All posts by Daniel Harding

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

A night (and afternoon) at the opera: Lois Cocker reviews the Glyndebourne visit to Colyer-Fergusson and beyond

The Music department hosted players from the Glyndebourne Touring Orchestra and Pit Perfect Scheme for an afternoon performance and workshop, before we took a group of student musicians to see the production of La Bohème at the Marlowe that evening. Here, final-year Forensic Science student and cellist, Lois Cocker, looks back on her experience throughout the day.


Last Wednesday I had a fun day, full of music, which I was able to be a part of thanks to being part of the University String Sinfonia. The Glyndebourne touring orchestra visited Canterbury and put on a lunchtime concert in the Colyer-Fergusson hall which was incredible to watch. After the concert I was then part of the workshop where some musicians from the orchestra coached the String Sinfonia as part of their Pit Perfect scheme. I play the cello and so was lucky enough to sit next to one of the pro cellists who was so lovely and friendly! The professionals from Glyndebourne gave us great advice which we all took on board and will definitely use in our playing in the future.

Glyndebourne Pit Perfect players performing in Colyer-Fergusson Hall
String Sinfonia and Glyndebourne players at the workshop in the afternoon

After the workshop, some of us went into town to get some pizza before heading out to watch the Glyndebourne opera – La Bohème at the Marlowe Theatre, which we were lucky enough to attend thanks to being treated by the music department here at Kent. This was my second ever opera I had seen. (Last year I was able to see my first ever opera with the String Sinfonia, The Rake’s Progress which was also a Glyndebourne production). La Bohème was such a beautiful opera which I enjoyed so much- it even made me cry! The music from the orchestra was incredible, I almost forgot that it was all being performed live as it was immaculate! I’m so glad I was able to experience this.

Members of the String Sinfonia and director Flo Peycelon, with some of the Glyndebourne players at the Marlowe Theatre

Before I had ever watched an opera, I always assumed it wasn’t really my cup of tea, but after now seeing two operas I can’t wait to see more! I was so engrossed watching La Bohème, it was comedic and also emotional. The voices of the opera singers were so beautiful. After the performance we had the opportunity of speaking to some of the musicians again. I was able to learn about their musical upbringings and their musical careers which I found so interesting and inspiring.

A forensic approach: final-year student and cellist, Lois Cocker

All-in-all it was an amazing day and I feel so lucky to have been part of the experience. It’s a massive part of my university experience that I will cherish forever!

Lois Cocker

With thanks to Chris Stones (Head of Tour Development), Jonathan Tunnell (Tour Orchestra Manager) and all the visiting Glyndebourne staff and players.

Emotional and transformative: review of the Chan-Jack Duo at Colyer-Fergusson Hall

First-year  Philosophy, Religion and Ethics student and musician, Sara Davies, reflects on the recent opportunity to work alongside the Chan-Jack Duo on their recent visit to perform in Colyer-Fergusson as part of our Lunchtime Concert series.


On Wednesday, I had the pleasure of watching the superbly talented Chan-Jack Duo play their EP Air as part of the series of lunchtime concerts in Colyer-Fergusson Hall.

Laure Chan and William Jack performing in Colyer-Fergusson Hall as part of the Lunchtime Concert series

This included a 50 minute set of five songs that perfectly blended the east and the west whilst incorporating a multitude of genres from rock, pop, classical, Latin and many more.

I was totally enthralled by the immense talent of both Laure Chan (on violin) and William Jack (on cello and guitar). Their music, a fusion of different cultures, was colourful, emotional and transformative.

After the concert, I had the opportunity to participate in an improvisation workshop with the duo, where we created a fusion that revolved around the pentatonic scale. We explored the different ways in which our instruments could make non-melodic sounds, and I was able to use the body of my guitar to create amazing percussive lines alongside the other instruments.

Towards the end of the workshop, I  had the honour of performing one of my original songs to the duo which was amazing! The support and feedback from both of them was particularly help as well!!

