May 21

Classical Connections: String Sinfonia to perform at the Varley Art Gallery in Toronto

The #EarBox series of events combining live music with visual art takes on an international flavour next month, as the University of Kent String Sinfonia will perform at the Varley Art Gallery in Toronto as part of a five-day visit to Canada.

The performance on Thursday 14 June is one of two concerts in which the group will be playing, and takes place against the backdrop of the gallery’s new exhibition, which explores the physical and psychological effect of nature for humans and animals, and the intersection of human and arboreal timelines. The exhibition includes two- and three-dimensional works and installations; Refuge by Karen Miranda Abel, Anna Williams’ Canada House and Mother Trees of Future Forests by Lisa Hirmer.

Source Pool (Riverine) by Karen Miranda Abel (2018)

Classical Connections will illuminate the exhibition’s central themes of water, surface, liminal spaces and spatial relationships, and the passage from nature to culture with a pastorally-themed musical programme, complete with birdsong, including works by Elgar, Holst, Warlock, Dvořák and John Williams. The programme, like the players, crosses continents to animate the gallery and resonate amongst the various media on display, setting them amidst an aural backdrop that invites the audience to experience both the art-work and the music in a new way.

The Director of the ensemble, Floriane Peycelon (pictured) – a freelance violinist, performer and teacher who also leads the Folkestone Symphony Orchestra – is particularly looking forward to the event; “It’s a terrific thing for the students,” she enthuses, “giving them the wonderful opportunity to take their music-making abroad and showcase the prolific talent amongst the string-players at Kent – and they are not even reading Music as a degree! The chance to play at an art gallery is very exciting – I love finding unusual spaces in which to perform.’’

The ten players will perform in the evening concert in the gallery followed by a reception and a tour of the exhibition; the group then travels to Scarborough Citadel on the Saturday to play as part of the closing Gala Concert of the Chinese Artists of the Society of Toronto, alongside the CAST Philomusica Orchestra and soloists.

The String Sinfonia performing with the Cecilian Choir in Colyer-Fergusson Hall, March 2018

The String Sinfonia is part of the vibrant extra-curricular musical life of the University of Kent, and brings together students from a range of degree programmes including Law, Psychology, Mathematics, Politics and International Relations and Economics to rehearse and perform throughout the year. The ensemble regularly performs in Colyer-Fergusson Hall, in Studio 3 Gallery and in concerts off-campus.

Performing in Studio 3 Gallery on the University campus, December 2017

The ensemble giving a lunchtime concert in Colyer-Fergusson Hall, March 2018

The Varley Art Gallery opened in 1997, and welcomes around 45,000 visitors annually, a preeminent cultural institution reaching audiences both nationally and internationally. This is the first time that the University Music department will travel to perform in Canada, and we’re very much looking forward to beginning our trip with a special event at the gallery. We are also very grateful to the gallery’s Public Programs Coordinator, Rachel D’Oliveira Fell, for the invitation to perform.

The Frederick Horsman Varley Art Gallery. Image: Gisling / Wikimedia Commons

Find out more about the Classical Connections event online here – and if you’re in the area, book yourself a ticket!

May 14

#EarBox goes electroacoustic: Night Liminal on Thursday 24 May

In a first for the ever-developing #EarBox series that brings together music and visual art, the next event on Thursday 24 May features the hypnotic soundscape of Night Liminal, an electroacoustic piece by Simon Cummings inspired by the transitional period of Compline, which will be unveiled in the sepulchral environs of Studio 3 Gallery.

Released in 2012, the piece is an enthralling sound-odyssey, a slow-moving exploration of the mystery of the ever-changing moment. Like drifting clouds, sounds blossom gradually, changing as they grow in a way that reflects the creeping changing of shadows as daylight fades and dusk draws on. The overall effect is evocative, hypnotic, creating an equivocal space in which the listener is invited to dwell, but not making it clear whether they should be wholly comfortable. That’s not to suggest that the aural experience is unpleasant; in fact, like a bitter sweetness, it’s a welcoming one that hovers lightly between both sensations. Somehow, it taps into an almost medieval fear of encroaching darkness whilst making the process of change an enchanting one.

