Oct 01

Baroque masters next week at Colyer-Fergusson

Next week brings a brace of Baroque performances from some renowned musicians to Colyer-Fergusson.

Naomi Okuda Wooderson

Naomi Okuda Wooderson

Our new Lunchtime Concert series launches next Wednesday with a recital from Baroque recorder specialist, Naomi Okuda Wooderson, accompanied by Tom Foster; the programme includes Bach, Telemann and Handel, and features our new harpsichord in its first formal outing. Admission is free, with a retiring donation.

Pinnock_Nov2015The Baroque theme continues at the weekend with a performance of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas under the direction of distinguished performer and conductor, Trevor Pinnock, in a preview of the concert which will be appearing at London’s Wigmore Hall the following week. The chorus for the performance is none other than Tenebrae, one of the country’s foremost vocal ensembles; the concert also promises a Purcellian miscellany of songs and dances.

Details about both concerts can be found on our What’s On page online here. To whet your appetites, here’s Sarah Connolly singing that famous lament…


Sponsors of the Lunchtime Concert series

Sep 24

All the fun of the (Freshers’) Fayre

It’s Welcome Week; it’s Thursday; and that means only one thing; Freshers’ Fayre is in full swing!

Campus is a-thrum with activity as the various societies and organisations endeavour to entice new arrivals to the University; the Music Society is in evidence with a stall both in Colyer-Fergusson foyer as well as in Eliot marquee, together with the Music Theatre Society and RockSoc. Head along to find out more about what’s on offer; there’s even cake, sweets and assorted other goodies awaiting you…

The Music Society will also be in Colyer-Fergusson foyer tomorrow (Friday), and the Music Theatre Society will be performing on the foyer-stage at lunchtime. Come and get involved.

Sep 17

Hail and farewell, Sir David Willcocks

Sad to note today the passing of Sir David Willcocks, former Director of Music at King’s College, Cambridge and the Royal College of Music, conductor of the Bach Choir, organist, conductor, composer and best-known as editor, along with John Rutter, of the popular anthology, Carols for Choirs.

Carols_for_ChoirsIt’s no understatement to say that Carols for Choirs has become as much a part of tradition at Christmas as the decorated tree and tinsel; for many, Christmas simply isn’t Christmas without that opening solo verse of Once in Royal David’s City lifting clear into the vaulted roof, the wonderful intimacy of his arrangements of Away in a Manger and Silent Night, or robust settings of The Twelve Days of Christmas or I Saw Three Ships. The first volume in the series was published in the 1960s, and the 100 Carols for Choirs  published in 1987 is the go-to carol collection for most choirs. A chorister’s Christmas begins around mid-autumn with that first cracking open of the anthology; the collection ranges from arrangements of popular carols together with lesser-known pieces, and has become the staple of choirs the world over, both amateur and professional. And if you’ve learned a carol descant, chances are it’s one from the book. Arguments about whether, between them, Willcocks and Rutter combined to save the tradition of choral Christmas carol-singing will no doubt continue, but it’s certainly fair to say that they provided an accessible, richly-rewarding and enduringly popular collection that has contributed much to keeping carol-singing alive and in rude health well into the twenty-first century.

WillcocksHail and farewell, Sir David, who leaves behind an enduring legacy at the heart of music-making at Christmas.

Sep 11

New exhibition in the Colyer-Fergusson Gallery: photographs by Matt Wilson

Our season of exhibitions in the Colyer-Fergusson Gallery continues with a series of photographs by Matt Wilson.

MattWilson01Anyone who has seen our publicity and event photos will already be familiar with Matt’s work, and we’re delighted to be able to give Matt the opportunity to exhibit some of his more focused portraiture. The new exhibition, part of the University’s anniversary celebrations over the course of this year, is a selection of portraits of members of its staff. In Matt’s own words:

MattWilson02Since 1965, the University of Kent has employed thousands of people. These are just thirteen.

Admission is free; gallery open during normal opening hours, and the exhibition is on display until the end of October.

Sep 10

Autumn events calendar now online

Drum-roll, please: our new events calendar for the Autumn term is now available online.