Sara Davies in the workshop

All in all, I have to say the Chan-Jack Duo have definitely been my favourite concert here at the university and the opportunity to work alongside them is something I will remember forever.

Sara Davies

Exciting new choral commission to mark ten-year anniversary

As part of the anniversary celebrations to mark the ten-year anniversary of the opening of the Colyer-Fergusson Building on the University of Kent’s Canterbury campus, we’re delighted to have commissioned a new piece by the composer Russell Hepplewhite.

The piece, written for mixed-voice choir and string orchestra, is a setting of the Magnificat interspersed with four new poems written by Nancy Gaffield in the School of Creative Writing. Each poem, inspired by an historic painting, responds to the canticle, the ‘Song of Mary,’ in which Mary rejoices that she will give birth to the Christ-child and the positive changes which will be wrought in the world.

Recently named one of the Evening Standard’s 1000 Most Influential People in London, Russell Hepplewhite has won critical acclaim for his ground-breaking operas for children including Shackleton’s Cat, Silver Electra and Laika the Spacedog, written for English Touring Opera. His music appears on CD releases for labels including Regent Records and has been featured on BBC Television and Radio, as well as being performed at venues including the Royal Albert Hall, the Wigmore Hall, the Library Theatre Luton, the Purcell Room and the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Most recently, his collaboration with the poet Michael Rosen, a set of children’s songs entitled Everything, is included in the Friday Afternoons song bank project, inspired by Britten’s song-cycle of the same name.

Nancy Gaffield is Reader Emeritus in Creative Writing at the University of Kent and an award-winning poet with six poetry publications. Her first collection of poetry, Tokaido Road (CB editions 2011) was nominated for the Forward Best First Collection Prize and was awarded the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize that year. Other poetry publications include Continental Drift (Shearsman 2014), Meridian (Longbarrow 2019) and Wealden (Longbarrow 2021), which is a collaboration with the musical group The Drift. She was commissioned to write a libretto for the opera, Tokaido Road: A Journey after Hiroshige, composed by Nicola LeFanu. It premiered at the Cheltenham Music Festival in 2014 and subsequently toured nationally. She regularly gives workshops, lectures and readings, including festival appearances such as the Aldeburgh and Ledbury Poetry Festivals, the Canterbury Festival, and the Words and Music Festival, Rolvenden, Kent.

Russell’s music is richly colourful, highly expressive and also immediately accessible, and it’s very exciting to have commissioned a brand new work to mark the opening of Colyer-Fergusson, the building which forms the centrepiece for extra-curricular music at Kent. By bringing Russell’s translucent musical language together with Nancy’s brilliantly evocative poetry, it will be a fantastic opportunity for students and staff at the University to give the premiere as part of the year-long anniversary celebrations, and a unique take on a traditional moment in the liturgy.

The University of Kent Cecilian Choir singing Choral Evensong at Canterbury Cathedral

The new setting will be premiered in Colyer-Fergusson Hall by the University of Kent Cecilian Choir and String Sinfonia on Friday 31 March 2023, with a further performance later in June as part of the department’s summer music festival.

 

A year in Bloomington: Music Scholar David Curtiss reflects

Fourth-year Astrophysics student and Music Performance Scholar, David Curtiss, reflects on his recent sandwich year abroad.


Over the past four years I have had the honour of being able to say that, alongside my degree in Astronomy, Space Science and Astrophysics, I am a music scholar here at the University of Kent. I was awarded the Music Performance Scholarship in 2018 on the saxophone and have loved developing my playing through the various ensembles that are on offer as well as under the fantastic tutelage of Peter Cook. All of this progress led to me being fortunate enough on my year abroad last year (2021/22) to have been accepted into the Tom Walsh Jazz Ensemble at the Jacobs School of Music in Indiana University, Bloomington.