Composer Simon Cummings talks about how ‘being in a sacred space at dusk is a profound and paradoxical experience, comforting yet unsettling. One is caught between light and darkness … The night can be a dangerous and uncharted place.’

The glacial grandeur to the soundscape of Night Liminal captures this paradox perfectly. The piece exists in that ambivalent space between tranquil serenity and quiet fear as it maps the process of perceptual change. As an electroacoustic piece, it both harks back to that hard-wired historic fear whilst opening up an undeniably modern space for secure reflection. And make no mistake: the surface soundscape of this piece is beautiful; lulling, warm and utterly, well, bewitching, as you can hear for yourself here.

Dedicated to the memory of organist and composer Jehan Alain, the piece lasts just under forty minutes and will unfold against the backdrop of Studio 3 Gallery’s new exhibition, Enhancing the Frame, which opened last week.

Whether as an aid to active meditation or passive relaxation, my hope is that this music can become an integral part of the gloaming, teasing out and resonating with both its delights and its uncertainties in a gentle act of quiet provocation and peace.

Admission to #EarBox is free, and the event begins at 1.10pm. Prepare for an  immersive experience of contemplative listening; more details online here.

May 11

Lunchtime Concert explores South Indian music on 30 May

We’re delighted to have been able to reschedule our postponed Lunchtime Concert from February, to bring music from South India on Wednesday 30 May at 1.10pm.Postgraduate University Music Performance Scholar, Ramnath Venkat Bhagavath is studying for a Masters in Applied Actuarial Science at the University of Kent, and brings a strong performing tradition to the campus. In 2016, Ramnath performed in the renowned ‘Swathi Sangeethotsav’ at the royal palace of Trivandrum, an event which attracts musicians from across the globe.

The Lunchtime Concert, taking place in Colyer-Fergusson Hall, will feature a selection of different ragas and thalas in the Carnatic music tradition, accompanied by violin, mridangam and ghatam.

Admission is free, with suggested donation £3.

Furley Page logo

Sponsors of the Lunchtime Concert series

Apr 26

Summer Music Week details are here

With the current weather promising the arrival of summer, blue skies and summer sunshine this morning greets the arrival of our new Summer Music Week brochures, to much excitement here in Colyer-Fergusson.

Our annual festival bidding a fond musical farewell to another year of music-making at Kent takes place this year from Friday 1 to Saturday 9 June; as you see, there’s so much packed in to this year’s celebrations that we’ve had to expand it to Summer Music (Just Over A) Week.

This year, #summermusicweek kicks off the with the University Chamber Choir and Consort in the Crypt of Canterbury Cathedral on Friday 1 June in a concert including Pergolesi’s dramatic Stabat Mater; that weekend also sees the Big Band heading out for its customary trip to the seaside for a performance on the Deal Memorial Bandstand at 2.30pm on Sunday 3 June. There then ensues a week of musical mayhem, including a Music Scholars Lunchtime Recital, the String Sinfonia, the usual roof-raising gala for the Concert and Big Bands, the Cecilian Choir and Sinfonia performing in the spacious acoustic of St Mary of Charity in Faversham, and other chamber ensembles performing, all of which culminates in the traditional Saturday Gala concert featuring the Chorus, Orchestra and Chamber Choir followed by cream teas and tears of farewell.

Find out all that’s to come on the online What’s On here, or download the new brochure here. You can also follow the events and the build-up to Summer Music Week on @ukcsummermusic on Twitter; grab your straw boater and parasol, and join us in our last musical hurrah before the curtain falls on what has already been a terrific year of music-making.

Apr 23

Into the woods…

Had you ventured into the woods around Parkwood on Friday, you might have stumbled across a string quartet; not something you might expect, but this year’s student string quartet was involved in a photo-shoot ahead of an unusual performance next month.

The Billhook Nook outdoor theatre space, part of the Creative Campus initiative, will play host to a performance of Dvořák’s American quartet, as the ensemble heads out into the summer sunshine (or so we hope, anyway…) Comprising third-year Law student and Music Scholar, Lydia Cheng, second-year Asian Studies & Classical and Archaeological Studies student, Alice Nixon, second-year Music Scholar reading Mathematics, Molly Richetta on viola, and final-year Law student, cellist Alex Deacon-Viney, the ensemble plans to take Dvořák’s popular work out of the concert-hall and into somewhere you wouldn’t expect to hear it.

