Category Archives: Concerted effort

Performances and reviews

Where science meets art: the Cecilian Choir and Cellular Dynamics

The University Cecilian Choir recently performed Ola Gjeilo’s colourful Sunrise Mass as part of the continuing Cellular Dynamics project, an initiative between the Music department and the School of Biosciences bringing together live music and cutting-edge research images.

Gjeilo’s orchestral mass setting is a perfect foil for the array of images and media culled from the School of Bioscience’s research portfolio, which unfolded live on the screen over the heads of the performers, managed by Reader in Pharmacology and Deputy Head of School, Dr Dan Lloyd.

Amidst a hushed darkness, the music and projections combined to create a marvellously meditative atmosphere, which held the audience enthralled throughout the performance.

The Cecilian Choir comprises staff, students and alumni at the University, and the performance, together with the String Sinfonia, was conducted by Deputy Director of Music, Dan Harding. The Choir and Sinfonia will perform the Sunrise Mass again on Friday 8 June at St Mary of Charity, Faversham, as part of Summer Music Week.

Images © Matt Wilson / University of Kent

Hark, the glad sound: Chamber Choir at the Cathedral

For the University Chamber Choir, December means but one thing: the candlelit magic of the annual University Carol Service in Canterbury Cathedral.

This year, the Choir performed three pieces; second-year Doug Haycock led the Choir at the West end to begin proceedings with Tavener’s The Lamb, and from the steps to the Quire, Deputy Director of Music Dan Harding conducted the richly expressive Sleep, Holy Babe by Alexander Campkin, and Andrew Carter’s arrangement of the slow movement of Peter Warlock’s ‘Capriol Suite’ into the beautiful Lullaby, My Jesus.

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The Chamber Choir in rehearsal at the West end of Canterbury Cathedral

The opportunity to perform in the majestic acoustic of the Cathedral Nave is one to relish; that first point in the afternoon rehearsal, when we sing our first phrase and hear it travelling the length of the Nave, is a remarkable moment each year. After all the hard work in rehearsals from when the Choir first forms in mid-October, it’s a chance to really spread your wings, to open out the ensemble sound into that mighty reverberation and listen as it recedes amongst the pillars.

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The University community comes together each year at this time, to celebrate the Christmas season and being together, with carols sung in different languages to reflect its international identity; it’s always an event towards which the singers look forward with great anticipation, that moment when the Cathedral is plunged into darkness as the lights are turned out, and the Choir’s first notes rise to the dark recesses of the vaulted roof above a sea of candlelight.

loveless_crew_carol_service2Congratulations to the Choir, and to second-year Alice Scott (pictured above, fourth from the right) whose opening solo to Once In Royal David’s City lifted clear and bright above the heads of the congregational candles to begin the service. Christmas is here.

Sing, choir of angels! Minerva Voices goes carol-singing for Cancer Research

A bustling Canterbury high street was treated to a festive selection of carols for upper-voices, as Minerva Voices took to the street to sing in support of Cancer Research.

czad3vqxeaagxhzThe idea was suggested by Inger Kviseth, a member of the Choir who works part-time for the charity, and asked if we would help with their fund-raising; the team leapt to respond, and were busy singing yesterday afternoon, aided by Music Society secretary, Robert Loveless, who wielded one of the collection buckets.

czad3vmwgaebaxnThe shoppers responded with enthusiasm to the choir’s bringing Carols for Choirs to life, and a brisk chill in the air was met with a warm response from passers-by.

Thanks to all the ladies – and to Robert! – for giving up their Sunday lunchtime in support of Cancer Research. The Choir will be back in action this Wednesday in a very different guise, singing as The Minervettes with the twelve-piece vintage swing band, General Harding’s Tomfoolery, on the foyer-stage at lunchtime; admission is free, bring your dancing-shoes!

Minerva in festive mood with carols for the Donor reception

Minerva Voices, the upper-voices chamber choir, was in festive mood on Friday night, taking to the foyer-stage to add some seasonal musical lustre to the reception for University donors.

