Serenade across the sea: Camerata performs in the city of Calais

A standing ovation from over six hundred people greeted the end of yesterday’s concert by the University Camerata in L’Eglise de Notre Dame in the heart of the city of Calais.

The Camerata is a real cross-section of the University community, comprising undergraduate and postgradudate students, staff and alumni, all coming together to represent the University in public concerts throughout the year. Yesterday’s performance was the result of an invitation earlier this year by Calais city council to bring the two cities of Calais and Canterbury together, to recognise and celebrate the cities’ shared history (Calais was once part of the Diocese of Canterbury) and to make cultural connections (see previous post here).

An early morning start saw the coach-load of musicians leaving Colyer-Fergusson in various stages of wakefulness (well, 6.30am on a Sunday can be a little early for some…), with a welcome coffee at the Folkestone terminal of Le Shuttle enlivening the group further still on its way to an 11am (French time) rehearsal in the church beneath glorious November skies.

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Music by Elgar and Warlock was soon swirling around the nave of the magnificent church, with later on the strains of Marcello’s Oboe Concerto lifting into the roof courtesy of Professor Dan Lloyd, who joined the string group on oboe, stepping out of his busy schedule as Deputy Head of the School of Biosciences.The Camerata’s international make-up mirrors that of the wider University community, with members from Germany, Lithuania, France and Canada, including an Erasmus-student cellist; the Schools of Psychology, Law, Mathematics and Biosciences were also represented by the ensemble’s constituents, many of whom are either current or former University Music Performance Scholars. It’s a testament to the nature of extra-curricular music-making at Kent that it transcends boundaries – geographical, hierarchical, institutional – as it creates communities working together in rehearsal and performance.

The concert, part of the city’s current festival, drew over six hundred people to witness the power of collaborative creativity which lies at the heart of the University’s vision. We’re already looking forward to the second event in our planned collaboration later in the year.

Congratulations to all the performers, to leader Floriane Peycelon and conductor Susan Wanless, on a magnificent ambassadorial showcase that illustrated, to an international audience, what an international University can do.

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Facebook users can view an album of photos from the day here.

Allons-y! University Camerata visit to Calais is coming

Preparations are underway here at Colyer Towers for a special event next week, when the University Camerata will cross la Manche to give a concert at the l’Eglise de Notre-Dame in the city of Calais.

Featured in next month’s local magazine, Les Rêves de Notre-Dame, the event is first of several events throughout the current academic year which celebrates Canterbury’s historic links with the city; the string ensemble, comprising students, staff and alumni, will cross the Channel armed with a programme of music by Purcell, Warlock and Elgar, as well as  Marcello’s Oboe Concerto featuring the Deputy Head of the School of Biosciences, Dan Lloyd.

The Camerata last sailed in to port back in March for a performance of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf; we’re looking forward to presenting a largely English musical feast for the burghers of Calais at the end of next week, on Sunday 10 November; should you happen to be in the city at 3pm, the event is free, join University musicians as we celebrate our historic links with the French city-port – event details online here.

Celebrating Leonardo da Vinci in words and music

A fascinating event comes to the University of Kent’s Colyer-Fergusson Concert Hall on Saturday 9th November. Marking the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, I Fagiolini will bring their new programme Leonardo: Shaping the Invisible to Canterbury as part of their national tour.

The event combines projections of his best-loved masterworks with choral pieces that connect with the images. Leonardo expert Professor Martin Kemp and I Fagiolini’s director Robert Hollingworth will also be introducing the evening.

Shaping the Invisible culminates in a new commission on a theme of Leonardo and scientific endeavour, with poetry by Gillian Clark and music by Adrian Williams.

You can listen to repertoire included in the event on the group’s Spotify playlist here, including works by Monteverdi, Howells, Rubbra and more, an aural glimpse of what’s to come…

Tickets available online here.

Music and science meet in the laboratory

I don’t think I’ve ever seen this before , but music and science came together in a highly unusual way earlier today, when a set of bagpipes were introduced into the environment of the science laboratory here at the University.

