Radio days: Musical Theatre Showcase ‘You Wish’ next month

The University Musical Theatre Society is busy rehearsing ahead of its showcase next month, You Wish, in which a mysterious man hosts a radio competition in which the winner’s dream can become a reality.

All listeners have to do is send in a video of what they most desire; but for some, their desperation is their downfall and the audience witness the unexpected. With dreams ranging from whimsical wishes to deep, dark desires, some will do anything to win – but only one will come true…

The show explores themes of love, loss, friendship, betrayal, fame and fortune, including songs from  Avenue Q, Chicago, Hamilton and many more. Bring your dreams and desires along to Colyer-Fergusson Hall  on 1 and 2 December at 7.30pm…

Tickets: Full – £8 / Concessions – £5 available online here.

Please note: the show contains some strong language, references to abusive relationships and some representation of emotional abuse.

From the archive: the Herald Tribune, 1952

One of the marvellous aspects to the sheet music archive the Music department was bequeathed by the Ken Lewis Dance Orchestra is the peripheral documents occasionally to be found lurking amidst all the music.

The Ken Lewis Dance Orchestra in the 1950s

As regular readers will know, the Ken Lewis Dance Orchestra was a dance band active throughout the county during the 1950s and 60s, run by George Morgan, from Gravesend. The band played throughout the region, including playing as the warm-up band for the Ted Heath Orchestra in at Chatham Town Hall. In 2005, George and his wife Maureen (the latter Chief Manager of the band’s sheet music!) generously donated the entire archive of band music to the department, and in 2013, the Deputy Director of Music, Dan Harding, put together a group of student players to bring the music to life once more as General Harding’s Tomfoolery. The band danced its way through that academic year, and formed once more in 2016-17.

Going through the archive, this morning’s find is a copy of a special section of the Herald Tribune, published in Paris in July, 1952, commemorating the maiden voyage of the SS United States from America to Europe, when it was to dock at Southampton. The ship weighed in at 53,000 tonnes and measured 990 feet, and was making its way to Le Havre, where it was to dock later that month.

The pull-out section celebrates ‘A great new liner for the Atlantic service,’ and is a wonderful historic document to discover amongst the original band-folders. More finds to be revealed later…

Mondays Rock!

This academic year, the Music Department has become a workplace member of Rock Choir, the pioneering national organisation with over 20,000 participants which encourages everyone to sing. Under the expert and inspiring direction of alumnus Jonathan Grosberg, staff and students meet every Monday lunchtime and, without needing to read a note of music, have so far learnt Shut up and dance with me and A Little Respect – including moves!

Members of staff are coming along from a whole range of departments across the campus – it is still not too late to join this term. Director of Music, Susan Wanless, is thrilled with the way the idea has taken off and from all the feedback she has received, making music is clearly very good for you.

Karen Cherpin, Administrator to the Head of School, School of Mathematics, Statistics and Actuarial Science
I absolutely love it! I find it really uplifting and it definitely improves my mood and energy levels. I always go back to my office feeling revitalised and ready to face whatever the afternoon may throw at me.

Katie Van Sanden, Industrial Placement Co-ordinator, School of Computing
Love it, love it, love it! Perfect antidote to the Monday blues – it feeds the soul! With singing, harmonies, new friends and lots and lots of (unexpected but very welcome) laughter, what’s not to like? And Jonathan is just brilliant!

Danika Jarrett, Project Co-ordinator, Information Services
It gets me away from my desk, gives me something else to focus on for that time, and is great for wellbeing because I’m totally immersed in what Jonathan is saying and concentrating on what to sing, which is great for mindfulness and controlling breathing. It’s also been nice to meet people from other departments in the University as well. I hope it continues to go from strength to strength as I’ve been recommending it to all my colleagues!

Susan Wanless

Cellular Dynamics wooes audience at Norwich Science Festival

The developing music-meets-science project, Cellular Dynamics, travelled to Norwich yesterday, to take part in this year’s Norwich Science Festival, and wooed the audience at the historic Octagon Chapel.

The dialogue between live music and scientific research data projections featured in the festival as one of ‘five weird and wonderful events not to be missed,’ according to the Norwich Evening News, and so it proved. Pianists Dan Harding and Matthew King performed a programme of beguiling music for two- and four-hand piano music, whilst Dan Lloyd, Deputy Head of the School of Biosciences, led a visual exploration in images and video of the School’s latest research, capturing the everyday and the sub-molecular using high-resolution spectroscopy. It’s a fascinating way of engaging audiences with both recent developments in the research community, as well as capturing lesser-seen (and often lesser-celebrated) aspects of the laboratory environment and the people who work in it.