Donor_CarolsThe foyer-stage was strewn with flickering candles (and for the sake of everyone wondering about a predominantly wood-paneled building and flickering flames, I should reassure you that they were electrical candles…) and festive jumpers as members of Minerva filled the foyer with favourites from the fourth edition of Carols for Choirs, an incarnation of the enduringly-popular publication in arrangements for upper voices. There’s something particularly magical about hearing traditional carols in arrangements for sopranos and altos, an extra glimmer of frosted sparkle adorning customary repertoire.

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Our first sprinkling of Christmas music in Colyer-Fergusson added a touch of the festive spirit to the reception, and there was a call for a group photo round the departmental Christmas tree afterwards.

Next up, the Chamber Choir will be singing in the University Carol Service in the Cathedral next week. Thanks to Minerva Voices for getting Christmas underway!

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The singing will never be done: Cecilian Choir perform Memorial Ground

Thank you to all the members of the University Cecilian Choir and other performers, who took part in Memorial Ground by David Lang earlier today.

Combining music with poetry by Siegfried Sassoon, and a new poem by Nancy Gaffield, ‘The Turtle Dove,’ a member of the School of English, with archive image projection from the Special Collections and Archives, curated by Joanna Baines, David Lang’s haunting commemoration of the anniversary of the Battle of the Somme filled the resonant acoustic of Studio 3 Gallery, with percussion played by postgraduate Cory Adams. The sombre mood of the event was set by third-year trumpeter, Alex Reid, who prefaced the performance with ‘The Last Post.’ The readings were by James Cavalier, Masters student in Creative Writing.

Vintage photographThe arriving audience was greeted by the evocative sound of an original period portable phonograph playing records from the time, generously loaned for the occasion by Andrew Briggs, member of staff and also a member of the Choir.

Invitation to the Dance: Cecilian Choir perform music by Lully

Thanks to Matt Wilson for these splendid images of the Cecilian Choir in concert earlier this week, in a concert celebrating the music of Jean-Baptiste Lully. The Choir performed a selection of sacred and secular pieces in a programme that combined words, music, image and costume to offer a glimpse of the bygone age of the Sun King.

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The Choir is in action once again in a dramatic programme for Easter at St Peter’s Methodist Church, Canterbury, when it will perform Vivaldi’s Credo and Magnificat on Thursday 31 March at 1.10pm.

Sweet singing in the Choir

When you are preoccupied with such issues as getting in place by the end of Once in Royal David’s City, processing without tripping up, juggling a folder of music and a lit candle without setting light to anything, and not letting your candle burn down to your fingers, then you know it can only be the annual University Carol Service.

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Minerva Voices waiting to process

WP_20151214_013Last night’s service, always a high-point of Kent’s cultural calendar, saw over a thousand people packing out Canterbury Cathedral, including the members of Minerva Voices, who performed several solo pieces as well as leading some ringing descants in the congregational hymns (which involved some serious planning over dinner betwtixt rehearsal and concert). The choir arrived in the Nave yesterday afternoon, to rehearse its repertoire, as well as to practice processing from the West Door down to the steps before the rood screen, and to get accustomed to singing in such a magnificent venue. Standing at the end of the Nave, you suddenly realise the volume of vaulted space that the Choir needs to fill with sound.

At 7.55pm, the Choir walked down the side aisle to take up position in front of the West Door; the Dean bid everyone welcome, the lights were extinguished, the first reading delivered, and then a sprightly rendition of Past Three A Clock blossomed into life to fill the expectant hush. Assistant conductor, third-year Joe Prescott, led a vivacious performance that set a joyous tone for the service. The congregation then stood, and that magical moment that really unwraps Christmas occurred; the solo opening verse of Once in Royal David’s City, in a ringing performance from second-year Music Scholar, Charlotte Webb, that soared to the Cathedral’s vaulted roof and rang clear around the Nave. The ensemble rose to match it in the second verse, before the third verse drew Choir, congregation and audience together, and we were off.

The mix of carols and readings also saw the Choir performing the Coventry Carol in a rendition that explored the piece’s melancholy and woe in significant detail; the final solo carol was a vigorous reading of the medieval Nowell Sing We Both All And Some, delivered with gusto in rousingly celebratory fashion.

WP_20151214_017The service closes with a candlelit communal performance of Hark the Herald Angels Sing, and as the congregation departed, bearing their lit candles out into the night and into the mist-strewn city streets, you felt the reach of Christmas go with them. It’s a wonderful occasion, with so many of the University community coming together to hear anew the message of the season in words and music, to reflect on the tidings of the moment and to reach out to others. Now that really is the meaning of Christmas.

