Ex Cathedra

Ex Cathedra, Birmingham is only one of more than 70 organisations worldwide for whom Dr Lionel Sawkins has prepared editions of French Baroque Music, not only of works by Lalande, but also of those by composers such as Lully, Rameau and Royer. (see: Editions) But for more than 10 years, Sawkins made his editions and his vast knowledge of French Baroque performance practice generously available to Jeffrey Skidmore, the conductor of Ex Cathedra, only to be totally betrayed by Skidmore’s behaviour in failing to tell Hyperion Records  until the last moment before the recording sessions, of the longstanding arrangements that have always existed in relation to the copyright in his editions. (In an earlier collaboration, three Lalande works edited by Lionel Sawkins were recorded by Ex Cathedra for the ASV label, and Sawkins has been receiving royalties on this CD. Naturally, he expected the same – which is the normal industry practice – would apply to the Hyperion recording, as it has indeed to many other recordings of Sawkins’s editions for other labels on which they have been recorded.)

Equally shocking to Lionel Sawkins was the conduct of the Chairman of Ex Cathedra, John Pulford, who led Sawkins to believe that he was an honest broker seeking to protect Sawkins’s rights as much as to get the recording done, and who persuaded him that Ex Cathedra would buy out Sawkins’s right to royalties. As the Judge found, although Hyperion told Pulford they were not prepared ‘to countenance any restriction on future reproduction rights and the amended contract was never signed… Mr Pulford did not make contact with Dr Sawkins about this, nor did he make any attempt to follow up the suggestion that Ex Cathedra should buy out his royalty.’ To Dr Sawkins’s further dismay, both Skidmore and Pulford appeared as witnesses on behalf of Hyperion in the trial in May 2004, but the Judge found in Dr Sawkins’s favour adding: ‘it is clear to me that Ex Cathedra really played both sides off to ensure the recording did proceed.’

For Dr Sawkins, the behaviour of Skidmore and Pulford was a betrayal of trust. Dr Sawkins was never paid an editing fee for editions of Lalande specifically prepared at Ex Cathedra’s request, nor had he ever asked them to sign a contract when he prepared such editions or when he hired them music, relying on their good faith. Further, he supplied enormous amounts of supplementary information way beyond the call of duty and not normally associated with a commercial hiring, because he was enthusiastic to support Ex Cathedra’s performances of this little-known repertory. He helped Ex Cathedra to secure performances both in London and in Paris. Dr Sawkins proposed, researched and produced first modern editions of many grands motets and of two operas performed by Ex Cathedra, (Royer’s Zaïde, Reine de Grenade and Lully’s Isis). Jeffrey Skidmore did not participate in the preparation of any of these editions in any way.

Lionel Sawkins has always enthusiastically acknowledged the quality of performances directed by Skidmore, and therefore assumed that credit would likewise be given where it was due to Sawkins’s pioneering work in making this music available to performers and the music-loving public in modern editions that enabled singers and players to perform them.

Claims by Skidmore that Ex Cathedra tried to act as ‘peacemakers’ in the dispute with Hyperion are self-evidently spurious; on the contrary, they totally failed to support the moral and legal rights of the editor whose work they had solicited and who had made their performances and recording possible, and that at the moment when he should have been able to assume their loyal backing.

On the other hand, Dr David Ponsford, who played the organ continuo on the disputed recording and the late Dr Stanley Sadie, Editor of the New Grove Dicitonaries and who had edited works of Lalande himself, both gave vital evidence which supported the work which Dr Sawkins had done to produce his editions.
© Copyright 2009 Lionel Sawkins
French Music Editions