The English choral conductor, Jeffrey Skidmore, Jeffrey read music at Magdalen College, Oxford, before returning to his native Birmingham when he was 18 to found and develop Ex Cathedra into the internationally-acclaimed choral group it has become today. He subsequently studied music with David Wulstan at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he was a Choral Scholar under Bernard Rose. As Artistic Director and Conductor of Ex Cathedra he has pioneered historically informed performances of Renaissance and Baroque music in Birmingham and the West Midlands, and directed the first performances of many new editions, including two French Baroque operas, Zaide by Royer and Isis by Lully. He has prepared his own editions of Monteverdi's Spiritual Madrigals and was recently awarded Honorary Fellowships from the University of Birmingham and the University of Central England.
Ex Cathedra is widely acknowledged as one of the finest ensembles in the UK, with a growing international reputation for its trailblazing performances of early music, and as a leading exponent of choral training and vocal skills education. Since its formation by Jeffrey Skidmore in Birmingham in 1969, Ex Cathedra has grown into a unique musical resource, comprising specialist chamber choir, vocal consort of 8-12 voices, period-instrument orchestra, and thriving education programme. The nurturing, development and showcasing of young local talent is an integral part of Ex Cathedra's artistic policy. In addition to its own subscription series - which spans music from the 15th to 21st centuries - in Birmingham and London, Ex Cathedra has performed in festivals across Europe including the BBC Proms, Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music, Spitalfields, Warwick, Lichfield, Festival d'Art Sacré in Paris, Festival du Vieux Lyon, York Early Music Festival, Lourdes International Festival of Sacred Music, Bruges Early Music Festival, Bremen, Leipzig, Lourdes, Lyon, Milan and Turku festivals, and festivals in Italy, Finland and Israel.
Ex Cathedra collaborates regularly with other Birmingham-based arts organisations, most recently with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra for a programme of Fauré and Lalande in Symphony Hall and with Birmingham Royal Ballet on productions of David Bintley's ballet of Carmina Burana in Birmingham and Edinburgh, which was also recorded for BBC Television. Recent CD recordings include Music for the Sun King (Hyperion) and Christmas Music by Candlelight (on Ex Cathedra's own label). Antonio Vivaldi's Vespers, Lalande's Grands Motets, Lassus's Sacred Choral Music and Monteverdi's Madrigals 'made Spiritual' are available on ASV Gaudeamus label and A New Heaven is released on Ex Cathedra's own label.
Directing Ex Cathedra and its associated Baroque Orchestra and Consort, Jeffrey Skidmore has appeared in concert series and Festivals across the UK and abroad and made a dozen highly-acclaimed recordings. He regularly conducts other ensembles, most recently the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Singers and The Hanover Band. In the last five years Jeffrey has commissioned more than ten new works and conducted many world premieres by both well-established composers and new, young talent. Composers include Hutchins, Jackson, Joubert, Runswick, Sculthorpe, Shepherd, Wiegold, and Williams.
In the field of opera Jeffrey Skidmore has worked with Marc Minkowski and David McVicker on the 2004 production of Semele at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, and conducted La Calisto, Dido and Aeneas and Pygmalion at Birmingham Conservatoire. With Ex Cathedra he gave the first performances in modern times of the French Baroque operas Zaïde by Royer and Isis by Lully.
Jeffrey Skidmore is a pioneer in the field of research and performance of neglected choral works of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, and has won wide acclaim in particular for his recordings of French and Latin American Baroque music with Ex Cathedra for Hyperion. An honorary fellow at Birmingham Conservatoire, and a research fellow at Birmingham University, he has prepared new performing editions of works by Araujo, Charpentier, Lalande, Monteverdi and Rameau, and has been involved in the preparation of the French Baroque operas Zaide by Royer and Isis by Lully, and Monteverdis Spiritual Madrigals.
Although Jeffrey Skidmore now concentrates on conducting and research, he is actively involved in music education. He is Director of Ex Cathedra wide-reaching education programme, Artistic Director of the Early Music Programme at the Birmingham Conservatoire and a Vocal Consultant for Walsall Education Department. He frequently gives choral training workshops and tutors at summer schools in the UK and overseas. He has regularly directed the choral programme at Dartington International Summer School and has been invited to be Classical Music Programmer for the 2005 Kilkenny Festival.