Mar 28

Echoes and waves: #Reverberate exhibition at the Dockyard in May

Have you ever seen someone dance to Funkin’ for Jamaica in a library ? Well, now you can…

Bringing the disco vibe to unexpected public spaces is the work of Yasmeena Goosani, one of the students taking part in Reverberate, the end-of-year exhibition Fine Art Degree Show given by students in the School of Music and Fine Art at the Historic Dockyard in Chatham, which also includes work by third-year Music Scholar and clarinettist, Megan Boyle. The exhibition opens in May, and promises an exploration of society, culture and interaction with space, as well as an inflatable banana, some broken meringues and a fridge.

Intrigued ? Find out more on the exhibition’s website here, or catch up on their Facebook Page here. It all starts in a few weeks’ time…

Mar 20

Chorus of approval

Passing through the University campus on a Monday night, you might just hear the voices of around a hundred and twenty people in full throttle in Italian, or French, or Latin; occasionally Finnish, Czech or German. Draw closer to the open doors of Colyer-Fergusson Hall, and you will spy the combined might of the University Chorus in its regular weekly rehearsal.

Image: Molly Hollmann

Drawn from students, staff, alumni and members of the local community, the University Chorus comes together each Monday night to prepare repertoire for its termly performances, two of which take place in the concert-hall, and the third in the sonorous surroundings of Canterbury Cathedral each spring, to which alumni regularly return to take part. Accompanied by the Symphony Orchestra, the Chorus regularly grapples with popular titans from the choral canon – the Mozart or Verdi Requiem, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis – as well as more unusual works, which have recently included Szymanowski’s Stabat Mater and Rutter’s When Icicles Hang.

Image: Robert Berry

Each June, the Chorus strikes a more informal note with choral medleys and stirring opera-pops for the annual Gala concert during Summer Music Week which closes the academic year, and can be found adroitly becoming a battalion of chimney-sweeps in Mary Poppins, or (in the nicest possible way, of course) dishevelled London urchins in My Fair Lady. Dinner jackets are swapped for bold striped blazers and straw boaters; in a recent American-themed spring concert, the Chorus adorned themselves with stars-and-stripes to imitate farm-yard livestock in Copland’s Old American Songs. It’s not all meditations on Death and mass settings, you know…

As many find, making music – and singing in particular – is a wonderful antidote to the stresses and strains of working life, and Chorus provides a welcome respite from the pressures of dissertation-thrashing in the Templeman Library or grappling with your inbox as a senior member of staff. Staff from both academic and support services can be found alongside postgraduates and undergraduates, senior administrators alongside alumni, members of Registry reaching for those top notes along with local residents. When you’re singing in Polish, or Finnish, all social distinctions are cast aside as you grapple with linguistic challenges and try to keep one eye on the vocal score and one on the Director of Music. But with a strong international flavour to the University community, there’s usually a native-speaker sitting in the choral risers who can advise on tricky pronunciation!

The University Chorus started life as a fifty-strong group which rehearsed in the Senate Building, before taking up residence in the cavernous confines of Eliot College Hall, with its Monday nights in the nowhere-to-hide lack of acoustics in Grimond LT-1; nowadays, it sits in Colyer-Fergusson Hall and watches as the acoustic curtain shifts and flows according to need. Later in the year, it sits on the vertiginously-steep choral risers in the nave of the Cathedral and wonders how it can make its way safely down to the flagstone floor again… The life of a University Chorus member is never dull.


The Chorus is in action this Saturday in the annual Colyer-Fergusson Cathedral Concert, singing Puccini’s youthfully vigorous Messa di Gloria; details and tickets here.

Mar 14

Rocket power: alumna launches crowdfunding campaign

Kent alumna and former Music Scholar, Lena Younes, has recently launched a crowdfunding campaign to create a community yoga centre in Brighton, where she lives and teaches.

Lena Younes

Lena singing cabaret in a Music Scholars’ Recital, November, 2009

Whilst studying Drama and History at Kent, Lena was a Music Scholarship student, singing with the University Chamber Choir and as a soloist in lunchtime concerts given by the Music Scholars, as well as making regular appearances in the Jazz @ 5 gigs.

Following her degree, she moved to Dublin, Ireland, to pursue a PhD in Early Modern History, for which she received a postgraduate scholarship from the Irish Research Council. She kept up her musical aspirations by singing and playing violin in a blues band and teaching herself guitar.

Lena Younes

Singing in Jazz @ 5 in 2010.

She went on to move to Cork, taking her studies with her, together with fellow Kent alumnus Richy Batten and their dog Fëalin (who loves music & yoga), where she began a regular yoga practice. After spending some time travelling in a van, they landed in Florence, Italy, where they stumbled upon and trained in a fun and creative form of yoga called ‘The Rocket.’