David playing in a Scholars’ Lunchtime Recital in Colyer-Ferguson Hall along with Music Performance Scholar, Meg Daniel

I do also have a particularly large ‘thank you’ to make to the University of Kent Music department and donors to the scholarship programme.  Unfortunately, due to several Visa issues I was unable to attend the auditions at Bloomington at the start of term and instead had to submit the YouTube video made by the Music department for the Scholar’s Spotlight series in 2021, which fortunately led to my acceptance into one of the music school’s big bands, without which I would not have had such an incredible opportunity!

I spent my year in Bloomington playing with some phenomenal young musicians in an extremely professional atmosphere under the tutillage of Dr Tom Walsh, whose direction has taught me so much about playing in an ensemble and developed my technique on the saxophone much further than I was at when I arrived.

Over the year we played a huge range of music for big band, from our opening concert in remembrance of the great Sammy Nestico to some contemporary arrangements of Radiohead and other works from young composer emerging on the scene in the USA.

Alongside playing awesome repertoire we were accompanied by guest artists who came to the department and worked some of the ensembles either through jam sessions or in concert including the Emmy nominated Melissa Aldana and the Emmet Cohen trio lead by the “#1 Rising Star Pianist and #4 Rising Star Jazz Artist” as voted by Downbeat (2022).

Both of whom inspired me hugely and their knowledge and passion is something that I hope to take with me as I continue to play, both here at the University of Kent and forwards in my career.

A musical tribute to the late Queen Elizabeth II: Farewell to Stromness

As a reflective tribute to the late Queen Elizabeth II, Head of Music Performance, Dan Harding, plays the gently meditative Farewell to Stromness, written by a former Master of the Queen’s Music, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies.

The piece was written by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies CH CBE (1934 – 2016), who from 2004 to 2014 was Master of the Queen’s Music, a position previously held by composers including Sir Edward Elgar and Arnold Bax, and most recently by Dame Judith Weir. The piece was premiered in 1980, and rose to particular popularity after being performed at the marriage of the then Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall in 2005 in an arrangement for strings.

The village of Stromness lies on the largest of the Orkney Islands, off the coast of Scotland, where the composer lived and worked.The piece was also performed at the service of thanksgiving for the life of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 12 September, 2022 at St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh.

Filmed in the Colyer-Fergusson Building on the University of Kent’s Canterbury campus.

Was It Good For You: international student Charlotte Jeanneret reflects

Charlotte Jeanneret, who studied at Kent last year in the School of English as an exchange student and played the flute in Concert Band and sang in Chorus in the Music department, looks back on her experience.


Music has been the highlight of my experience as an exchange student at the University of Kent.

Charlotte Jeanet (centre) and other musicians before the spring concert in Canterbury Cathedral

I must say the many extracurricular opportunities are what made me choose Canterbury in the first place, but I never thought it would bring me so much joy and discoveries. Indeed, for example, I used to be stuck with the idea that I could not sing… But the openness of the University Chorus convinced me to take it up and I loved it so much that I am now considering joining the choir of my home university, here in Switzerland!

First-year Music Performance Scholar, Yuyu, and Charlotte pictured backstage during Summer Music Week

Although I still have nightmares about Goodwin’s Freefall [who chose that ?! Ed] Wednesday evenings with the Concert Band were always very entertaining and spurred me on musically more than any other ensemble I have ever been part of.  I left for England with just one flute and came back with a piccolo also!

University Concert Band performing in Summer Music Week, conducted by Ian Swatman
University Chorus rehearsing in Canterbury Cathedral ahead of the Spring concert

Finally, music at Kent has allowed me to meet beautiful people with whom I have loved practising, sharing stands and scores, and who have become awesome friends.

I already look forward to coming back.

Was It Good For You: Felicity Bourdillon reflects

Recent graduate from the School of Psychology and Music Award holder, soprano Felicity Bourdillon, President of the Music Society 2021-22,reflects on being involved in extra-curricular music as part of her experience at the University.


