All posts by Daniel Harding

Head of Music Performance, University of Kent: pianist, accompanist and conductor: jazz enthusiast.

Popped in, souled out: new Pop n Soul Choir to launch in September

Do you love to sing ? Whether in the shower, in public, in the bar, wielding a hairbrush or part of a group, our new Pop n Soul Choir is for you!

With no audition required and no need to read music, this is a chance to come along on a Thursday evening and enjoy singing with others; the choir is open to staff, students and to members of the local community too. The first rehearsal will be Thursday 26 September in Colyer-Fergusson Hall from 7-9pm. Membership this year is free to students and staff, with a small fee for external members.

Hailing originally from East London,  Margate-based singer and songwriter Meg Bird will run the choir, drawing on her experience studying jazz at the Guildhall and now writing and performing her own music.

If you’re interested in joining, email to let us know; we look forward to welcoming you to an exciting, fun-filled group in September!


Building a community: it’s what we do.

A question I’m often asked, whether from colleagues, friends, my neighbours’ endlessly curious granddaughter: What do you do, Dan ? What does the extra-curricular music department do; what’s it all about ?

I would usually start by saying, well, we get lots of musicians together from both within the University and beyond, create ensembles, have a weekly rehearsal schedule, and give public performances each term. We have a small group of Music Scholars and Award Holders who take a prominent role amongst the ensembles, and it all comes to a glorious flourishing conclusion with our annual Summer Music Week festival, bringing many of the ensembles and performers together for a final time before the end of the year.

And that’s all true.

But it’s not quite everything.

And it’s not perhaps what’s the most important aspect of what we do.

What I’ve started saying instead, is that we build a community. Every year. From scratch. We’re an extra-curricular provision, so entirely dependent on who walks through the doors of Colyer-Fergusson each September – students and staff alike. And some of our ensembles are also open to alumni and members of the local community, too. And our job – perhaps the most vital aspect of our activity – is to bring all these musicians together and build a community to which they can belong, in which they can participate.

This is especially important when it comes to welcoming first-year and international students, people who might be anxious about being away from home, wondering how they will find a group of friends, how they are going to fit in – and for overseas students, even more so. For those who are worried about making social connections, about finding their feet, the music-making community here at Kent offers a ready-made opportunity to do all those things.

And for students returning in their second or third year, who were involved the year before, it’s a chance to get back to rehearsing and performing with the group of friends they made last year, and meet new ones. Music is open to staff, too; you’ll find members of administrative staff or heads of departments sitting alongside students amongst the strings or woodwind sections in the Orchestra, or sat alongside them on the choral-risers each Monday night when Chorus meets. Along with external members of the community, who come from Folkestone to Faversham, from Whitstable to Wye, and elsewhere, all these musicians come together in the shared endeavour of rehearsing and performing, that creative odyssey that impacts so much on people’s wellbeing.

On my desk as I write, I have all the thank-you cards that we received a few weeks ago, from students who are graduating, for whom the recent Summer Music Week has been the final opportunity to be part of it all. Similar sentiments echo throughout: ‘Thank you for making me so welcome;’ ‘the experience of making music here has changed my life;’ ‘being part of the musical community has been a rewarding experience for me;’ ‘thank you for creating such a nurturing environment;’ ‘thank you for making a safe space for everyone.’ They talk of transformative experiences, opportunities that will stay with them for the rest of their lives, memories they will value, friendships formed.

So, yes; thanks to the marvellous generosity of the Music donors and benefactors, we bring musicians together to rehearse and perform; we offer a Music Scholarship programme to support and develop particularly talented students; and we have regular performances throughout the academic year, both on and off-campus. But that doesn’t reflect the true essence of community-building that lies at the centre of it all, and what is really the beating heart of the vibrant provision we create each year that energises the University community, its campus, its region, and beyond.

An unforgettable experience; international student Anne Urabayen reflects on getting involved in music

Welcoming overseas students to Kent and making them part of the University community is very much part of what we do here in the extra-curricular Music department. In this post, Anne Urabayen, from Bilbao, who has spent the past year studying at Kent, reflects on her experience, which was generously supported by the Barry Wright Legacy.

When I arrived at the University in September, I did not know how important the Music Society was going to be during my year abroad. I have always loved music and I have been playing the viola for more than 10 years now. My favourite part of playing an instrument is being able to create music together, specially in orchestras. I did not want to stop playing for a year and after doing some research I discovered that Kent Uni had a big music programme. I only needed to solve one problem, how to obtain a viola for a year. Thankfully, Sophie and Dan helped me with all the process and I was able to play in the String Sinfonia and in the Orchestra.

The University Orchestra rehearsing in Colyer-Fergusson Hall

During the first few days, I felt a little bit lost but everyone was incredibly welcoming and supportive. The rehearsals were a perfect blend of challenging and fun and it was nice to play with people that shared the same passion. Thank you to Flo (director of the String Sinfonia) and Dan, for conducting the Sinfonia and Orchestra with excitement and always having a smile on their faces. I will never forget Flo’s anecdotes during rehearsals or Dan’s enthusiasm. Thank you to Sophie, who helped me making this possible and is always available for her students.

The String Sinfonia rehearsing in St Mary of Charity church, Faversham: Anne seated second from left.
International student, Anne, playing in the annual concert in Canterbury Cathedral with the University Orchestra.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Orchestra and the String Sinfonia, you made me feel at home. My time with the Music Society at the University is something I will always treasure and everyone in the music society made it an unforgettable experience.