The Rocket is deeply rooted in the Californian music scene as well as traditional Ashtanga Yoga – something that very much appealed to a former music scholar!  The Rocket System – and yoga in general – completely transformed Lena’s life. Coming from a background of long-term illness, she saw her body and life transform… So she made the decision to let go of her doctorate studies and focus on her personal practice and teaching skills.

After moving to Brighton in February 2016, Lena and Richy started their yoga business, LoveLightYoga, providing unique yoga instruction in the vibrant and creative seaside city. They are now ready to expand and are crowdfunding to open their own yoga studio in an innovative space – sharing with people from Brighton and beyond the yoga experience they received thsemelves in Italy and Ireland.

Find out more about Lena’s campaign herewe wish her every success!

Mar 13

Image Gallery: A Feelin’ You’re Foolin’ with General Harding’s Tomfoolery

(Straw) hats off to the member of General Harding’s Tomfoolery and the Minervettes, for their recent, storming lunchtime concert in Colyer-Fergusson Hall. The thirteen-piece dance orchestra, performing from original sheet-music from the 1930s, 40s and 50s delivered an energetic performance that had people dancing along.

We were particularly delighted to welcome to the gig Maureen Morgan, wife of bandleader and founder of the Ken Lewis Dance Orchestra, George Morgan, whose generous bequest of all the sheet music from the original dance orchestra allows us to breath new life into the original band-parts.

Tomfoolery will be back in action on Friday 19 May in an evening performance; bring your dancing-shoes!

Images © Kester Campbell / University of Kent

Mar 13

Band substance: the University Concert and Big Bands

Depending upon what time you pass by Colyer-Fergusson on a Wednesday night, you’ll either hear stirring film scores such as Gladiator, swing classics by Count Basie or versions of Stevie Wonder tunes ringing out. It can only mean one thing: rehearsal night for the University Concert Band and Big Band (though thankfully not at the same time…)

On the conductor’s podium is the sprightly figure of Ian Swatman – Bob Marley devotee and possibly the most dedicated fan Hull City will ever have – vigorously taking charge of Wednesday rehearsals and leading the assembled forces through repertoire in preparation for their various termly concerts. In December, the Big Band can be found in Santa hats and jazz-infused versions of seasonal repertoire for the popular Christmas Swing-along, whilst both forces combine each March for their roof-raising Spring concert, and for a farewell concert each June.

Students, staff and local community find themselves grappling with the complexity of the repertoire Ian hurls at them each year, as they sweat blood to get the music under the fingers. Each year, too, auditions are held for solo singers, for the opportunity to sing with the Big Band.

Phil Veacock (centre) and the Deptford Rivieras in the concert-hall

A particularly exciting aspect to the working life of the Big Band is the opportunity to work with guest musicians; in the past, this has included trombonist Mark Bassey, trumpeter Mike Lovatt from the John Wilson Orchestra, and saxophonist Phil Veacock from the Jools Holland Orchestra. It’s a great opportunity for the young stars of tomorrow to work with, and learn from, accomplished professional performers.

Mike Lovatt with members of the Big Band

The Concert Band has worked with composer James Rae too, when James was commissioned by the Music department to write a piece for the gala concert to open the Colyer-Fergusson Building in December 2012. As part of an action-packed weekend, the Concert Band gave the world premiere of James’ Platform One.

Composer James Rae (right) with Ian Swatman and the Concert Band

The groups don’t just perform in the adaptable acoustics of Colyer-Fergusson Hall. The Big Band also launches the annual Summer Music Week, a musical farewell to the University’s academic year, with a trip to the seaside to perform on the Memorial Bandstand at Deal, which involves combining rehearsals and coach-trips with a visit to the promenade chip shop and the roving ice-cream stand. (It’s a hard life…). The band has also headed down the road to perform alongside pupils at St Edmund’s School, and also in Whitefriars in the heart of the city.

Whether it’s epic film soundtracks, 70s funk, classic big band standards or soul ballads: Wednesday evenings certainly sound unlike any other on campus…

Mar 06

Scholars’ Spotlight: Melody Brooks

Continuing the series profiling Music Scholarship students at the University of Kent. This week, first-year violinist reading Psychology with Forensic Psychology, Melody Brooks.


Being part of a musical family and having such a musical name, it seems only natural that would be drawn to music. My parents have fostered in me a love of all genres of music, and waited for me to decide which instruments I wanted to play.

The first instrument I chose was the violin, after seeing an orchestra perform at my primary school. Flute and piano soon followed. After gaining entrance to my secondary school (Parmiter’s School) because of my music, I was encouraged to participate in a number of musical groups including Orchestra, Junior and Senior Flute Choir (in which I took the opportunity to play piccolo, alto flute and bass flute), Senior String Ensemble and Concert Band.