We are grateful to festival producer, Natalie Bailey, for the invitation to participate in the festival, and for looking after us and making us welcome.

Read more about the Cellular Dynamics project here.

Seat of learning: dedicating the David Humphreys memorial bench

A lovely occasion this morning, which saw the dedication of the memorial bench to the late David Humphreys, a wonderful supporter of music-making at the University, and whose legacy continues to support the University Chamber Choir’s annual concert in the Crypt of Canterbury Cathedral.

(l-r): Peter Coleman, Joseph Bryant, Dan Harding, Floris Claassens, Marek Iwaniak; Carmen Mackey, Alice Shires, Helen Sotillo, Fleur Sumption(lir): Peter Coleman, Joseph Bryant, Dan Harding, Floris Claassens, Marek Iwaniak; Alice Shires, Helen Sotillo, Fleur Sumption

The bench, which overlooks the historic Cathedral city from the hill between Eliot and Rutherford Colleges, commands perhaps the finest view of Canterbury, and was a favourite spot of David’s. Members of his family were present at the occasion, at which some of this year’s Chamber Choir sang Tallis’ If Ye Love Me, one of David’s favourite choral works.

Members of David’s family together with staff from the Development Office, Estates, and the Chamber Choir

Our continued thanks to David and his family for their terrific support, which provides a wonderful experience for members of the Choir each generation.

David Humphreys with the University Chamber Choir at the Crypt Concert in 2012

Hannah’s American Diary: the Last Word

In the final instalment of her American Diary, second-year Drama and English Language and Linguistics student and Music Performance Scholar, Hannah Ost, reflects on the final part of her experience at the French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts in New York, including teaching a Geordie accent as a Kentish dweller…


Apologies for the very long delay in this blog post! I have well and truly thrown myself back into university life and especially into preparations for the Chamber Choir, which I am conducting this year. But, to take you back a month and a half, I’d like to tell you about my final session at French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts and how this fantastic summer came to a close…

This session got off to an absolutely flying start. I got put on two shows – a junior show called Freckleface Strawberry, which was, needless to say, adorable. Also, the director of the camp itself runs one show per session. This time it was Billy Elliot and I got one of the Musical Directing roles on the show team! It was so nerve-wracking being given so much responsibility, especially with the time constraints; I only got the score two days before the first rehearsal, so very little time to prepare.

As normal, I was also teaching six, half-hour voice lessons per day, so my schedule was jam-packed! Once the session got started, I was rarely two steps away from a piano. I even took part in the Staff Show (High School Musical), in which I played Kelsi – the piano playing Musical Director, what a coincidence!

The camp gives out scholarships to certain children, particularly for music, and many of them are invited during the final session of camp. I had such wonderful musicians in my cabin (where my co-counselors and I looked after thirteen children, outside of my jobs in the two departments I worked in). Five of them were music scholars and one was even the leader of the concert band! We had many a chat about what music was like where we are from and the kids were excited to learn about the music department at the University of Kent.

Making a show in twelve days is incredibly hard. We had two, hour-long rehearsals per day, so effectively each show is made in twenty-four hours: just one full day. As the only English person on the Billy Elliot show team, it became my job to teach the cast, aged 11-17, the Geordie accent, which, as someone who has lived in Kent for their entire life, is not something I was particularly familiar with! I put to use all of the skills I learnt in first year Linguistics classes and did some online research and by the end of the rehearsals, I had most of the kids doing pretty decent Geordie accents… even if I do say so myself! I also taught two of the songs from the show (as there were three MDs working on the production) which the cast absolutely nailed. I’m sure they are all future Broadway stars.

Freckleface Strawberry was a different story entirely. I did become somewhat of a babysitter during this show; sitting with the kids and helping them to learn the songs – singing the lyrics with them when they got stuck. Our youngest cast member was just five years old, so needed a little push in the right direction occasionally!

Both shows were hugely successful – full standing ovations at every performance. It is an indescribably amazing feeling to see a cast of young people standing on a stage, belting out music you have taught them and absolutely having the time of their lives. When camp came to its end, everyone was incredibly emotional, me especially, as Billy Elliot was the final show, on the final night of camp. Afterwards, many of the students I had taught from the session, including some I had taught for multiple sessions, came up to me to thank me for what they had learnt. It was very moving and a bittersweet end to my time at French Woods Festival.