Assuming the weather is as good (or even better) than it is at the moment, people are encouraged to bring a picnic and enjoy some fine weather and even finer music on Thursday 31 May at 1.10pm. During what is always a busy term, with students (and staff) working under the pressure of examinations, the chance to hear music in an informal and relaxed environment will hopefully offer a welcome respite from the term’s busy commitments.

Admission is free, event details here.

Mar 27

Back through time: the Lost Consort

One of the smallest ensembles this year, the eight-voice Lost Consort has been quietly working away on ancient repertoire over the past couple of terms in preparation for two unique performances.

The group has been focusing on plainsong, including the luminous Kyrie by Hildegard von Bingen, in a sequence of music combined with Renaissance polyphony by William Byrd, exploring the remarkable contrast that occurs when a piece of plainchant suddenly blossoms into a four-part motet.

Yesterday, the group (or most of them, anyway…) met to rehearse in the sonorous acoustics of Studio 3 Gallery, the University’s art gallery in the Jarman Building, where unfurling Ave maris stella and Victimae paschali laudes into the richly resonant space was a breathtaking experience; the pacing of these whorling lines needs different considerations when compared to the way we’ve been pacing them in rehearsals in the concert-hall. And Byrd’s Ave Verum Corpus bloomed into a hugely expressive, lachrymaic ode in Studio 3, taking on both an emotional grandeur and contrastingly a greater sense of intimacy (six voices raised in such an echoing space) at the same time.

We’re preparing the sequence to perform amidst a sonic backdrop of a forest soundscape – and no, not just to play on Byrd/bird song… – which we were experimenting with yesterday, which created a wonderful sense of space, and which we are performing on Tuesday 3 April at 1.10pm; the change from musical colours to the natural sounds of birdsong leads the listener to a completely different place. And later, in June, the group will present the programme in the historic Undercroft of the 12-century Eastbridge Pilgrim’s Hospital in the heart of Canterbury as part of Summer Music Week.

If yesterday’s rehearsal was anything to go by, the two events promise to be revelatory; come and experience time-out-of-time for yourself on Tuesday 3 April…

Mar 14

Strings attached ? Energy-filled concert from the String Sinfonia

Congratulations to all the performers in the University String Sinfonia on a lunchtime concert today, delivered with fierce energy and some ravishing colours.

Directed from the violin by Floriane Peycelon, the programme included ebullient dance-rhythms in Warlock’s Capriol Suite, movements from Parry’s An English Suite redolent of the English countryside, and Holst’s St Paul’s Suite, concluding with John Williams’ depiction of Dartmoor before the FIrst World War in an excerpt from War Horse.

The players are back in action next week, when they team up with the University Cecilian Choir in Ola Gjeilo’s popular Sunrise Mass; details here.

Mar 12

Heroic endeavours in annual Cathedral concert

Congratulations to all the performers involved in Saturday night’s annual Colyer-Fergusson Concert, which saw the Nave of Canterbury Cathedral resounding to the heroic strains of Beethoven, Haydn and the premiere of a new work by Matthew King.

The Chorus and Orchestra came together under the baton of Susan Wanless in Haydn’s dramatic ‘Nelson Mass,’ joined by several alumni, and the Orchestra (led by final-year Law student and Music Scholar, Lydia Cheng), delivered Beethoven’s mighty Eroica symphony with aplomb.

Composer Matthew King and family were present for the first performance of Matthew’s A Hero Passes, an orchestral tribute to his late father, James King OBE, with which the concert opened. Matthew attended rehearsals the night before and on the morning at the Cathedral.