First-year Scholar, Eloise, rehearsing in Colyer-Fergusson Hall

Be not alarmed, Gentle Reader: there was no experiment being performed on either instrument or player, who in this instance was second-year Music Performance Scholar and Biochemistry student, Eloise Jack. In her capacity as a student of Biosciences at Kent also involved in extra-curricular music-making, Eloise neatly brings together the elements of both academic study and extra-curricular enhancement of the student experience – by day, she can be found working in the laboratory or in the lecture-theatre; at weekends and during the vacations, she is busy wielding her bagpipes either around the campus or as part of the piping-community somewhere (you can read more about Eloise’s experience over the summer at the National Piping Centre on the blog here).

Representing two aspects of university life coming together, Eloise will be the focus of a feature in next month’s University magazine, and this morning’s photoshoot drew her away from the concert-hall and into the scientific enviroment. We’re looking forward to reading the feature next month.

My thanks to colleagues in the School of Biosciences, Professor Dan Lloyd and Ian Brown, for opening up various venues in the Stacey Building to help with this morning’s shoot.

Filling the concert-hall with birdsong: Thurs 10 October

I’ve just come from a trial session in the concert-hall in preparation for a unique event as part of University activities for World Mental Health Day 2019.

At lunchtime on Thursday 10 October, we’ll be turning the concert-hall into a tranquil forest environment, bathing the hall in birdsong and the sounds of a natural forest alongside beautiful photographic images of forest views.

Image: Johannes Plenio via Unsplash

Sitting in the midst of Colyer-Fergusson Hall, it was possible to lose yourself in the audio and visual environment to the point where it almost felt as though you were actually outside; the dimly-lit hall was transformed into a haven of tranquility, a welcome respite from the frantic activity and the demands of the Digital World at the start of a new academic year.

Next Thursday, we’ll open the doors of the concert-hall and people are invited simply to come for as long or as short a time as they wish, to sit in stillness and enjoy a meditative environment which (if the trial session proves anything to go by) promises to be a wonderfully relaxing experience.

The event starts at 1.10pm and admission is free; the doors will be left open for visitors to come and go whenever the wish. Come and experience the outdoors indoors…

Find out more: Weds 18 September

With Welcome Week about to burst into vibrant activity here at the University, make sure you come along to Colyer-Fergusson on Wednesday 18 September to find out about getting involved in extra-curricular music, whatever you are studying.

Between 11am and 3pm, members of the music staff and the various Music Societies will be on hand to enthuse about the many opportunities to get involved in music as part of student life at Kent. Visitors can look round the award-winning Colyer-Ferguson concert hall, practice rooms and band room, as well as learn about the differing ways in which to become a part of music: whether it’s singing with Chorus, Chamber Choir, Cecilian Choir or the upper-voice choir, Minerva Voices; instrumentalists can join the Symphony Orchestra, Concert Band or Big Band, and there are other music societies active during the year including the Musical Theatre Society.

Plans for the Wednesday event include live music on the foyer-stage throughout the day, and there’s the possibility of a Scratch Orchestra play-through of popular film scores, and even choruses from Messiah.

We look forward to welcoming you through the doors of Colyer-Fergusson during Welcome Week, and especially next Wednesday – come and find out how to make rehearsing and performing a part of your university experience, whatever course you may be studying!

Piping hot: first-year Scholar Eloise at the National Piping Centre

As part of her Music Performance Scholarship, first-year Biochemistry student and highland bagpiper, Eloise Jack, recently took part in a piping course at the National Piping Centre in Glasgow. Here, Eloise reflects on her experience.


Thanks to the music scholarship I received from the University, I was able to attend an intensive piping course from the 24th-28th of June at The National Piping Centre in Glasgow. Each day consisted of three one-to-one sessions, with time between the lessons to practice in one of the centre’s practice rooms. Throughout the week I had lessons with four different instructors, covering different styles and playing techniques, and also tuning the pipes and general maintenance.

First-year Scholar, Eloise, rehearsing in Colyer-Fergusson Hall

In the first lesson I set my goals for the week with Finlay MacDonald, head of piping studies at the National Piping Centre. These included: –
• Expanding my musical repertoire and learning new styles of tunes.
• Learning the correct technique to tune my bagpipes myself, by ear (Usually someone else tunes my pipes for me using an electronic tuner.)
• Developing my embellishment techniques and overall piping technique.
Each further lesson was different and tailored to my needs, and depending on what instructor I had depended on what we worked on in the lessons.

