Jan 03

Image Gallery: String Sinfonia #EarBox in Studio 3 Gallery

Photos from last month’s concert given by the String Sinfonia in Studio 3 Gallery as part of the #EarBox series exploring live music and visual art. The concert included third-year Music Scholar, violinist Lydia Cheng, as soloist in Vivaldi’s ‘Winter’ from The Four Seasons.

Images © Matt Wilson / University of Kent

Jan 03

A carol for Epiphany: the University Chamber Choir

Just in time for Epiphany, a film of the University Chamber Choir performing Star of the East by composer Russell Hepplewhite; the Choir sang the piece live on BBC Radio 4 last month, here’s the complete piece in a recording in made in Colyer-Fergusson Hall.

With grateful thanks to the composer and to Banks Music Publishing for permission to make the recording.

Dec 14

The most wonderful time of the year…

And so our music-making this term came to a festive conclusion last night, in the company of the University Big Band, directed by Ian Swatman.The annual Christmas Swingalong always draws a packed crowd, and last night was no exception, audience spilling out onto the balcony around the hall to enjoy a lively seasonal programme with jazz-infused takes on traditional repertoire. Third-year singer Dottie Grenfell joined the band for renditions including The Man With The Bag and Santa Baby; the Brass Band provided the accompaniment for communal carols to the give the Big Band a breather, and the event came to a conclusion with Dottie leading everyone in White Christmas.

The enthusiastic audience flooded out into the foyer afterwards to the strains of a jazz trio with pianist and alumnus Chris Manley (a neat touch). Congratulations to everyone involved, the foyer was buzzing afterwards (nothing to do with the mulled wine and mince pies, of course…) and Colyer-Fergusson was brimful of Christmas cheer.

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…

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