Conductor Susan Wanless and composer Matthew King confer in rehearsal. Photo: Molly Hollman

Matthew King attending the rehearsal of his new commission. Photo: Molly Hollman

Composer Matthew King at the dress rehearsal for ‘A Hero Passes’ with conductor Susan Wanless. Photo: Molly Hollman

Chorus and Orchestra rehearsing Haydn in Canterbury Cathedral

Photo: Molly Hollman

The orchestra reheasing Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’

Composer Matthew King acknowledges the orchestra at the first performance of ‘A Hero Passes’

Music Scholar and final-year Law Student, Lydia Cheng, prepares to lead the orchestral concert for her final time

(Most of!) the violins of the orchestra after the performance

Matthew King and family attending the premiere of ‘A Hero Passes’ in Canterbury Cathedral

Thanks to all the behind-the-scenes crew as well, on what is a particularly long day; here’s Your Loyal Correspondent and the Music Administrator clearly early on the day…There are still plenty of events to come over the next few weeks: see what’s next here.

Mar 08

International Women’s Day: Director of University Music, Susan Wanless

She might not thank me for doing so, but on International Women’s Day it seems fitting to pay tribute to our Head of Department, conductor Susan Wanless, who has been at the helm of extra-curricular music at the University for a very long time. A positive role model for female musicians,  Sue’s career is a great example of how gender should be no barrier to succeeding in musical life and in areas of cultural responsibility and leadership, including wielding a baton in front of the massed ranks of assembled performers in the glare of the public eye.

Sue’s tireless championing of music as part of the life of the University includes conducting the University Chorus and Symphony Orchestra each year, including the epic annual Colyer-Fergusson concert in Canterbury Cathedral, as well as a variety of other ensembles. From a humble fifty members originally rehearsing in the Senate Building, the University Chorus has grown to over two hundred students, staff, alumni and members of the local community, now able to rehearse and perform in the magnificent Colyer-Fergusson Hall, itself a testament to the value the University places both on music-making and Sue’s advocacy for cementing it into life at Kent.

Under her leadership, music is now a flourishing part of the University; over four hundred students and staff are involved each academic year, with over fifty musical events taking place in Colyer-Fergusson – both departmental concerts as well as visiting ensembles and performers – throughout the course of the year. The Music department regularly commission new music written especially for its forces to perform – witness this Saturday’s premiere of an orchestral work by Professor of Composition at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Kent-based composer Matthew King. When not busy on campus, she can be found on the panel of judges for the Canterbury International Festival’s annual music performance competition. (And, as many of us know, also on the golf course…!)

Digging the first hole

The Honourable Jonathan Monckton and Director of Music, Susan Wanless, turning the first sod to mark the construction of the Colyer-Fergusson Building in May, 2011

Sue was also heavily involved in the design and consultation process behind the creation of the Colyer-Fergusson Building, travelling up to London to confer with architects, designers and sound engineers at the point that crucial decisions were being made. Thanks to the generous bequest from the Colyer-Fergusson Charitable Trust, chaired at the time by the Honourable Jonathan Monckton, and since opening its doors in December 2012, Colyer-Fergusson has greatly enhanced the possibilities for making music at Kent, and continues to flourish under Sue’s watchful eye. Each year, a host of students graduates from the University with fond memories of having performed in the Nave of the Cathedral, the Crypt, Colyer-Fergusson Hall, churches around the county, and with friendships forged in the white-heat of rehearsing and performing alongside their academic studies; all facilitated by the Music department and Sue’s leadership. Who can forget those summer performances in Eliot Dining Hall, or Chorus rehearsals in the Grimond Building in the Era Before Colyer-Fergusson…Depending on the era in which students passed through the University, they might have been involved in the summer opera projects, in which Sue helmed fully-staged productions of works such as La Traviata, The Magic Flute and Tosca with professional soloists; they might have performed on one of the stages that popped up around campus during ArtsFest, which itself transformed into the current annual music festival celebrating the end of the academic year that is Summer Music Week.

University Orchestra in Haydn’s ‘Farewell’ Symphony in Eliot Dining Hall!

Here’s to Sue, and to women musicians who are making such an impact on musical life in their communities everywhere!

Mar 07

Scholars’ Spotlight: Hannah Ost

Continuing the series profiling Music Scholars at the University of Kent; this week, first-year conductor, music director and instrumentalist studying Drama and English Language and Linguistics, Hannah Ost.


An early childhood video shows a little six year old girl (me) sat at a grand piano, tentatively hammering the notes of a nursery rhyme. My mum had been teaching me piano from aged five and by junior school I was just about ready to take my first grade. Eight of them later and I am now a Music Performance Scholar at the University of Kent!

