Ex Cathedra Consort Biog:
Ex Cathedra is a leading UK choir and Early Music ensemble with a repertoire that reaches from the 12th to the 21st centuries, via almost all points in between. We are known for our passion for seeking out the best, the unfamiliar and the unexpected in the choral repertoire and for giving dynamic performances underpinned by detailed research.
Founded in 1969 by Jeffrey Skidmore, the group has grown into a unique musical resource, comprising specialist chamber choir, vocal Consort, period-instrument orchestra (founded in 1983-84) and a thriving education programme, aiming to explore, research and commission the finest choral music and to set the highest standards for excellence in performance and training.
We present a series of concerts both in Birmingham, where we are an Associate Artist at Town Hall, and in London. We tour extensively and enjoy invitations to appear at festivals and concert series across the UK and abroad.
Recent performances have included The Grand Tour with the CBSO at Symphony Hall, Rachmaninoff Vespers and Études-Tableaux with Stephen Osborne for the Barbican Presents, and Carmina Burana with Birmingham Royal Ballet - a production which toured London’s Coliseum, Birmingham Hippodrome and as a flashmob at the Bullring shopping centre in Birmingham!
An extensive programme of schools and community projects is delivered by a team of expert vocal tutors who are all members of Ex Cathedra. Singing Playgrounds now reaches well over 500 primary schools across the UK and also Belgium, China, New Zealand, Singapore and Thailand, and the project won the ‘Best Musical Initiative’ Award at the Music Teacher Magazine Awards 2014. Singing Medicine for chronically-ill children continues at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, Birmingham Heartlands Hospital and Great Ormond Street Hospital, and Singing Pathways works with adult stroke patients at Solihull Hospital.
Nurturing young singers is at the heart of our work, and the group’s youth choirs have been developed into four regularly rehearsing groups: Children’s Choir for school years 1-3, Junior Academy for years 4-8, Girls Academy for years 9-13 and Boys Academy for years 8-13. We welcome enquiries. Over the years many Academy singers have progressed to sing in Ex Cathedra itself, and some have pursued very successful careers as professional soloists.
Ex Cathedra Consort is both one of the UK’s premiere vocal consorts and the culmination of the group’s commitment to choral training. It provides opportunities at the highest level for the UK’s best and emerging consort singers. Many Consort singers have, and continue to, come through Ex Cathedra’s Academy system and many have gone on to pursue successful solo careers.
The Consort presents its own concerts as part of Ex Cathedra’s subscription series and has performed at festivals across the UK and further afield, touring in recent years to Belgium, Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the USA, performing music from Gabrieli, Scarlatti and Handel to the Latin American Baroque.
The Consort has made a number of critically acclaimed recordings, both with Ex Cathedra and in its own right, most recently Brazilian Adventure, the fruits of Jeffrey’s research into early music from Brazil, released by Hyperion last month.
And our name?
We are often asked about our name. ‘Cathedra’ is the name for a bishop’s throne, in the same way that a cathedral is the building that houses that throne. When Jeffrey Skidmore and one of the founding members of the choir were choosing a name for the new group, they chose Ex Cathedra because it literally means ‘from the throne’ or in English usage ‘with authority’. At the time, Jeffrey and several members of the choir sang at Birmingham Cathedral, so the pun was attractive. But researching and understanding the repertoire so that it can be performed with authority, style and passion has been a guiding principle since those first performances in 1969
Jeffrey Skidmore Biog:
Jeffrey Skidmore’s reputation as one of the UK’s leading choral directors and an ardent advocate of the importance of singing in people’s lives today is rooted in his work with Ex Cathedra, the ensemble he founded 45 years ago in his home city of Birmingham.
Jeffrey’s driving passion has been to refresh and reinvigorate the choral repertoire and to make it accessible to as many people as possible. He and Ex Cathedra have long been known for exciting and innovative but always attractive programming, underpinned by thorough research and preparation. Under his direction, Ex Cathedra has also shown an enduring commitment to vocal education from its groundbreaking children’s singing programme, Singing Playgrounds, to the nurturing of professional singers at the start of their careers.
Jeffrey is a pioneer in the field of research and performance of choral works of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, both in the old and new worlds. He is also a champion of contemporary choral music and has commissioned more than a dozen new works in recent years.
As director of Ex Cathedra and its associated Consort and Baroque Orchestra, Jeffrey has appeared in many concert halls and festivals across the UK and overseas. He has made a number of highly-acclaimed recordings ranging from Renaissance polyphony to Latin American and French Baroque. He has also worked with other ensembles including the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Aalborg Sinfoniorkester, the Irish Baroque Orchestra and the BBC Singers.
In the field of opera he has worked with Birmingham Opera Company; Welsh National Opera; Marc Minkowski and David McVicker on the 2004 production of Semele at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris; and has given the first performances in modern times of the French Baroque operas Zaïde by Royer and Isis by Lully.
Jeffrey is a Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham and an Honorary Fellow at Birmingham Conservatoire where he is Artistic Director of the Early Music programme. He is a regular contributor to the choral programme at Dartington International Summer School and to a wide range of choral workshops and summer schools at home and abroad, most recently as ‘professor’ of ‘coro barroco’ in the 32nd Festival of Music in Curitiba, Brazil.
Jeffrey was awarded an OBE in the 2015 New Year Honours list.