Dec 13

‘Tis the season…

As usual, there’s a steady crescendo of events leading up to the end of the Christmas term; on Monday night, the University Chamber Choir performed amidst the candle-lit hush of Canterbury Cathedral as part of the University Carol Service.

Image: Matt Wilson / University of Kent

Second-year Matthew Cooke made his conducting debut with In Dulci Jubilo, and other carols the Choir sang included Russell Hepplewhite’s Star of the East, fresh from having performed it live on BBC Radio 4 last week.

Image: Matt Wilson / University of Kent

Image: Matt Wilson / University of Kent

On Tuesday, the String Sinfonia gave a seasonal concert amidst the current exhibition in Studio 3 Gallery as part of the continuing #EarBox series, in a programme that included Corelli’s Christmas Concerto.

Final-year student Lydia Cheng was the featured soloist in a dynamic, energy-filled performance of ‘Winter’ from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

And there’s no respite, as the Big Band prepares for its annual Christmas Swingalong in a few hours’ time, the final event in our Christmas hamper…

Dec 07

Chamber Choir perform live on Radio 4’s Today Programme

Congratulations and thank you to the members of the University Chamber Choir, who rose to the occasion (and rose early, too…) to sing live on this morning’s Today programme on BBC Radio 4.

Image: Dan Worth / University of Kent

The programme was broadcast directly from the Gulbenkian, and the programme closed with the Choir performing Star of the East, a carol written by composer Russell Hepplewhite. A lovely opportunity to present a recent carol to a wide listenership; thanks to all the singers.

Waiting to go on-stage…

The Chamber Choir with Today presenter, Justin Webb

Here’s the moment shared by BBC Radio 4:

and the University’s clip:

Nov 30

Christmas is coming…

The University Cecilian Choir, String Sinfonia and soloists were busy rehearsing for the first in our series of Christmas concerts, which takes place on Friday 1 December. A feast of seasonal music and words reflecting the start of the Christmas period, A Christmas Corncuopia brings together carols, popular seasonal favourites and readings to create a magical atmosphere.

For the event, the Music Department will be joined by Will Wollen, (pictured right), Senior Lecturer in Drama and Theatre Studies, who brings life to characters including Scrooge, Adrian Mole, Elizabeth David grumbling about cooking at Christmastime, Nancy Mitford bewailing traditional customs which frighten the house-guests and evocative poems by Edward Thomas and Thomas Hardy.

The music includes Vivaldi’s ‘Winter’ from ‘The Four Seasons,’ featuring third-year Music Scholar, Lydia Cheng, (pictured below) as soloist, and carols with the Cecilian Choir including Warlock’s beautiful Bethlehem Down and the traditional Ukrainian Carol of the Bells.

Come and launch the department’s Christmas season this Friday evening, and enjoy a glass of Smoking Bishop punch afterwards (included in the ticket-price); further concerts including the Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments, the Chorus and Symphony Orchestra, a seasonal #EarBox in Studio 3 Gallery from the String Sinfonia, and the Big Band’s enduringly popular A Christmas Swingalong – details about all these online here. ‘Tis the season…

Nov 29

Chamber Choir students work with British composer

Students in the University Chamber Choir had the opportunity to work with one of Britain’s leading composers in rehearsal yesterday, in preparation for singing in the University Carol Service in Canterbury Cathedral next month.

The choir was privileged to welcome Russell Hepplewhite to its usual evening rehearsal, to work on Russell’s Star of the East. It can be a daunting prospect, performing a composer’s work in their presence, but the Choir rose to the occasion magnificently.

Hailed by the Evening Standard as ‘one of the brightest young talents to have emerged in recent years,’ Russell’s award-winning work has been commissioned to critical acclaim by English Touring Opera, and his choral works are part of the recent Genesis Choral Library series launched by Banks Music Publications. His next work, Moonfleet, is set to open at the Salisbury Playhouse in April.