I also studied Music at GCSE and AS-Level, which widened my exposure to different genres of music and allowed me to truly appreciate composers and performers alike. I also participated in the school play, Lady Windermere’s Fan, as part of the musical ensemble.

Outside of school, I participated in the CAN Music Academy (Children Achieving Now) in both the orchestra and the choir. I also participated in the Kuyumba Youth Music (KYM) String Orchestra. The KYM experience was one of growth, as it was an extremely competitive environment based on merit and fostered in me the spirit of hard work and practice.

Rehearsing with the Symphony Orchestra in Colyer-Fergusson Hall

Singing was always encouraged in my church, and my church is well-known for its lively, inviting music. Often, I would participate in a string ensemble or play violin to accompany a meditational song. From the age of 11, I was encouraged to lead Praise and Worship with my friends, singing gospel music. We then formed a singing group called ‘Amplified Praise’ and sang in venues such as the ExCel London Centre and Pontins in Wales.

Here at Kent, I currently play in the Symphony Orchestra and String Sinfonia. I have enjoyed being a member of both groups. The Orchestra is amazing and is exposing me to different composers. String Sinfonia is smaller, but just as much fun. I love being able to develop my skills alongside those more able than me and to enjoy music once again.

Feb 28

Orchestrated harmony: the University Symphony Orchestra

If someone asked you where on campus a member of staff from the History department; a dentist; the Head of the Unit for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning; a primary school teacher; a peripatetic string teacher; a Senior Lecturer in Biosciences; a member of the Registry team; and a cross-section of undergraduate and postgraduate students, all led by a second-year reading Law, come together to tackle ambitious projects, you might scratch your head.

And yet, each week, this is exactly what happens when the University Symphony Orchestra comes together in Colyer-Fergusson Hall to rehearse for its termly concert, often meeting head-on the challenge of twentieth-century repertoire or titans of the late Romantic Period. The orchestra comprises students, staff and members of the local community who, each week, sit down and get to grips with works such as Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique or, in the case of the current term, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony no.6, the Pathetique. And that doesn’t include the works that the orchestra learns to accompany the University Chorus, either…

Such communal music-making offers the opportunity for students (and, it must be said, quite a few staff as well…) to escape the stress of their course commitments, and embark on a shared creative endeavour as they work towards a termly public performance. Each spring term, that performance is unveiled in the sonorous surroundings of the Nave of Canterbury Cathedral, always a highlight of the University’s performing calendar, and which regularly sees alumni making their own musical pilgrimage to the Cathedral to participate, and to relive the heady excitement of standing at the very top of the choral risers to sing, or of navigating the steps to the Crypt in the gloom clutching highly fragile musical instruments at various levels of expense.

The wonder of it all is that everyone gives up their free time to attend weekly evening rehearsals, and, as concerts loom, additional rehearsals and workshops at weekends. No-one is obliged to take part – excepting the Director of Music, who arrives in the concert-hall each Thursday clutching oversize scores, a selection of conductor’s batons and the fierce determination to master that term’s repertoire – and when concerts are in the offing and more rehearsals are taking place, time-management (or, in the case of some of the players, parental child-management) skills are called in to play, as everyone makes time for them on top of their coursework or vocational commitments.

The orchestral repertoire which they have embraced over the years has ranged from epic monsters of the Romantic Period – the Berlioz in 2016 being a memorable example – to energetic orchestral showpieces including the Symphonic Suite from Bernstein’s West Side Story, or Verdi’s Requiem. It’s hard work, particularly at the end of a long working day, especially for those students who have the additional task of commuting from Medway on a Thursday evening as well, where they have been studying Fine Art or Business and Management; and yet the enthusiasm with which the players embrace the works which the Director of Music hurls at them is wondrous to behold.

This year, the Symphony Orchestra will be led – for the first time for the entirety of the Cathedral concert – by Lydia Cheng (picture right), a second-year Music Scholarship student from Canada, who came to Kent for the strength of its Law degree as well as for the extra-curricular music-making opportunities that it offers. Elsewhere in the orchestra, a former member of the National Youth Orchestra sits amongst the woodwind, and a current member of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra lurks in the brass section. There’s an international flavour to the orchestral members, too, including players from Malaysia, America and South Africa.

International in its make-up, ambitious in scope, hard-working in ethos and bringing students, staff and local community together from all walks of life – the University Symphony Orchestra really does epitomise all that the University is about.

