In a pre-performance discussion, the vocal ensemble Exaudi's director James Weeks promised us that they were not just going to stand in a line for their Kings Place performance. And they were true to his word; the singers performed from all parts of the intimate Hall Two and created an immersive, involved listening experience.

Members of EXAUDI, © David Jensen
Members of EXAUDI,
© David Jensen

The evening highlighted various pieces connected to their 'Exposure' programme, through which Exaudi commission and perform brand new choral works. And in addition to the premières or almost-premières of works by Robert Fokkens, Joanna Bailie and Christopher Fox were presented a selection of other recent-ish vocal pieces by composers including John Cage and Georges Aperghis.

Exaudi performed with their typical precision and purity of tone, bringing confidence to the ensemble performances of the two Cage works which book-ended the recital, as well as to the beautiful, perplexing canon Im Frieden dein, o Herre mein by Aldo Clementi. Also compelling was their intimate performance of Alvin Lucier's Unamuno, a setting of the four syllables of Basque writer Miguel de Unamuno's surname to a cluster of four semitones which shifted gently in timbre. Punctuating the other pieces were Vokalisen by Mauricio Kagel, short, impassioned solo works for countertenor performed by Christopher Field.

For me, the standout performance was Juliet Fraser's solo rendition of two of Georges Aperghis' Récitations. The Récitations are a series of often very text-based compositions, exploring the intonations and inflections of spoken French, and sometimes also testing the limits of extended vocal technique in a more conventional manner. While the second one performed (no. 8) was a little too redolent of Luciano Berio's experiments with voice to be really striking, the first (no. 3) was more successful: a minutely detailed study of speech-rhythm and tone which eventually morphs into a dramatic tour-de-force. This odd sort of hyper-poetry found its perfect match in Juliet Fraser's scrupulous and delicate delivery and her incredible virtuosity of control.

The evening's three new works were also impressive, and amusingly varied. Robert Fokkens' pretty if brief Flytrap for two sopranos and alto was an undulating, lyrical riff on the word 'fly', whose vocalise blended well with the Kagel shorts either side of it.

At once meatier and more flippant was the second-ever performance of Christopher Fox's four-piece, a composition with a cast featuring The Leader, The Acolyte, The Dissident and The Passenger. The text varies between performances, and this evening it was a short extract from the Wife of Bath's prologue in The Canterbury Tales extolling the virtues of virginity. Juliet Fraser was The Leader (and the work's dedicatee), and she declared the message forcefully, drawing vocal and extra-vocal support from her Acolyte (who was eventually reduced to clapping manically at her) and annoying The Dissident somewhat. The Passenger was a bemused and largely irrelevant fourth party, initially declaring 'Is it true what she says?', occasionally joining in with The Acolyte, and sometimes air-drumming along with nothing in particular. This piece could easily have been annoyingly gnomic and cod-philosophical, but was surprisingly engaging, redeemed by its wit and awareness of its own futility.

Completely different was Joanna Bailie's Harmonizing (Artificial Environment no. 7), a work in three parts featuring (sometimes manipulated) field-recordings of birdsong, a merry-go-round, and three planes. The six voices were given the task of 'harmonizing' these recordings in some way, and though something of a slow-burner it was fascinating how the sounds drawn out of the recordings fed through into the tonal language used – particularly in the aeroplanes movement, where the banality of the literal subject-matter was revealed to be completely irrelevant to the musicality of the composition. Exaudi's performance, though impeccable throughout the recital, shone especially here, and they performed with a sensitivity befitting a piece which was nothing if not nuanced.

The concert as a whole was a laudibly democratic affair, with director James Weeks often not conducting, entrusting affairs to the singers. It flowed convincingly through its numerous changes of style, and the Kagel miniatures were slight and abstract enough to bind things together well. Exaudi have pointed out once more that contemporary choral music is more than John Rutter; let us not forget.