May 09

Well-met by Moonlight: vintage jazz next week

Fresh from the success of its lunchtime concert last term which had people on their feet dancing in Colyer-Fergusson Hall, General Harding’s Tomfoolery, the vintage jazz orchestra, is back in action next Friday night.

The 1930’s style dance band will unveil a whole new repertoire on Friday 19 May, as well as favourites from its previous gigs; together with the close-harmony singers, The Minervettes, the players will unveil an evening of vintage swing classics alongside forgotten gems from the Golden Age of Dance Bands in Moonlight Serenade: an evening with GHT.

The ensemble has continued to delve deeply into the treasure-trove of archive repertoire that was bequeathed to the music department back in 2005 by the Ken Lewis Dance Orchestra, a dance band active throughout the South East from the 1950s to the 1970s. Original band-parts crackle with renewed vigour as tunes such as The ContinentalOn The Street Where You Live and Pennsylvania 6-5000 dance off the music-stand in rehearsals, alongside tunes from slightly off the beaten path, such as Button Up Your Overcoat and Zambezi. And of course, Glenn Miller’s signature tune, Moonlight Serenade, will be a part of the programme that night too…

Tickets are only £5 a pop for what promises to be an energetic trip to a bygone era – dancing-shoes are essential, cloche hats optional! Find out more here.

May 08

New term, new exhibition: A Canterbury Soundscape in Colyer-Fergusson Gallery

With the start of the summer term, we are delighted to launch our new exhibition here in Colyer-Fergusson Gallery.

A Canterbury Soundscape is the work of photographer and musician, Molly Hollman, and captures the life of the Music department in rehearsal and performance over the past year, combined with stunning images of the local landscape.

The images capture fleeting human moments at the heart of music-making – a shared joke during rehearsals, the opportunity to take a selfie in the Cathedral Crypt, a quick chance to tune an instrument before walking out to perform – as well as magical instances amidst the region’s wildlife and sumptuous scenery.


A Canterbury Soundscape is on display in Colyer-Fergusson Gallery until August, and admission is free; gallery open during normal building hours (including weekends), and there is disabled access. Find out more about Molly’s work on her website here.

Apr 28

A Canterbury Soundscape: new photography exhibition coming to Colyer-Fergusson Gallery

Our new exhibition in Colyer-Fergusson Gallery, A Canterbury Soundscape, which opens in ten days’ time, features the work of local prize-winning photographer and musician, Molly Hollman. Combining her passion for landscapes and wildlife with being a professional musician and music teacher, Molly has spent the past year capturing the life of the Music department here at Kent.

With an eye for a dramatic moment and an imaginative sense of space, Molly’s photography breathtakingly captures the spirit of people and of place. Her work turns a fleeting moment into a universal truth, responding to the beauty in landscapes, in venues and the people within them, in the way they interact with each other.  Whether in the intimacy of a single flower within a landscape or the intensity of a musician concentrating in rehearsal, her work transcends the temporary moment, turning it into a timeless statement that skilfully captures the dynamic at the heart of what she sees through the lens.

Ahead of her exhibition launch, I caught up with Molly and asked her about her work.


How did you become interested in photography ?

Molly Hollman

I’ve always been an artist (my parents are both artists and potters) and have enjoyed painting throughout my life, although when my children were born time somehow seemed to disappear…. So I turned to photography, something I’d always enjoyed but never fully immersed myself in until then.

What attracts you most about working with images ?

I love to capture the world around me and have always had a love of nature; with photography I can capture the image as I see it, for posterity. Photographing the candid and everyday is as important to me as the grand and splendid.

What were you looking for in taking the pictures in this exhibition ?

I always try to capture a moment – many of the best photographs have a narrative, making the viewer reflect and be drawn into the scene. Posed photographs are often very staged and reveal no story or emotion.


Are there any photographers you particularly admire, or whose work has influenced you in some way ?

I have many influences, looking at as many photographs as possible is the best way of improving your craft. Aside from the classics, such as Ansel Adams and Henri Cartier Bresson, I like many contemporary photographers, such as Julie Blackmon, Henrik Kerstens and David Chancellor.


What’s been your best/most fortuitous moment taking pictures ?