It was a terrific opportunity for the students to get to grips with contemporary music with the composer offering them insights into the creation of the work and its realisation; huge thanks to Russell for coming down from London especially last night; we’re looking forward to unfurling the piece in the majestic Nave of Canterbury Cathedral on 11 December.

Nov 20

Making singing exciting: students work with the London Community Gospel Choir

Colyer-Fergusson Hall was buzzing throughout the day on Friday, when members of the London Community Gospel Choir came to the campus to perform.

During the afternoon, many lucky students took part in a workshop with some of the Choir, and were able to perform alongside them during their roof-raising concert later in the evening, including members of the University Chamber Choir, Gospel Choir and Musical Theatre Society

Rehearsing in the afternoon workshop

Shalom Ozua (pictured right with Bazil Meade), a second-year student in the School of Law and President of the University of Kent Gospel Choir, was one of those who took part; here’s her reflection on the day…

During the day from the workshop to the concert with LCGC, everything was amazing! Singing with the choir’s director, Bazil Meade, was a very good experience which allowed us, as a choir, to learn a lot about different dynamics of singing and also how to make singing exciting. During the workshop we learnt a number of songs which were challenging as they tested our musical abilities, however it was a great lesson! As a choir we have learnt a lot which we will be able to take away and make a difference during our rehearsal times. We are very grateful for the opportunity, and hope to work with Bazil later in the future!

“It was a brilliant night which helped to showcase the talent we have on campus,” observed Aaron Thompson, Vice-President (Activities) with Kent Union, “and it really gave the students an amazing opportunity and experience.”

Nov 15

Music meets movement: #EarBox at Studio 3 Gallery in December

The #EarBox series exploring the meeting point of visual art and music returns to Studio 3 Gallery in December, as the String Sinfonia performs amidst the gallery’s current exhibition, Capturing Movement.Curated by MA Curating students, Capturing Movement explores how artists have transformed contemporary dance into inspiring representations in sculpture, painting and photography. For the #EarBox event on Tuesday 12 December, the musicians of the String Sinfonia, directed by Floriane Peycelon, will bring a programme including music by Vivaldi, Corelli and Peter Warlock. With dance rhythms lying at the heart of much of the music from the Baroque, as well as Warlock’s Renaissance-dance inspired Capriol Suite, it will be fascinating to explore the synergy between the live music and the exhibited moments of dance frozen in time…

The concert starts at 5.15pm and will last approximately 45 minutes; admission is free, the audience is welcome to sit among the exhibits or view the exhibition whilst the performance is underway, and leave as they wish. More details online here.

Nov 09

Out of this world: University singers perform with the Philharmonia at the Marlowe

Music truly was out of this world on Wednesday 8 November, when ten singers from the University performed alongside the Philharmonia Orchestra and Philharmonia Voices, in a sell-out performance of Holst’s The Planets Suite under the baton of John Wilson at the Marlowe.

Ten members of various University choirs, including several University Music Scholars, headed down the hill during the afternoon to rehearse with Aidan Oliver, founding director of Philharmonia Voices, before returning in the evening to lend their voices to the ethereal final movement which brings Holst’s famed orchestral work to a celestial conclusion.

Rehearsing at the Marlowe Studio with director of Philharmonia Voices, Aidan Oliver

Clockwise from top: Charlotte Webb, Alice Baker, Alice Scott, Alice Hargreaves, Fleur Sumption, Alice Shires, Ruth Webster, Lulu Hammond, Carmen Mackey, Helen Sotillo

First-year Law conversion student, Helen Sotillo, was among the singers who took part: this is her story (spoiler alert: contains references to fish and chips and Strictly Come Dancing…)


Soprano amongst the stars: Helen Sotillo

The highlight of Wednesday’s programme was Holst’s Planets Suite, the last movement of which, Neptune, features a choir of ethereal upper voices singing offstage. Considering the power and might of the earlier movements, particularly Mars and Jupiter, this very quiet, mystical ending to the performance is designed to leave the audience spellbound. Considering the complexity of the music and the logistical difficulties of singing out of direct sight of the conductor, (not to mention the world-class level of the performers on stage), we were all feeling the pressure to deliver.