Music has always been one of my main passions. I spent my Saturday mornings at a music centre, playing lead cello in a youth orchestra, singing in a choir and taking lessons in not only piano but other instruments like African drums and recorders too. I performed in concerts and recitals, whilst steadily working through the ABRSM grades in piano.

Growing up in a family of singers, car journeys became concerts for the four-part version of the Von-Trapps, or sometimes SATB choir recitals. My sister and I were in choirs all throughout our education and in late junior school, I became a chorister for the Rochester Cathedral Girls Choir, performing on Classic FM at age nine and staying up until midnight on the 24th December to chorally welcome in Christmas Day. I joined my secondary school Chamber Choir as a soprano and I was part of the Kent County Choirs for almost the whole of my secondary education. Being a member of so many choirs meant I developed a real passion for the workings of the voice and I worked hard to improve my voice in a wide range of genres.

I joined a Musical Theatre school when I was fourteen and learnt how to sing jazz, musical theatre and belt, finding my background in classical singing to be a huge help in the development of my voice. I started a YouTube channel, posting covers and original songs and I auditioned for shows, performing in musicals, which became my main passion from Sixth Form onwards. I showcased a repertoire of Stephen Sondheim music for my Music A Level, having taken Music GCSE in Key Stage Four, and took a couple of professional singing lessons to help me sing what were several particularly challenging pieces.

At Sixth Form at Fort Pitt Grammar School, I started to broaden my musical interests and a friend recommended me for a job at a local theatre company I had performed with. Through this, I became the youngest ever employee of a youth theatre company called RARE Productions, joining the team as a Musical Director, aged seventeen. Now, I am the coordinator of my local area; as well as my musical directing, I manage the show team and am the main point of communication between my area and the Head Offices.

Finding that I really enjoyed musical directing, I started my own choir at school and taught a complex and diverse repertoire to the students who joined. I found I could combine piano and voice in a unique way, so accompanying, conducting and teaching added to my musical passions. I went on to write, direct and musically direct my own show at Fort Pitt, playing keys and conducting our live band in the final performances.

So, onto university life. Well, I’ve only been here for a term and a half but I don’t think I could have been busier if I tried! Auditioning for the scholarship was very nerve-wracking, especially since I had had a bad case of ‘Freshers’ Flu’ for about a month! I was told I’d achieved a scholarship in Musical Directing and am using the money from this to fly out to America this summer, to work as a resident Musical Director/Pianist at French Woods Festival for the Performing Arts – a prestigious performance-based summer camp, in the state of New York!

I have founded my own vocal tuition society called ‘The Pitch Project’ and I now hold weekly vocal classes for my members, using all the skills I have learnt from my background in voice and musical directing to teach a wide range of vocal techniques and genres. I have had great feedback from those involved and meetings regarding a future collaboration with Kent Sing! I have been a Musical Director for the Musical Theatre Society, leading some rehearsals in both of their showcases so far and I also had lots of fun playing keyboard in the pit band for their recent musical Bonnie and Clyde at the Marlowe Studio.

Outside of the music department, my studies in Drama and English Language and Linguistics have complimented my passion for vocal studies; I have learnt more about where the voice comes from, how the body acts as a resonator and how to correctly position vowels and consonants in speech. English has especially supported my love of writing and using some money from my scholarship, I self-released a debut EP of original music, called Let Me Read, both in hard copy and on various online music platforms, including Spotify, iTunes, Amazon and Google Play Music. This past December, I took my keyboard and ukulele (which, along with mandolin and guitar, I have been steadily teaching myself for about five years) to Ewan’s studios at ETB Mixing and recorded all the instrumental and vocal lines for four original songs in just nine hours! Needless to say, it was a crazy day!

When I’m not practising over in Colyer-Fergusson, or in the library studying (or in my bed, sleeping), you might find me gigging at pubs and bars around Canterbury, both on-campus and off. I am enjoying networking with local musicians and have met so many wonderful people during my first year at University so far. I can’t wait for what the rest of my time here will bring!


Listen to Hannah on Spotify here, and follow her on Twitter here.

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