Mar 03

Image Gallery: the ‘Variation a Day’ project

Over ten days, Your Loyal Correspondent has been exploring the Variations for Judith with a performance each lunchtime of the aria (‘Bist du bei mir,’ sung by fourth-year soprano, Kathryn Cox) followed by one of the modern reflections from the set.

It’s been a fascinating odyssey, during which the aria has changed, developed, altered, as we’ve explored the resonances between it and the ensuing variation; a daily visit to the same piece of music, performed ten times in front of different people, has seen the aria sung differently on each occasion; more intimately, more expansively, at different tempi, exploring a wider dynamic range.

I’m hugely grateful to Kathryn for undertaking the project, and for turning up each day on the foyer-stage at 1.15pm to sing the same piece each time! Tomorrow, we perform the set as a whole, including the aria, in the concert-hall at 1.10pm, and I’ll also be performing pieces by Amy Beach, Satie and Alison Wrenn.

One last stop on the voyage…

Mar 02

A drum, a drum: Verdi doth come…

The annual Colyer-Fergusson Cathedral Concert next week forms part of the University’s fiftieth-anniversary celebrations, and does so in grandiose fashion with Verdi’s epic Requiem on Saturday 14 March.

50th-ribbon-smlConducted by the Director of Music, Susan Wanless, the Chorus and Symphony Orchestra will unite to set the Nave’s soaring, vaulted ceiling echoing, joined by four acclaimed soloists, together with The Verdi Drum of the South-East, in what promises to be a highlight of this year’s performing calendar.

Here is the University Chorus at a recent rehearsal, looking and sounding in fine form:


The Director of Music is very excited at the prospect: ”the concert will provide the perfect setting to capture the Requiem’s operatic power and drama and the event will showcase the University’s many talented musicians.” Darn right!

Verdi RequiemJoin us (and the Verdi Drum) for high drama on March 14th – details and tickets here.

Mar 02

Not one but two Big Bands this Wednesday

Fresh from its roof-raising gig here last Friday, there’s no rest for the University Big Band as its takes its dancing-feet down the road to St Edmunds’ School, where it joins forces with the St Edmund’s School Big Band for a rollicking night of jazz, swing and blues this Wednesday night.

Click to view

Click to view

Fearless captain Ian Swatman will once more be at the helm, and vocalist Louise Cookman will return for what promises to be a lively evening; tickets are a mere snip at £7 / £5 concessions, available from the Marlowe Theatre Box Office or Canterbury Ticket Shop here.

Hold on to your hats…

Feb 27

Heart of Glass: #EarBox at Studio 3 Gallery

The collaborative #EarBox series exploring the resonances between visual art and music continued yesterday, with a recital of piano music by Philip Glass by Your Loyal Correspondent over in Studio 3 Gallery in the School of Arts’ Jarman Building.

It was fantastic to play for such an attentive audience, who listened to a selection of the piano Etudes, Opening, and parts of the music to The Hours and The Truman Show. The dim-lit gallery space allowed room for contemplation and reflection, in a programme of music where the use of pattern, repetition and shifting tonal colours responded to the Palindrome exhibition currently adorning the gallery’s walls.

Thanks to Katie McGown for the photos. #EarBox will return: watch this space…

Find out more about Studio 3 Gallery and the latest exhibition here.

Feb 23

Are bassists hot, and are trombone players good kissers ? Crucial questions for Google

Thanks to colleague, Mick Norman, for pointing us in the direction of this revealing graphic by Rick O’Bannon and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Collating the questions Google auto-predicts, it shows some crucial questions are being asked of the search engine about the heady world of orchestral musicians, including ”Do trombone players make good kissers?” and ”How much do oboe players get paid ?”

In the interests of impartiality, we are, of course unable to comment on either of these critical questions…

Image: Rick O'Bannon / BSO

Image: Rick O’Bannon / BSO: click to read article

Read the full feature on the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s website here.

Feb 23

High-voltage Baroque from CantiaQuorum

An electrifying performance of the Bach Double Violin Concerto from Alexandra Reid and Kathy Shave and the musicians of CantiaQuorum was the centrepiece of a concert bursting with energy on Friday.

A rapturous ovation from an enthralled audience greeted an agile reading of Bach’s concerto that bristled with vigour – the enthusiasm shared between the soloists was reflected by the ensemble as a whole.