Our numbers were helpfully swelled by female singers from Philharmonia Voices and a short but successful run-through with the chorus master left us feeling very excited for the evening’s concert.

As Sue very pertinently pointed out, the ‘glamourous life of a musician’ inevitably entails a certain amount of hanging around and the experience did not fail to deliver on that front. Of course, the perk of ‘hanging around’ a professional rehearsal is that you get a free preview of the Philharmonia in all their glory. Admittedly some of the time was spent in a fervent discussion about where John Wilson’s accent was actually from (guesses included Newcastle, Liverpool, Leeds and simply ‘up North’) but the privilege of seeing such a renowned orchestra up close was lost on no one!

After a sizable break which involved, among other things, pizza, fish and chips, and Strictly, we returned to the Marlowe. A spot more waiting around, (unfortunately backstage this time), and then it was time for us to take our places in the wings, although corridor might be a better description (the glamour!). The chorus master took his cue from the live tv monitor and then it was our moment to shine! The next few minutes passed very quickly and before we knew it we were slowly processing even further away from the stage allowing the music to slowly fade away. By the time the rapturous (I assume) applause began we were already ensconced back downstairs in the dressing rooms.

Despite our somewhat detached role, I think it’s safe to say we all thoroughly enjoyed our debut with the Philharmonia. Certainly, it was clear from the briefest of discussions with those lucky few who managed to grab one of the sold-out tickets that the performance was a triumph and it is satisfying to think we played some part in that. The experience of performing with such renowned musicians was out-of-this-world.

Helen Sotillo


Director of Music, Sue Wanless, said:‘It was such a privilege to be part of this concert and to see from ‘back-stage’ the extraordinary expertise and detail that these distinguished musicians bring to create the performance on the night.’ Congratulations to the ladies on their involvement in a terrific concert, and our thanks to the Philharmonia musicians for providing such an unearthly experience for our students…

Oct 24

Celebrations mark five years of Colyer-Fergusson

Monday 23 October, 2012: the Music Department bids a fond farewell to its home since the mid-80s in Eliot College, and moves into the newly-built Colyer-Fergusson Building, to begin music-making in a purpose-built, award-winning concert hall and practice facilities.

Fast-forward to Monday 23 October, 2017, and the Department celebrated the five-year anniversary since Colyer-Fergusson opened its doors to both the University and the local community (and beyond) with a reception, open rehearsals, tours of the building, and a special exhibition of photographs from the eighteen-month construction project.

It was a real pleasure to welcome donors, supporters, alumni, friends, and key people involved in the initial project, including Tim Ronalds Architects, project managers, and the former Chairman of the Colyer-Fergusson Charitable Trust, the Hon Jonathon Monckton, to share the celebrations. This wonderful building was made possible thanks to a major donation from The Colyer-Fergusson Charitable Trust, a legacy from Sir James Colyer-Fergusson himself, contributions from over 200 other individual donors and support from the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s Matched Funding Scheme; a true coming together of the generosity of Sir James together with many of the donors and supporters of music-making at the University, to establish a landmark building that has afforded new opportunities for rehearsing and performing.

Thanks to their generosity, the Music Department now offers an ever-developing breadth of musical opportunities, both to showcase the extraordinary commitment and talent of the students (and staff) who, each year, participate in extra-curricular performances, as well as to provide the main concert venue for many of the local community groups, schools, youth organisations and visiting summer schools. Alongside other major venues throughout the region, Colyer-Fergusson has now become a key element in the south-east’s flourishing cultural reputation.