Images: Molly Hollman © University of Kent

Feb 22

Reflections on Cellular Dynamics

From the meeting of music and science in the recent Cellular Dynamics lunchtime concert, pianists Dan Harding and Matthew King, with projections by Dr Dan Lloyd in the School of Biosciences.

 

Images © School of Biosciences / Dr Wei-Feng Zue

Feb 22

Scholars’ Spotlight: Zaneta Balsevic

Continuing the series profiling Music Scholarship students at the University of Kent. This week, first-year studying Music, Zaneta Balsevic.


My interest in music was well established from the age of 11. This interest came during a local school concert where I saw a group of string players perform. This had an immediate impact on me and soon after I convinced my parents to register me for the local music school, which became my daily passion. I began to appreciate the power and meaning that music has as well as develop my performance skills on the violin. In my native country, Lithuania, I studied in a music school for four years before moving to the UK. There, I was part of a string ensemble, with whom we performed regularly in music school concerts as well as national festivals. A year later, I became part of a piano trio and in 2010 we won 2nd place in the Third Annual Dainius Trinkunas Junior Chamber Music Festival at the Lithuanian National Academy of Music and Theatre. We also performed in numerous other competitions and concerts.

zaneta-bAs I grew older, I became increasingly captivated by my instrument. I have learnt that a successful performance requires many challenges to be overcome such as gaining high self-confidence and learning to communicate musically with the audience.

Since I moved to the UK in 2012, my goal has been tightly focused; to study music at a highly respected music institution. I believed that a conservatoire education would enable me to become a successful professional violinist. I also believed it is a great place to meet like-minded musicians and develop ensemble skills through playing in chamber ensembles and orchestras. This motivated me to prepare for an audition and as a result I gained place to study Violin Performance at Trinity Laban Conservatoire. Yet, I soon realised that university is a more suitable place for me as a musician and a student. I believe that having gained an academic degree it would enable me to be more flexible with regards to my career options, while being part of orchestra and chamber groups, therefore helping me to developing equally as a student and a musician.

I was a member of the Musica Nova Academy, where I participated in various concerts often taking place in St. Steven’s Church and the Rossotrudnichestvo Centre in Kensington. For a year, I have been a part of trio ensemble in my music school. With the trio, we have performed a tango piece Primavera Portena and Ave Maria by Astor Piazzolla. This is also when I passed my grade 8 in violin with distinction.

One of my greatest performance experiences was at the international music competition in Bulgaria ‘Zvezdna Dga’ where I performed Tchaikovsky’s Melodie. I was awarded first place in the category of solo classical performance. This experience helped me to overcome my greatest fears and to realise the importance of the performer as a communicator who isn’t afraid to imprint their own interpretation of the music that they play.

In addition to playing at ‘Music Nova’ I have also fully supported my secondary school music department in many ways. I was a member of the school Orchestra and I also lead the string orchestra and played in the band for a musical last year. In addition to this, I led a sectional of 60 primary school students in the school’s annual ‘Primary School Choral and Orchestral Day’. I believe that working with less-experienced musicians has helped to strengthen my communication, leadership and social skills and I enjoyed acting as a musical role model for younger musicians in the school.

I have greatly enjoyed participation in a music competition ‘Stars of the Albion’ in February 2014 and have won a second place in the category of solo violin classical music.

Visiting the University of Kent, I was astonished by this beautiful place, course, and people. This led to a decision to study here. Currently, I participate in University Choir and Orchestra (Medway), Chamber Music Forum and City of Rochester Symphony Orchestra.

Feb 13

#EarBox series brings Chamber Choir to Studio 3 Gallery Fri 24 Feb

The #EarBox concert series bringing music and visual art together continues with a visit to Studio 3 Gallery from the University Chamber Choir on Friday 24 February at 1.10pm.

Set against the backdrop of Soft Formalities, the gallery’s new exhibition, the Chamber Choir will unveil a choral programme in the venue’s sonorous acoustic, ranging from Purcell to Alec Roth, taking in madrigals by Hassler and Lassus, and works by Tavener, Peter Warlock and Alexander Campkin.

The new exhibition explores layered complexity in a series of paintings, drawings, sculptures and ceramics, and the music provides a similar, sonic exploration in line and colour, from the drama of Purcell to the ravishing hues of Alexander Campkin, including the dramatic simplicity of Tavener’s The Lamb and a veritable textural tour de force for double choir in Lithuanian. There is also a rare opportunity to hear a piece by the Canadian female composer, Jean Coulthard.

The Chamber Choir at Canterbury Cathedral in December 2016

The event is free, and starts at 1.10pm; come and experience the gallery’s latest display with an astonishing aural landscape from the Baroque to the contemporary. Find out more about the event hereand read more about Soft Formalities at the gallery here.

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