Ex Cathedra, Oratory, Birmingham
Wednesday 14 December 2005
It would be hard to imagine a more haunting start to a concert than Hanacpachap cussicuinin, the extraordinary street processional in the Incan language, Quechua, with which the choir Ex Cathedra under Jeffrey Skidmore launched its stirring seasonal recital A Latin American Christmas.
Church music flourished in Mexico, Peru and Bolivia in the 17th and 18th centuries, as a welter of musical influences came together. The Latin Mass blossomed, and so did a tradition of songs and carols in the Spanish manner, based on popular verses known as villancicos, yielding a rich repertoire of sacred and secular pieces. Carols emerged in Quechua and the Aztec language, Nahuatl.
The hefty forces at their disposal in cities such as Puebla and La Plata (now Sucre) allowed composers like Juan Padilla to compose double-choir masses such as the Missa Ave Regina.
Taking advantage of the wonderfully rounded acoustic of Birmingham Oratory, Ex Cathedra has the strength to make antiphonal writing sound very exciting. What most impressed was the balances between the voices, the changes of pace, the litheness of the singing, the lively thrown rhythms and the contrast in timbre between the two choirs, all making for endless variety.
The "popular" repertoire, and the extraordinary texts that superimpose local traditions on the Christmas story, most fired the imagination. Salazar's "Salga el torillo" fuses the image of a doomed bull and bullfighter with the impending death of Christ. Araujo's "Los coflades", with its rumba-like rhythms, envisages the ordinary folk running through the streets to see the child in the crib; Fernandes' "Ah! e abajo" and Araujo's "Ay andar" call on the coy listener not to hang back, but to join in: there's no dodging the dancing.
And dance they did. The music has terrific punch; and so had Ex Cathedra's electrifying performance of it. Backed by a flamboyant continuo of harps, theorbo and wildly cheeky percussion, the choir revelled in the music's sheer zest and rhythmic excitement. The sacred need not be solemn, and gloom was banished.
Ex Cathedra's 'Moon, Sun and All Things' is on Hyperion
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 10 ways we damage our teeth – without realising
- 2 There is something wrong but very right about this Bible illustration
- 3 iPhone 'effective power' text: how to be safe from iOS bug that lets people crash your phone
- 4 Photo of wedding guest proposing to girlfriend in front of bride and groom goes viral
- 5 Charlie Charlie Challenge explained: it's just gravity — not a Mexican demon being summoned
Royal Academy of Arts' Tim Marlow: Bronze statue of lovers embracing at St Pancras station is a lesson in 'how not to do' public art
Britain's Hardest Grafter: Petition set up as Twitter reacts to BBC 'poverty porn' series pitting low-paid workers against each other
Britain's Got Talent 2015: Jamie Raven divides Twitter as fans expose mind-boggling magic trick
Big Brother contestant Aaron Frew removed from house for 'inappropriate behaviour' after flashing fellow contestants
ASAP Rocky gives nauseating response to explicit Rita Ora rap: 'I'm not saying she's a terrible person'
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'