The choral and Early Music specialist Jeffrey Skidmore has today been named on the shortlist for the conductor category of the prestigious Royal Philharmonic Society Awards 2021. The winner will be announced in a celebratory presentation at Wigmore Hall on Monday 1 November.
This is the first time the Royal Philharmonic Society has shortlisted a conductor whose career has been dedicated to the choral genre. The illustrious list of past winners and nominees is dominated by conductors who have distinguished themselves in the opera house and with orchestras.
Skidmore’s presence on the 2021 shortlist reflects his 50-year contribution to choral music. Since founding Ex Cathedra in his home city of Birmingham in 1969, he has developed an international reputation for nurturing young singers and developing the choral repertoire through research and commissioning.
It also represents hard-won recognition for professional choral musicians, for many years the poor relation of their peers in the orchestral and opera world when it comes to profile and funding. The presence of four choral conductors on the shortlist for the new Inspiration category of the RPS Awards underlines the important role that choirs offer their members and communities, never more evident than during the pandemic, with two of those nominees - Hilary Campbell and Themba Mvula - having close relationships with Skidmore and Ex Cathedra.
And with Arts Council England’s Lets Create 10-year strategy endorsement that “taking part in creative acts such as singing… delights and fulfil us, and helps us to think, experiment, and better understand the world” it may be that the latent value that expert professional choirs can offer to their communities can be unlocked in the coming years.
The shortlisting acknowledges Skidmore’s tireless energy and imagination during the last 18 months, celebrating his 70th birthday in February 2021 whilst embracing the challenges and opportunities of the pandemic, developing innovative ideas to ensure Ex Cathedra was able to reach new and existing audiences – online, live & hybrid – serve its communities, and provide as much work as possible for its freelance musicians.
Throughout the period Skidmore sustained Ex Cathedra’s professional development schemes, working with its third Associate Conductor (Hilary Campbell) and choral Scholars.
His work during the pandemic explored the range of his research and commissioning interests, from Donati (c.1570-1638) to music commissioned from Alec Roth and Liz Dilnot Johnson, presented in visually-arresting ‘virtual choir’ concerts that reached over 116k people worldwide.
Skidmore’s next project is as bold and ambitious as ever: a reconstruction of Beethoven’s funeral procession with Ex Cathedra and The Concert Trombone Quartette, offering audiences at Symphony Hall a rare chance to discover the music heard by 20,000 people as they lined the streets of Vienna in 1827.
Other forthcoming projects include Unending Love Weekenders - exploring fusions of Indian Classical and choral music, in collaboration with Milapfest, composers Alec Roth and Roxanna Panufnik, the Britten Sinfonia, Mark Padmore, Vayu Naidu, Debipriya Sircar and Ensemble Tempus Fugit.
Full details of forthcoming concerts given by Jeffrey Skidmore and Ex Cathedra can be found at www.excathedra.co.uk.
The full RPS Awards shortlist is available at https://royalphilharmonicsociety.org.uk/rps_today/news/2021-rps-awards-shortlists-revealed