University Orchestra and Chorus rehearsing in Canterbury Cathedral

Image Gallery: Summer Music Week 2024 in pictures

A marvellous end to the academic year at the University, our annual Summer Music Week festival saw a packed programme of events bidding a musical adieu to the year.

From the opening Bond and Beyond with the Big Band, String Sinfonia and Festival Voices, through the Big Band gigging at Deal Bandstand, two student lunchtime recitals, Minerva Voices and Consort at the Cathedral Crypt, and concluding with Chorus, Orchestra, Cecilian Choir, Concert Band and student soloists in the closing gala, it’s been an action-packed week showcasing the extra-curricular music provision here at Kent in vibrant, robust form.

(Here’s a small snapshot of the events over the course of the festival; many more can be found on our Facebook Group).

Congratulations and huge thanks to everyone who took part, to all the performers, to the various donors and music supporters, and to the audiences who came to support the concerts. It’s been a great year of music-making – we’re already looking forward to the next!

Students perform with the Gavin Bryars Ensemble at Canterbury Cathedral

Congratulations to an intrepid band of several of our musicians, who recently performed alongside the Gavin Bryars Ensemble in a mesmerising performance of Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet at Canterbury Cathedral.
A unique experience, in a specially crafted incarnation of Bryars’ seminal piece, the students, a combination of Music Performance Scholars and Award Holders, including students reading Law, Economics and Chemistry, rose to the occasion in a piece that requires a quite different set of skills, using a modular score, stopwatches, and a pre-recorded (and rhythmically uneven) vocal track against which to play.
And there they are standing alongside the man himself.
A marvellous opportunity to play in an important work as part of the ensemble of professional musicians, working alongside them under the direction of the composer.
Well done Yuyu, Justin, Lois, Seb, David and Jack; we’re hugely proud of you!
Main images © University of Kent / Nathan Eaton-Baudains
Other photos by Dan Harding

Students get the opportunity to work with jazz duo Trish Clowes and Ross Stanley

Several of this year’s students had the opportunity to work with saxophonist and composer Trish Clowes, following her mesmerising Lunchtime Concert on Weds 13 March.

Together with pianist Stanley Ross, Trish gave a marvellously inventive, lyrical performance as part of our Lunchtime Concert series, in a programme filled with colour in works including pieces by Marcel Dupré, Nikki Iles and Lili Boulanger. The duo came to Colyer-Fergusson as part of their UK tour promoting the release of their new album, Journey to Where.

After the concert, Trish and Ross stayed on to work with some of the students exploring improvisation, rhythm, and the physicality of the ‘groove;’ players included several of this year’s Music Award Holders.

“I had a fantastic time at the workshop with Trish,” reflects Sara, singer-songwriter and Secretary to the Music Society this year (pictured below), reading Philosophy and Religious Studies . “We focused on getting into the rhythm and groove of music, using our bodies as metronomes of a sort – a key component in jazz. It was really nice to let loose, and explore ways of creating rhythm in ways we wouldn’t usually as classical musicians.

It was an incredibly fun hour spent making music alongside instruments I wouldn’t usually connect with. It was an extremely insightful and entertaining workshop, with lots of take home messages I can’t wait to put into practice in the future!”

Thanks to Trish and Ross for both a fabulous performance, and for sharing their experience and insights with the students.

Standing ovation for this year’s Cathedral performance

Many congratulations to everyone in the University Chorus and Orchestra, who received a standing ovation at the end of Saturday’s epic performance in Canterbury Cathedral.

This year’s annual Colyer-Fergusson concert, in honour of Sir James Colyer-Fergusson, saw the combined ranks of students, staff, alumni and members of the local community coming together to present Brahms’ inventive Symphony no.4, alongside Fauré’s Requiem, performed to the mark the centenary this year of the composer’s death.

Photo by Hilary Edridge

Conducted by Your Local Correspondent, and joined by soprano soloist Julie Bale and baritone soloist Ben Bevan, the concert was a resounding success, greeted with an enthusiastic ovation from the audience who stood and applauded as the final notes of the Requiem receded down the Nave.

Plenty of happy faces in the Chapter House, which functioned as the dressing-room on the night, as evidenced in these images of some of the choir and orchestra.

Formal photographs to follow; thank you to everyone who took part.

Music Performance Scholar achieves Distinction in Grade 8

Many congratulations to second-year Wildlife Conservation student in the School of Anthropology and Conservation, and Music Performance Scholar, Charlotte Farmer, who this week achieved Distinction in her grade 8 examination on the flute with the ABRSM.

Her exam included repertoire by Telemann, Enesco and Chopin, and took pace at St Peter’s Methodist Church in Canterbury, accompanied by first-year Music Performance Scholar, Ronja Haller.
“I really enjoyed playing and St Peter’s church was lovely, especially in the sunshine,” reflects Charlotte. “A lot of hard work went into it, which I’m especially grateful to Ronja for.  It turns out that the ‘Presto’ of the Enesco wasn’t actually necessary but apparently a ‘welcome bonus’ which the examiner kindly told me about at the end! All in all it was over in a flash and I had no idea what the result would be, so it was a lovely surprise this morning.”
Charlotte will be playing in Concert Band next week in the spring gala concert – many congratulations to her on her success.