Naomi Okuda Wooderson

Naomi Okuda Wooderson

The termly Lunchtime Concert Series opens next month with a recital of Baroque recorder music by Naomi Okuda Wooderson, and a musical aperitif from our ensemble-in-residence, CantiaQuorum, of music by Saint-Saens, Stravinsky and Torelli prior to their evening concert; we launch our December seasonal music with A Baroque Christmas, including movements from Handel’s Messiah and Vivaldi’s Winter from the Cecilian Choir, String Sinfonia and soloists; the Christmas theme continues with a rare performance of Vaughan Williams’ The First Nowell by the Chorus and Orchestra, together with works by Sibelius and Shostokovich, and the term is rounded out with the now-customary Christmas Swing-along from the Big Band. There’s also an antidote to wintry blues from Kasai Masai as they bring the infectious rhythms and melodies of Congolese music for the final Lunchtime Concert, and the Musical Theatre Society will be inviting you to ‘Do a Little Duet’ with them too.

Kasai Masai

Kasai Masai

We welcome a host of visiting ensembles and musicians to Colyer-Fergusson throughout the term, including Trevor Pinnock as he brings Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, and there are two events as part of this year’s Canterbury Festival; find out about all these and more online here – printed brochures will be arriving around the start of the term. Find out what’s in store…

Sep 08

Bach solo Partita in D minor: Alina Ibragimova at the 2015 Proms

This was quite extraordinary; transcending time and space, intimate music speaking on a global scale, part of a complete survey of the Bach solo Partitas over the course of two concerts at this year’s BBC Proms. Lithe, effortless music, played with breath-taking skill, total commitment and a profound connection to the piece by Alina Ibragimova, Bach draws the outline of humanity in filigree violin arabesques; reaching beyond the intimate nature of the solo instrument to touch every listener.

I shamelessly admit to weeping openly during the performance of the D minor Partita when it was broadcast on BBC4 recently; be careful, you might too…

Sep 08

Learning Together: third-year Joe Prescott reflects on this year’s ABCD convention

Each year, we send the student Assistant Conductor of the University Chamber Choir off into the thronging embrace of the annual Association of British Choral Directors convention; this year, trumpeter, conductor, this year’s Music Society President, third-year Music Scholar Joe Prescott, headed off to Manchester; here, he reflects on time well spent…

Time flies when you are a student, particularly a student with an active Music Department, such as the one at the University of Kent. As I sat on the train heading north for ABCD Choral Directors’ Convention, it only seemed like yesterday that I was making the same journey west to Cardiff last year. Stepping out on to the platform at Manchester Piccadilly, I strode off in search of the venue this year, the prestigious Royal Northern College of Music.

Joe Prescott

Joe Prescott

Meeting old friends from all over the country was a great start to the evening, swapping musical notes and anecdotes! However, there was to be no slacking as following a brief introduction and the statutory issuing of badges , we were straight down to business.

The first sessions were warm ups, ice breakers and a bit of revision for those new to the convention. Name games, basic conducting techniques, reminders about posture and hand shaping all helped us to relax and focus, ready for sterner tests ahead in the second session.

Here we took the song, The Long Day Closes – a four part song with words by Chorley, set in four parts by Sir Arthur Sullivan – and looked at the techniques required when conducting this piece. It is a piece that we have performed in Chamber Choir so I felt confident in volunteering to conduct. It was great to have the expert tuition and the support of the others attending to bring out the soft, gentle, flowing nature of the piece. However, I could have done with longer as I had a image in my mind of how I wanted the piece to sound!

Scholars_PrescottAfter dinner we discussed the how to develop a repertoire to suit a community and the choral highlights that you might include.

A hearty and delicious breakfast set us up well for the second day which began with some Jazz ‘warm ups’ from Will Todd. This developed amazingly into some exploration of the Dorian mode and pentatonic scale. Always being on the lookout for good warm ups, there was one percussion- based one that I am looking forward to trying out on the Chamber Choir!  Creating ‘Vocal Baths was interesting as we held on 1st,3rd,5th, 7th and 10th notes in scales – another one to try out back in Kent.

Moving to more conducting, Campion’s Never weather-beaten sail was sight-conducting for many and the Elgar, As torrents in summer, proved tricky with its unusual entries.

After lunch we moved on to looking at more unusual time signatures, which will prove very useful in the coming year. Another warm up here based on nursery rhymes proved to be excellent practice for changes in tempo, speed and style. The great thing about this course is that you are learning together, there is constant discussion about conducting styles and techniques and we are always offering advice and support to each other. As last year I expect this will carry on throughout the year through social media.

The final part of Saturday was a Gala Concert given by a young all-boy’s choir (Cambiata North West) and a group from York University, The 24. Both groups performed to a very high standard but given the nature of the weekend it was very difficult to take your eyes off the conductor and to think how you might have interpreted these pieces! Finally The Academic Student Choir of the Ural Federal University (Russia) took to the stage. A choir that had incredible power but still had great prowess and technique.

