazon.co.uk (album release dates)
  9. ^ Sawkins v. Hyperion Records Limited [2004] EWHC 1530 (Ch), High Court (England and Wales).
  10. ^ Terry Grimley (10 July 2004), "Facing the music: ... [H]ow a prestigious project turned sour for Birmingham baroque ensemble Ex Cathedra", Birmingham Post.
  11. ^ a b Ed Vulliamy (23 December 2005), "£1m legal bill rocks a musical institution: Classical record firm at risk after court defeat; Bill for copyright action a 'self-inflicted wound'", The Guardian.
  12. ^ Hyperion Records Limited v. Sawkins [2005] EWCA Civ 565, [2005] 1 W.L.R. 3281, Court of Appeal (England and Wales).


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]