Any time where the light has been amazing! Be as observant as you can – I won a prize in an international competition with a photograph of birds feeding, they were on a white fence with a white wall behind which then lent a touch of minimalism to the image and made the photograph more powerful.

What’s been your worst ?!

Grey, flat skies (as opposed to stormy skies which I love) are hard to do anything with, as are sobbing toddlers!

People or places ?

I like both, capturing a person’s character in one image is a real challenge that I relish, but my love of nature pulls me outdoors as much as possible. When I do portrait shoots, I try to do them on location if possible, thus combining the two.


A Canterbury Soundscape opens in Colyer-Fergusson Gallery on Monday 8 May, and runs until September; admission is free, the gallery is open during normal working hours, and there is disabled access. Find out more about Molly on her website here.

Apr 25

A letter from Vienna: Ben Weiland

Currently studying abroad for a year as part of his European Legal Studies with Kent Law School, and a member of the University Chorus and Cecilian Choir, singer Ben Weiland writes from Vienna…


Ben (centre, back) with the Cecilian Choir singing at Heart Kent Radio in 2016

Hello from Vienna! I just wanted to share what I’ve been up to and ask how everything is going with Kent music – I’m missing the Cecilian Choir! I saw that you did the Fauré Requiem recently – very jealous. What an absolutely marvellous work! I remember seeing the programme for the Colyer-Fergusson Cathedral as well which also looked marvellous – Tchaikovsky Symphony 6! I very much look forward to returning to it all in September!

Spending this year in Vienna has been (and will continue to be) an utter delight. It is a thriving city, full of life and excitement. The greatest beauty Vienna has to offer for me is its musical culture, which is unique and unparalleled. I didn’t fully comprehend until I arrived just how central Vienna has been to the history of music. It’s obviously famous for Mozart and Schubert, but Beethoven, Brahms and many other towering figures had lived and composed here. As a result, the current musical tradition is still very strong; you can’t walk around a corner without seeing the famous golden Musikverein poster advertising a concert, or a similar advertisement for an opera at the Staatsoper. Concert-going, I realised early on, is very much both a cultural and societal affair. It’s almost a customary tradition for the Viennese aristocracy to suit up and attend operas and concerts, as if it’s simply a matter of course. This isn’t to say it’s taken for granted, but this is just how life is – the people are surrounded by this supreme musical wealth. However, for someone outside of this aristocracy, the concerts are still very accessible. Ticket prices can be very reasonable depending on certain factors – very often I have decided to go to a concert on the day, which is made possible due to standing tickets (3-4 Euros for the opera; 5-6 Euros for the Musikverein). It cannot be stressed enough, the joy of knowing that every day there is a world-class concert that I could go to if I felt like it.

From a personal standpoint, I was very keen to go to the Musikverein, as this was the home of my father when he studied and played the violin here (before becoming a composer) in his early 20s. He had a month playing in the Vienna Philharmonic, so it was a must for me to attend a concert as soon as possible. I also had to refresh my memory of the great building, as I came here when I was little to attend the concert of my father’s piano trio, performed by the Altenberg Trio. I am reminded of a photo of me standing on the Brahmsaal stage, with the performers at the end of the concert, and naturally it was a very surreal experience for me to be there once again, around 14-15 years later. I have managed to go and hear the superb Altenberg Trio perform twice since being here and it is quite something, hearing wonderful pieces being performed with such a pure beauty. I still get a fuzzy feeling whenever I walk into the Grossersaal (or ‘Golden Hall’), even though by now I must have gone in over twenty times! Its nickname of the ‘Golden Hall’ is very apt, the clue is in the name – there is gold everywhere.

Alongside concert life, I have also been taking part in a lot of singing. Initially, it was just with the University Choir. We had a wonderful first semester, singing Frank Martin’s Mass with the Symphony Choir, and a range of baroque pieces (Palestrina, Byrd) with the Chamber Choir. The highlight, however, has to be the Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony that we performed with the University Orchestra at the Musikverein in September. This was an extraordinary experience! As if I hadn’t been reminded enough, standing on the stage of the Golden Hall it hit me that this is the home of the ground-breaking, incredible piece of music. It was first performed in 1824 here in Vienna, along with so many of Beethoven’s other works. Like with any really great music, regardless of other factors such as the history, it’s very hard to put into words the feelings, emotions and significance of experiencing it – all I can say is that it was a very special evening for everyone involved, something I will remember forever.

