Lent and Easter

As Easter approaches, this is what I will be up to during April:

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5 April 2014; Bob Chilcott St John Passion, York Minster

Chilcott’s 21st Century setting of the Passion story is both dramatic and beautiful. The Chapter House Choir is delighted to be joined by guest soloists Christopher O’Gorman (Evangelist) and Chris Thornton-Holmes (Jesus) along with an instrumental ensemble and singers from Cantores and St Olave’s Choir. The St John Passion was premiered at Wells Cathedral in 2013 and this will be its Northern Premiere.

The concert will also include the sublime Tenebrae Responses by Victoria.

http://www.boxoffice.yorkminster.org

11 April 2014; The Ebor Singers Into Darkness, Chapter House of York Minster

Have you ever listened to music live in darkness? Total darkness? Starting in candlelight and progressing to 100 percent pitch black, the concert will explore the transition from light to darkness, not just in its liturgical context, such as Holy Week Tenebrae, but as an auditory experience for choir and audience alike. The choir presents some of the most powerful and poignant choral music to come from the western world, with works including James MacMillan’s stunning Miserere and Whitacre’s beautiful Sleep juxtaposed — yet inextricably linked — with choral music by Brahms, Victoria and Lotti.

http://www.boxoffice.yorkminster.org

14,15,16 April 2014; The Ebor Singers sing Compline at York Minster

It has become tradition for The Ebor Singers to sing Compline at York Minster during Lent and Holy Week. This period of contemplation culminates in a performance of Stainer’s Crucifixion on 16 April at 7:30pm. This year the soloists will be Jason Darnell and Andrew Thompson.

Holy Week to Easter at York Minster

During this period, the Minster Choir explores some of the most sublime music ever written including; Tallis Lamentations of Jeremiah I & II (14th), Frank Martin Mass for double choir (17th), Bairstow’s Lamentation and The Reproaches of Sanders (18th). You can see full details on the Minster’s Music Scheme.

July 2013

IMG_1824July has been another busy month which has included a recording for NMC, two York Early Music Festival Concerts, a concert in the St Alban’s International Organ Festival and a BBC Prom.

The recording was an exciting two day affair in which we were rediscovering incidental music written by Britten for two plays by Auden and Isherwood; The Assent of F6 and On the Frontier. The scoring for both were similar being for voices (Ex Cathedra in this case), piano duet and percussion, as well as trumpets in On the Frontier. I was absolutely astounded by the colours which Britten was able to conjure with seeming limited forces. The soloists for The Assent were Andrew Kennedy and Jean Rigby, who were both fantastic to listen to. While much of the music is unknown, Britten reworked the The Assent’s Cabaret Jazz Song which later became part of his Cabaret Song cycle. This song sets the words (as featured in Four Weddings and a Funeral):

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.  WH Auden.

Ironically, we were recording this while Andy Murray was fighting for the Wimbledon title. When he eventually won (we caught the final games of the final set), the BBC Sport team tweeted the opening of this poem!

IMG_2076John Potter and I were very happy to be invited to perform a Conductus concert in York again this year. This event was jointly promoted by the York Early Music Festival (as last year), and the Plainsong and Medieval Music Society who were celebrating their 125th anniversary with a conference in York. We sang a short programme of pieces from the forthcoming Conductus II album in the very beautiful (if a little warm) undercroft of the Merchant Adventurer’s Hall. The place was packed and the audience seemed to respond well to the music, even without the film. I think the length was spot on for a late night slot, and there was still time for a pint afterwards. John and I are currently fixing details for two concerts we’re doing in September; in Southampton as part of a conference hosted by Mark Everest, and in Otterberg in Germany. Further details about Southampton will be posted when we have them, but you can see more about Otterberg here. We are pleased the Rogers Covey-Crump is able to join us for both of these, so we will be able to explore the three voice pieces further. We have also approved the second edit of Conductus II and are awaiting artwork so that production can begin soon. We expect it will be released in the autumn.

The second YEMF concert was with the Minster Choir. We performed a programme of Palestrina and Victoria along with some chant allegedly taken from the York Missal. The programme sought to explore the festival’s theme of ‘From Rome to York’ and was centred around Palestrina’s Missa Papae Marcelli, a work which we sing regularly as part of worship though not in a concert situation. The whole experience highlighted the stamina needed to sing a completely a cappella programme for a group who do it so infrequently. The feedback was lovely though and it is hoped that we can build on this success with more concerts in the future.

Three ChoirsThe Minster Choir were also asked to join the choirs of Salisbury and St Albans in a concert as part of the International Organ Festival in St Albans. This was a fantastic experience with the second half dedicated entirely to a massed performance of the Durufle Requiem. Andrew Lucas was insistent that this large choir pay particular attention to dynamics, the quiet moments especially. The effect was magical and made for rather an emotional performance. We received excellent hospitality too and experienced a real sense of camaraderie within our own choir as well as with the others.