Another highlight of the convention is always the chance to look at the latest choral publications and compositions. Many of these are free or sold at a much-reduced rate and I bought a number back for use this year at Kent with Sue and Dan. [Editor’s note: hurrah!]

I was very grateful to have been given the opportunity to attend the convention once again and felt honoured to represent the University in Manchester with some of the most important choral heads in the UK; can’t wait to embark on another great year of music-making at Kent.

Sep 07

Holding back the year: musical reunions at the 50th Festival weekend

Two days of music-making crowned the Music department’s celebrations as part of the University’s 50th anniversary weekend, and saw musical alumni returning to Kent to relive their musical experiences, this time transplanted to the sonorous surrounding of Colyer-Fergusson.

23Chorus, Chamber Choir, and Concert and Big Bands were well represented, alongside smaller chamber ensembles including a woodwind trio, wind ensembles, and a cappella vocal quartet, each day meeting to rehearse but – more importantly! – to catch up over coffee, share memories and find out where Life After Kent had taken each other.

A showcase gave the opportunity for informal performances of repertoire put together over the course of the day; a drinks reception late on Saturday afternoon saw the foyer abuzz, and there was a lively air on the Sunday as an impromptu jazz gig on the foyer-stage from General Harding’s Tomfoolery brought the weekend to a festive conclusion. There was even some spontaneous two-piano jazz in the foyer to entertain visitors. We even managed to photograph some of the former Music Society Presidents from 1992 onwards (as well as the present incumbent, the irrepressible Joe Prescott), although as they weren’t all present on the same day, it took two group photos!


Terrific to see many faces from yesteryear; there was a decisive will to make it an annual occasion – watch this space…!


Aug 11

Making music at Kent: Svenja reflects

About to finish her MA in Comparative Literature, her second postgraduate degree, having finished a Master of Education (English and Maths) in Berlin last year, Svenja Glass looks back on her involvement in music at Kent.

I was here first in 2012/13 as an Erasmus student from Free University Berlin (just like Max Mergenbaum, funnily enough, only I came via the English Department!). At that time, I studied English and Maths in Berlin, but on coming to Kent I just attended seminars in English Literature (and German Translation and Danish …). Then I went back to Berlin to finish my M.Ed. and decided to come back to Canterbury because I had enjoyed my year at the University of Kent so much – especially the music-making.

On the occasion of the valedictory concert in June we were given tags to write down our best memory related to music at the University of Kent – 50th anniversary of the university, 50 memories. It goes without saying that it is impossible to choose just one single memory, but it certainly offered a welcome opportunity to re-live what made 2014/15 so special for me.

Svenja Glass

Svenja Glass

I sang in the University Chorus, and I enjoyed every single rehearsal (did you know that Popocatépetl is a volcano in Mexico? Say the name eight times as fast as you can!). To quote Sue: “an hour of singing will do you a world of good,” and this is absolutely true, particularly in the face of several essay deadlines approaching at once (Dies Irae!). Performing Verdi’s Requiem in the Cathedral with around 180 other singers and the University Symphony Orchestra was, of course, epic!

Moreover, I took the chance to go to a variety of concerts (I think I never went to so many concerts), especially exploring some more modern music, which I would not normally have dared to attend. Walton’s Façade, performed by the CantiaQuorum ensemble in November and featuring some Canterbury-VIPs as readers is just one fantastic example.

Naturally, the best concerts were the ones in which my friends performed. The high standard of music-making at the university is simply amazing. And talking about friends, I met a lot of wonderful people from all possible subject areas – economics, biomedical science, you name it, and we had a perfectly marvellous time playing the piano together , for instance, or singing Christmas carols on campus and in town. After all, the best thing about Music at the University of Kent is spending your free (or not-quite-so-free-but-rather-busy) time with a lovely bunch of people who share a great passion for music.

Aug 10

Voices Appeared: Canterbury Festival comes to Colyer-Fergusson

Colyer-Fergusson Hall will play host to the Orlando Consort in this year’s Canterbury Festival, in what promises to be an evocative and haunting event combining silent film with motets, plainsong and other vocal music from the medieval period.

Orlando_Consort_Voices‘Voices Appeared’ will see the acclaimed vocal consort perform a collection of music from the fifteenth century as a soundtrack to Carl Theodor Dreyer’s silent film, La Passione de Jean D’Arc, depicting the trial and execution of Joan of Arc, made in 1928 and initially banned in England. This short trailer provides a brief glimpse of the combination of music and film which looks to pack an emotional punch.

Festival logoMore details about the event here. ‘Voices Appeared’ comes to Colyer-Fergusson on Sunday 25 October at 7.30pm.

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