WP_20150220_20_02_07_ProThe evening opened with Handel’s Silete Venti, conducted by Alex Caldon, with Susanna Hurrell’s bright, spinning soprano a perfect foil for the supremely accomplished Ilid Jones on oboe; the performance deftly captured the wide range of both the drama and the melodic grace of the piece, delivered with stylish aplomb.

WP_20150220_20_05_29_ProThe second half alternated movements of Telemann’s Tafelmusik with Cage’s Living Room Music; gathered around a dining-table, various members of the ensemble took turns to wield chopsticks, cutlery and even children’s toys to realise Cage’s exploitation of household objects, at one point updating it to deploy iPhones and an iPad to reflect the twenty-first century – an energy-drive reading of a different kind.


A fantastic evening, with an ensemble of professional players in tip-top form.

Feb 19

A Variation a Day: first two days

The ‘Variation a Day’ project exploring each of the pieces in Variations for Judith began yesterday (see rationale here); preceding each variation with the aria to which each responds, ‘Bist du bei mir,’ throws up the resonances between them.

Day One began with fourth-year soprano Kathryn Cox singing the aria, before Anthony Burton’s Breaking Away, whilst earlier this afternoon the aria prefaced Stephen Johns’ evocative Spitalfields Echoes. These delicate responses to the aria have really drawn the audience into the performance, both Burton’s filigree fragments of part of the melodic line above a singing lower-register incarnation, and Johns’ bell-like incantations floating above static chords.

The odyssey continues tomorrow at 1.15pm with the aria and Antony Payne’s excitingly dissonant canonic variation. See you there…

Feb 18

GlassWorks: #EarBox returns to Studio 3 Gallery

The second event in the new #EarBox series takes place next week, on Thursday 26 February at 4pm; GlassWorks is an exploration of piano music by Philip Glass amidst the current Studio 3 exhibition, Palindrome, performed by Daniel Harding.

As usual, visitors can travel around the gallery exploring the artwork, or simply sit and listen to the performance – or do both. The recital programme will include two of Glass’ Etudes, and sections from his soundtracks to The Truman Show and the BAFTA award-wining film, The Hours.

WP_20150210_12_50_38_ProGlassWorks opens an evening in which artists Brian Rice and Richard Rome (featured in the exhibition) will be in conversation with curator, writer and expert on British art, Ian Massey: details here.

Admission is free.


Feb 18

An opportunity to say thank you: Donor Appreciation Day

The Colyer-Fergusson foyer was a bustling hive of activity last Thursday, as the University took a moment to say thank you to many of its local donors, including those who support the Music Scholarships Scheme, in the second Donor Appreciation Day reception.

It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to be able to show our gratutude for all the support which the donors afford the students during their time at Kent; in particular, the Music Scholarship Scheme provides instrumental or singing lessons in recognition of the performing commitments which the students undertake as Scholars. The Music Scholarships allow students, who are all reading subjects other than Music, to pursue their musical development and performing opportunities alongside their studies, enhancing the student experience and helping them continue to hone their musical skills.

Pictured here are some of this year’s Music Scholars: Hannah Williams (Architecture), and Jonathan Butten and Ruth Webster (Biomedical Sciences). On behalf of all the students thriving under the Scholarship scheme: a very big ‘thank you’ to all the donors for all your support.

Photos © Matt Wilson / University of Kent

Feb 13

Listen here: Handel’s ‘Silete Venti’

Ahead of CantiaQuorum‘s concert next week, listen to Handel’s Silete Venti which will appear in the ensemble’s programme next Friday.

HandelThe wonderfully bustling fugato opening, depicting the wind scurrying through the branches, is interrupted at two and a half minutes into the opening sinfonia by the soprano, as she bids them ‘be silent.’

Just before the six-minute mark, the wonderful aria Dulcis amor shows Handel in sublime melodic form, as does Date serta, date flores (Give garlands, give flowers), starting at 13′ 09”, which later becomes dramatic and highy flamboyant for both soloist and ensemble alike, before the piece concludes with a sprightly Alleluia.

Soprano Susanna Hurrell (currently to be heard in the Royal Opera’s production of L’Ormindo) will be the soloist with CantiaQuorum next week; it promises to be wonderful opportunity to hear this astonishing piece performed live. Tickets and details here.

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