IMG_2089Finally, I have spent the last week with Ex Cathedra in London preparing for a BBC Prom performance of Welt Parliament from Stockhausen’s Mittwoch aus Licht. Regular readers will remember what an amazing time I had last summer performing this piece in Birmingham under the direction of Graham Vick. Incidentally, that show won the Royal Philharmonic Society Award for Opera and Music Theatre. We had a great time performing it again, especailly in the Albert Hall which seems so well suited to Stockhausen’s music. It’s a mad piece (and perhaps more mad this time round without the context of the rest of the opera), but everyone seemed to appreciate it. We seem to be on a roll; who knows, we might get to do it again. Here are a selection of reviews:

‘brilliantly virtuosic and committed’

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/proms/10192294/Proms-2013-Stockhausen-Ex-CathedraJeffrey-Skidmore-Kathinka-Pasveer-review.html

‘The performance standard was exceptional … the effect was unutterable moving, and completely unforgettable’

http://www.seenandheard-international.com/2013/07/22/proms-11-a-late-night-stockhausen-prom/

‘An unforgettable and thoroughly convincing performance’

http://www.bachtrack.com/review-bbc-prom-11-2013-stockhausen-welt-parlament

http://www.operatoday.com/content/2013/07/stockhausen_at_.php

http://www.classicalsource.com/db_control/db_prom_review.php?id=11228

‘Ex Cathedra were calmly but precisely led by conductor Jeffrey Skidmore and showed themselves to be a truly exceptional choir’

http://www.bernardhughes.co.uk/?p=995

December 2012 – Christmas is almost upon us!

After a few days rest following the London Quartet America tour, the busy run up to Christmas has begun. This was kick-started by my favourite service of the year at York Minster – The Advent Procession. The Cathedral begins in darkness, and as the evening progresses with readings and music, candlelight is spread from the west to the east of the congregation. It really is a magical experience. This stop motion film of last year’s service gives a sense of the effect.

The musical highlight for me was Sandström’s Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen which was new to me. This is only the second piece of his that I have come across, the other being his completion of Purcell’s Hear my Prayer, but on the strength of these his work is definitely worth exploring further.

DSC_0076Our Minster commitment continues with the second of our Carol concerts taking place on Friday the 14th, two Nine Lessons and Carols services on the 23rd and 24th as well as the special services of Christmas Eve and Christmas day. For a full list of the Minster’s Christmas activities, visit their website.

I have also been singing with Ex Cathedra this month. They have a busy schedule of Christmas Music by Candlelight concerts, which are an inventive combination of words and music in several venues in and around Birmingham. As the name suggests, these are lit solely by candlelight, which can present a challenge when trying to read new pieces by the likes of Stephanie Martin, Panufnick, Esenvalds and Runswick. This clever programme not only conveys a beautiful sense of the meaning of Christmas, but also also manages to provide a retrospective of the choir’s activities of the past 12 months. Jeffrey Skidmore’s programme note sums this up perfectly. I am singing the programme four more times in Hagley (11th), St John’s Smith Square (13th) and St Paul’s, Birmingham (18th and 19th).

In addition, the Ex Cathedra Consort (solo voices) also had two concerts in York and Birmingham. These explored the rich Christmas repertoire of the South American Renaissance in the first half, and juxtaposed this with more familiar French and early English repertoire in the second. Both concerts were sold out to very appreciative audiences. In Birmingham, we had the opportunity to explore the incredible facilities of the new Bramall Music Building at the university with it’s stunningly flexible Elgar Concert Hall. This place really sets the president for departments where students are expected to pay up to £9,000 in tuition fees.

20121212-105823.jpgStill to come, The Ebor Singers will be performing their Ceremony of Carols programme in the Chapter House of York Minster on Saturday 13th. This year the Britten will be accompanied on the harp by Melanie Jones. The programme will also include the premier of Ian Colson’s Angelus pastores as well as new pieces by Campkin and Campbell. Tickets can be purchased via the Minster Box Office.

Finally, as light relief from all the Christmas stuff, John Potter and I met yesterday to rehearse the new music for Conductus Vol II which we will be recording in January 2013. It was fantastic to get back into the mindset of reading from manuscripts and it all felt surprisingly familiar. With the experience of the last recording as well as singing the Conductus live, I think the second recording experience is going to be a real pleasure. We also heard this week that there are a couple of concerts in the pipeline for 2013. I’ll post more details once they are confirmed!

As I said previously, I am still working on a new programme idea, so keep an eye on this new page for more details soon.