Minerva Voices is back in action next term when rehearsals begin anew on Vivaldi’s Gloria and an eclectic mix of repertoire for the Crypt concert in February. Meanwhile, season’s greetings to everyone!

Carol Service at the Cathedral

As I drove a few of the Chamber Choir back to campus last night, after the Chamber Choir had sung in the annual University Carol Service in Canterbury Cathedral, we were all reflecting on how fortunate we are to be involved with such an astonishing space. The University holds its annual degree ceremonies for its Canterbury students there, and as well as the carol service, we also hold the yearly Colyer-Fergusson concert each spring in the vast Cathedral Nave; the Chamber Choir also performs each spring in the Cathedral Crypt.

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Waiting at the West Doors to start the service

Last night’s Carol Service was the traditional celebration of the season, with carols, readings and reflections on the message of togetherness and reconciliation. As the Cathedral lights slowly went out at the start of the service, we were gathered at the West Doors clutching our lit candles; a moment, and then Matt began the service with Ord’s Adam Lay Y-Bounden, launched briskly into the vaulted heights. The congregation then stood, and soprano Emma’s clear soprano rang out over the assembly with the opening solo verse of Once in Royal, and we were underway.

The most challenging aspect of the rehearsal earlier in the afternoon had not been the musical content of the service, but how we should arrange ourselves in formation and process down the Nave in order to arrive on the altar-steps by the end of Once in Royal. Plus the consideration of in which hand to hold the candle, how fast we should leg it (er, I mean, process in dignified fashion!) during the carol in order to be in place by the last verse, and how not set light to our copies or the hair of the person in front. (”I’ve doused my hair in vast amounts of hairspray,” wailed Livy in the altos – ”I knew it was a mistake!”) Thankfully, there were no conflagrations, although we did make it into place on the altar steps with scant lines to spare…

On the altar-steps

On the altar-steps

As the service unfolded in words and music, there was the customary minefield that is singing Silent Night in a multitude of languages, a celebration of the University’s international community; Marek, one of the tenors, is Polish and was able to deliver the Polish verse with aplomb; alto Charley had diligently been working on the Japanese verse with one of her flat-mates; the rest of us grappled heroically with trying to fit the syllables of other languages to the well-known tune with mixed results. We stood to sing the evocative Gabriel’s Message and, later, a rousing account of Deck The Hall. At the end, all the congregation candles were re-lit for the final prayers, proclamations and hymn – the Nave became a sea of small flames dancing intimately to O Come, All Ye Faithful, before they were carried out of the Cathedral into the Close and beyond, out into the city.

Warming up in the North aisle before the service

Warming up in the North aisle before the service

A wonderful occasion to which everyone looks forward from the moment we meet for our first rehearsal each October; an opportunity to sing in one of the world’s greatest cathedrals, and to celebrate the season with music, with friends and with the University community.

Merry Christmas.

Troll the ancient Christmas carol

And so, the Chamber Choir’s first public concert has suddenly come and gone. After all the preparation, the eager anticipation and excitement, the Advent sequence evaporated in a whiff of Christmas spice.

With the first unfolding of the Advent antiphon into the church of St Damian and St Cosmus at Blean, we well and truly ushered in the season of Advent. Carols, readings, poems, ancient plainsong – all combined to bring about a time to contemplate different aspects of this period of the year. Because, after all, that’s what concerts do; they create a defined moment out of the humdrum of normal routine, away from the daily concerns of life, and offer a chance to experience time-out-of-time. For a brief moment, time is governed not by the remorseless ticking of the clock or by timetables, schedules and commitments; instead, time is dictated by the crotchet pulse of a carol, or the lithe agility of a piece of plainchant, or in the measured metre of a piece of poetry.

After the concert, there was a definite sense of achievement, of pride in what we’d achieved; it’s a big step between all the rehearsal preparation to delivery in performance, and nothing can quite prepare an ensemble for that crucible of performing in public. Our next commitment is in Canterbury Cathedral on Monday, for the University Carol Service, towards which we are all looking forward.

Advent is here.

Pictures by Matt Wilson:© University of Kent