I did also get to see a bit of America when camp finished! Times Square, Broadway, even a trip down to Universal in Florida were planned for my last ten days in the US, before my flight back to Heathrow. All summer long, I kept a travel journal and I actually managed to visit seven states during my stay! It’s been not just a learning experience, but a cultural eye-opener as well. I’ve met so many people from all around the world and have friends in not just America, but Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Mexico and many more places too – I am so grateful and humbled by the experience.

I’d like to thank everyone who made this past summer possible – the music department at the University and all of its patrons. It has been utterly life-changing and I picked up many transferrable skills which I am now applying to my conducting, musical directing and vocal classes here at Kent. This experience has been one I will definitely remember forever!

Picture Credits: French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts

Unique exhibition opens a window into Hansel and Gretel

The walls of the Colyer-Fergusson Gallery are currently inviting visitors into a world of darkness, as the space presents for the first time some of the designs and the artwork leading into (and forming part of) a reimagining of the tale of Hansel and Gretel, which Goldfield Productions brings to Colyer-Fergusson in a few weeks’ time. A unique combination of live music, puppetry, projection and shadow-play, the performance brings to life a new take on the classic Brothers Grimm tale by the poet Simon Armitage, with a score by composer Matthew Kaner; the exhibition offers an evocative glimpse into the visual world in which the production takes place.

The display presents the work of artists Clive Hicks-Jenkins, Phil Cooper and Peter Lloyd, which charts the development of the design of the stage presentation, and includes some of the original drawings for a picture-book commissioned from Hicks-Jenkins by Random Spectacular, which turned out to be the starting-point for the whole project. Hicks-Jenkins also designed a cut-out-and-assemble toy theatre on the theme of Hansel & Gretel for Pollock’s Toy Shop in Covent Garden, and original gouache paintings for the toy theatre also feature in the exhibition.

The artworks occupy a wide range of media, from photography, drawing and painting, collage and paper cut-outs, including work by the Whitstable-based painter, Phil Cooper, reflecting his contributions as model-maker and scenic artist to the production.

Image from the production of ‘Hansel and Gretel.’ Image credit: Still Moving Media courtesy of Cheltenham Festival

The exhibition also features the work of paper-cut artist Peter Lloyd, who made the silhouette animation puppets of the Witch.

The Witch: created by Clive Hicks-Jenkins, paper-cut animation puppet by Peter Lloyd

For the first and only time during the touring production, both the performance and the artwork which informs it are presented together on the University’s Canterbury campus, an enticing visual odyssey which hints at a fascinating performance which will fill the concert-hall on Sunday 21 October.

Image from the production of ‘Hansel and Gretel.’ Image credit: Still Moving Media courtesy of Cheltenham Festival

You can find out more about Hicks-Jenkins’ four-year project on Hansel and Gretel over the artist’s blog here. In the meantime, the gallery is open during normal working hours including at weekend; admission is free, and there is disabled access.

Hansel and Gretel (a nightmare in eight scenes) is presented by the Music Department in partnership with the Canterbury Festival; find out more about the performance here.

Festival logoClive Hicks-Jenkins : www.hicks-jenkins.com
Phil Cooper : www.phil-cooper.com

All the fun of the (Freshers’) Fayre

We’ve reached the end of Welcome Week here at Kent, at today sees the second day of Freshers’ Fayre on the Canterbury campus. The piazza outside Jarman and the marquee in Eliot car-park  thrum with activity, as the myriad societies vie for punters amongst faces new and old thronging the campus.

Amongst the hordes can be spotted members of the Music Society, who over the past two days have been spreading the word about the profusion of extra-curricular music-making opportunities afforded to students (and staff!) in the University community; yesterday the committee was based in the foyer in Colyer-Fergusson, where the live stage also hosted live chamber music; today, the committee is in the Eliot marquee.

Music Society Exec 2018: l-r Alice Shires (Secretary), Fleur Sumption (President), Molly Richetta (Treasurer)

Well done to all the team involved over the past several days, led from the front by this year’s Music Society President, third-year Fine Art student, Fleur Sumption (pictured above), supported by her very active team. The Music Society will be joined by the Musical Theatre Society at the Music Intro on Monday 24th October at 7.30pm in Colyer-Fergusson, open to all students at the University, to meet Music Department staff, learn more about the various ensembles and sign up for auditions. See you Monday…