I usually play marching tunes as I play with a marching band, however I wanted to expand my solo music repertoire. During the course, I was introduced to and started learning music in four different styles, including a jig, a reel, a strathspey and a four-part 2/4 march.

Eloise in full dress uniform to perform in the Music Scholars’ Lunchtime Recital during Summer Music Week at the University of Kent.

Tuning my pipes by ear was something that I was very keen to learn, as I normally have to rely on someone else to tune them for me. It is a difficult technique to master because you have to keep a steady pressure whilst trying to tune the drones so that the reeds in the drones and in the chanter vibrate steadily.

In completing this course, I managed to achieve all the goals I initially set. I also completed some much-needed maintenance on my pipes which was an unexpected expense, but the results in terms of the sound I can now achieve made it well worth it. They not only sound better when played, but the adjustments make it easier for me to practice tuning as make it easier to hear when they are in tune.

I really enjoyed the course. Being able to focus on just bagpiping really helped and I would definitely attend another intensive course in the future so that I can continue to develop my overall technique and repertoire.

Kent-Calais Connections: exploring a musical entente cordiale

During last week’s heatwave, the Music department found itself walking the streets of Calais, exploring various cultural venues throughout the city as part of a planned collaborative partnership in the forthcoming academic year.

From its humble beginning as a fishermen’s village, recorded as early as the eighth century, Calais rose to become the Gateway to France. The cities of Calais and Canterbury are united by the former’s history as a trading-port with England, with Calais having been a part of the diocese of Canterbury following the seizure of the throne of France by Edward III in 1347. The damage suffered by Calais during the Second World War laid the way for major rebuilding projects, leading to the creation of several striking venues and a city endowed with exciting creative spaces. The shared history between Kent and Calais is something which the Music department and the Calais city council will be looking to explore and celebrate.

Following an approach earlier this year from the city council about a shared endeavour, we found ourselves boarding the Eurotunnel early on Wednesday morning, travelling to meet the representatives from Calais at the historic L’Église Notre-Dame de Calais, the first stop on our tour of the plethora of cultural venues threaded throughout the city.

After the city was retaken by the French from the English in 1558,  L’Église Notre-Dame became its most important church. A majestic altar-piece of marble and alabaster presides over a large church currently undergoing restoration, which began in 2009 and which are bringing the vanished magnificence to life once more. Once a year, the church is filled with over 4,000 candles for the Festival of Light, which attracts visitors from all over France.

Our next stop was La Halle, a flexible space on the Place d’Armes which can open its striking concertina-door, which occupies one entire side of the covered hall,  onto the plaza. The space hosts outdoor and indoor performances as well as festivals throughout the year.

Next on our cultural odyssey was the Museum of Lace and Fashion, housed inside an original lace factory from the nineteenth century, with vast echoing galleries and an auditorium.

The Forum Gambetta is a bright, modern venue that would be ideal for a bustling big band set; its jazz atmosphere has seen its stage graced by legendary French jazz violinist Didier Lockwood.

The next venue was, fittingly, L’Ecole Nationale de Musique de Calais, of which Lockwood is a former student commemorated in the Studio Didier Lockwood.

Our steps then led us to the Musee des Beaux-Arts, which houses artwork from the sixteenth century to the present day.

The tour came to a magnificent conclusion at the city’s town hall, built in 1885 but harking back to the sixteenth century. The gardens adorning the museum’s grounds include one of the fourteen bronze casts throughout the world of Rodin’s The Burghers of Calais from 1889, and commissioned to commemorate the six residents who were prepared to sacrifice themselves to save the city during the Hundred Years War.

The town hall itself includes beautiful rooms, a wonderful Grand Salon just crying out for a string orchestra to perform the music of Lully, imperious marbled corridors, and a belfry 75 metres high which affords panoramic views across the city; across the Channel, we could see the cliffs of Dover looking towards the bustling port.

With such rich history rubbing shoulders with modern venues, artistic exhibitions, festivals and all within walking distance of each other, Calais offers fertile ground for some exciting artistic collaborations – we’re looking forward to building and developing ideas in the new academic year.


Mille remerciements to Philippe and the team from Calais City Council for making us so welcome, and for sharing the city’s vibrant artistic possibilities with us – we are looking forward to taking the first steps in a musical entente cordiale celebrating both sides of La Manche!