Ex Cathedra is a leading UK choir and Early Music ensemble with a repertoire that reaches from the 12th to the 21st centuries. 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 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 in Birmingham, where we are a resident ensemble at Town Hall & Symphony Hall, across the Midlands, and in London. We also enjoy invitations to appear at festivals and concert series across the UK and abroad. There have been collaborations with Fretwork viol consort, The City Musick, His Majestys Sagbutts & Cornetts, Concerto Palatino, Birmingham Opera Company, Sinfonia New York, the CBSO, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Quebecois dance company Cas Public, the Shakespeare Institute, and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
‘Cathedra’ is the name for a bishop’s throne, and 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 in 1969, 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. 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.
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 over 45 years ago.
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.
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, and has won wide acclaim for his recordings of French and Latin American Baroque music with Ex Cathedra.
With Ex Cathedra, Jeffrey has commissioned more than thirty new works and conducted many world premieres by composers including Sally Beamish, Fyfe Hutchins, Gabriel Jackson, John Joubert, James MacMillan, Roxanna Panufnik, Alec Roth, Daryl Runswick, Peter Sculthorpe, Philip Shepherd, Peter Wiegold and Roderick Williams.
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, Sinfonia New York, 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 Artistic Director of the Early Music programme at Birmingham Conservatoire, and 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.