Ben (right) with the Cecilian Choir in 2016

Singing in the Symphony choir continues this semester, but the most exciting development since being in Vienna was being invited to sing in a professional choir – the Philharmonia Chor Wien – in productions of Verdi’s opera Rigoletto in an Austrian festival in the summer. Needless to say I was absolutely thrilled by the opportunity, and after already having a week’s rehearsals I am in awe of what the summer promises. The Philharmonia Chor Wien perform regularly at the Salzburg festival and the Baden-Baden festival, and receive engagements from major institutions and orchestras, such as the Berlin Philharmonic and Vienna Philharmonic. I was aware of this before attending my first rehearsal, and indeed I was expecting a high standard, but was still nonetheless taken-aback by the quality of the choir’s sound. As the choir specialises more in operatic music, the sound is different to what I’m used to with more traditional, church choral music. It is different but in a very positive sense; in many ways richer and grander. The eminent chorus master and founder of the choir has very kindly been giving me some lessons, teaching me a real grounding in what is required of an operatic voice. Certainly, my voice has come on a lot in such a short space of time.

This exploration into operatic music has opened my eyes to an area I never had much experience with previously. My musical upbringing has always been with choral, chamber and orchestral music – a wide spectrum but one that can only offer insight to a certain extent into opera. My initial impressions are there is definitely a specific charm to opera that isn’t found in, for example, orchestral music. I am still trying to decide whether I am left overall satisfied to the same degree as with orchestral and choral music, but certainly in the Rigoletto there is a type of excitement and drama to the music that I haven’t come across before. This is ignoring the fact that acting is required in opera as well (something I’m looking forward to engaging in, albeit slightly nervously). Definitely this is one of the many aspects of life here that I wish to try and understand far more by time I leave in the summer, and what better place to learn than to be able to go to one of (if not the) greatest opera institutions in the world – the Wiener Staatsoper – every day if I wanted to!

I could write a small book on the musical life of Vienna, and undoubtedly there is much that I have left out of this short piece. There is so much more to be learnt and experienced throughout this semester, and to enjoy in the summer the numerous Musical festivals Austria puts on show. After my stay here I will have to sit down and try to write out everything that I have seen and experienced – a difficult task! The irony is that I’m actually here to be studying Law, which has been also very stimulating and of course I have been immersing myself in my studies, but music is my love and passion. When an opportunity to be in a place like this comes around, it has to be grabbed with both hands!

I just really wanted to share the experiences I have been having, say hello, and express my looking forward to returning to the University next year. I trust everyone is well at Kent and wish everyone the best for the rest of the year!

Apr 10

Alumna stars in Magic Flute

Former Music Scholarship student and singer, Marina Ivanova, recently appeared in the role of Papagena with Opera South East. As a Music Scholar, she sang in Chorus, Chamber Choir, and numerous Scholar recitals, including a masterclass with Dame Anne Evans; she was also a Music Prize-Winner in 2014. Here, she reflects on music-making and her recent role.


Soprano Marina Ivanova singing in Colyer-Fergusson Hall in 2013

I read European Economics and French at Kent, and graduated in 2014. I had an amazing time as a Music Scholar at Kent between 2010 and 2014. One of my most memorable and exciting experiences was the Scenes from Mozart concert during Summer Music Week, and singing Vivaldi and Mozart in lunchtime recitals by University Music Scholars.

Opera South East’s Magic Flute in rehearsal

Since graduating, I have been actively seeking for new opportunities as a shorus member or a principal in opera productions. In 2016 I made my operatic debut at Brent Opera, in London, as the Singer in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut. Since February 2017, I have been working with Opera South East in a production of The Magic Flute and I was delighted to appear as Papagena in the two performances last weekend! These were in the White Rock Theatre, in Hastings.

Marina (right) as Papagena with Opera South East

My intention is to develop further my operatic training and to continue working on new and exciting opera productions.

Rehearsal photos courtesy of Mark Duncan.

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…

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