Throughout the day, rehearsals in the hall featured student and staff musicians including the Chamber Choir, string ensemble, third-year Music Scholarship flautist Natanya Freedman, members of the Musical Theatre Society, and a special Come and Sing in which everyone present arrayed themselves around the choral risers to sing Somewhere Over The Rainbow.

On behalf of the Music team, our thanks to everyone who attended, who was involved in making the Colyer-Fergusson Building possible, and to the Events team who kept the invited guests fed, watered and on occasion even chased errant balloon-displays which were endeavouring to escape down Giles Lane.

Here’s to the next five years…

Sep 05

Commemmorating the 150th anniversary of Amy Beach

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of the American composer, concert-pianist and educator, Amy Beach. She achieved widespread recognition not only for her compositions but also for her career as a concert-pianist, performing in both America and Europe. Known as the ‘Dean of American Composers’ after the premiere of her Gaelic Symphony in 1896, she became a major figure representing women working in the arts at a time when – as still – it was dominated by men, and establishing an identity for herself was a struggle. On concert-stages throughout Europe, she flourished as a performer of both her own works as well as the usual bastions of piano repertoire. Her legacy includes a wealth of choral and orchestral music, songs, a piano concerto (written to demonstrate her own capabilities) and chamber music.

To celebrate her anniversary, here are two pieces from her delightful Children’s Album, Op.36 – a collection which displays her lyrical creativity, a boisterous sense of fun matched with a highly expressive harmonic ear, and also, in the ‘Waltz,’ a wonderful melodic sense tinged ever so slightly with a hint of melancholy. Both pieces are played in the concert-hall by Your Loyal Correspondent.

Amy Beach: Waltz

Amy Beach: March

And here is the charming Columbine from her Op.25 set, Children’s Carnival.

Jul 10

Brewing up a storm: Canterbury International Festival to set city ringing in October

The annual Canterbury International Festival launched this year’s programme a few days ago, and there’s much to which to look forward.

The St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra presents an all-Russian programme including Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto no.2 with cellist Tim Hugh on Saturday 21 October. Violinist Tasmin Little joins Canterbury Choral Society and the English Chamber Orchestra for Vaughan Williams’ popular The Lark Ascending and Dona Nobis Pacem in the Cathedral on Saturday 4 November. Elsewhere, soul singer Ruby Turner will fill the Spiegeltent on Saturday 21 October, and there’s a day-long celebration of progressive rock and the ‘Canterbury Sound’ on Saturday 28 October.

Renowned choir Tenebrae celebrates its fifteenth anniversary with the newly-commissioned Path of Miracles by Joby Talbot (best-known for his addition of ‘Pluto’ to Holst’s Planets Suite and the ballet-score to the Royal Ballet’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) filling the Cathedral Nave on Saturday 28 October.

Among the literary events is a one-man celebration of poets Philip Larkin and John Betjeman, alongside essays by Alan Bennett, A Meeting of Minds on Sunday 29 October. The festival’s comedy programme includes the laconic Rich Hall on Friday 3 November, and a series of talks welcomes travel writer Nicholas Crane and radio presenter Jenni Murray.

There are also plenty of activities for families, including a ‘Canterbury Throwdown’ pottery project and Baby Loves Disco, adventurous puppetry in Curious Creatures on Thursday 26 October and free events in Whitefriars including live music and dance throughout the day on Sunday 14 October.

The University again has a presence as part of the Festival this year; Your Loyal Correspondent teams up with Dr Dan Lloyd from the School of Biosciences for Cellular Dynamics, exploring the links between music and science in a combination of music for one and two pianos with image-projection from cutting-edge research. The School of Biosciences also sponsors the Festival’s Science Strand again this year, which builds on the success of last year’s Cocktail Laboratory with The Beer Lab exploring science and the art of brewing.

Festival logoThe full programme is now online here, with brochures now popping up all around Canterbury; October will see the historic city abuzz with events and visitors as the Festival bursts into life once more.

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