When I joined Kent, joining the Music Society, and getting involved with the music department was one of the best decisions I made.

Felicity (front row, middle) with the Chamber Choir performing in the Crypt of Canterbury Cathedral.

During my time at the university, I sang in multiple choirs and was able to experience many different opportunities by singing in a number of unique and historical venues; singing in Canterbury Cathedral is always such an amazing experience! The Colyer-Fergusson building is such a special place for many members of the  Music Department as it is where we came together for our rehearsals, concerts and where we share many student memories.

Minerva Voices, the upper voices chamber choir, singing at the University Carol Service in Canterbury Cathedral

During my time in the music department, I gained so much confidence not only as a musician but as an individual. I was able to develop so many skills and found my singing abilities to improve greatly over the years I was at Kent as a result of the opportunities within the Music Department. This is due to being surrounded by so many other young musicians and the amazing music department staff that always encourage and support you to challenge yourself musically.

Filming a Scholars’ Spotlight in Colyer-Fergusson Hall during the pandemic 

By being part of the music department and the Kent Music Society, I was able to meet so many lovely people; joining in first year as a fresher can be so daunting but the members of the music society were so welcoming. Meeting so many people who share the same passion and love for music making is such a lovely experience and working with them towards concerts is very rewarding. The music department is where I met many of my closest friends and to have all these shared music experiences, makes the friendships even stronger.

Felicity making her valedictory speech as the outgoing President of the Music Society at the Gala concert marking the end of Summer Music Week 

University Music Prizes recognise outstanding contributions to music-making

One of the highlights of Summer Music Week is the Music Prizes ceremony, an occasion to recognise the outstanding contributions made by some of those taking part in extra-curricular music over the course of the academic year.  This year, we were especially delighted to return to the in-person ceremony, which follows the annual Music Scholars’ Lunchtime Recital, and to welcome supporters, benefactors and guests for the first time since 2019.

Charlotte Cane receives her prize from Rosie Turner, Director of the Canterbury Festival

Director of the Canterbury Festival, Rosie Turner, was present to award the Canterbury Festival Prize, awarded annually to a  final-year student who has made an outstanding contribution to music at the University. This year’s winner was second-year postgraduate Architecture student, Charlotte Cane;  a Music Performance Scholar, leading the second violin section in the Symphony Orchestra as well as playing viola in the autumn term, and a viola player in the String Sinfonia, Charlotte also performed the solo viola part in Ulysses Awakes by John Woolrich in the Composer in Focus event with both the composer and her teacher present. 

Professor Keith Mander presents the Colyer-Fergusson Prize to third-year Holly Porton

Former Pro Vice Chancellor and current Chair of the Board of Canterbury Festival, Professor Keith Mander, presented the  Colyer-Fergusson Music Prize: awarded to a student who has made a major contribution to the organisation of music at the University. This year’s winner was second-year Architecture student, Holly Porton;   Secretary to the Music Society, Holly has been particularly helpful in dealing with administrative connections between the Music department and the Music Society. Holly also played clarinet in the Symphony Orchestra and Concert Band, violin in the String Sinfonia, and played piano in the pit band for the spring production by the Musical Theatre Society. 

Second-year postgraduate Biomedical Science student, Kammy Pike, receives her prize from Head of Music Performance, Dan Harding

The John Craven Music Prize: awarded to a returning student who has made a major contribution to music at the University, and this year was awarded jointly to Kammy Pike and Michael Lam. Second-year postgraduate in Biosciences and a Music Performance  Scholar, Kammy Pike has led the Symphony Orchestra this year including in the annual Cathedral Concert, and also plays in the String Sinfonia, with whom she played the final solo movement of Vivaldi’s Spring in a recent performance. 

KMMS Music Performance Scholar, Michael Lam, performing in Colyer-Fergusson Hall in April 2022

Second-year undergraduate and a Music Performance Scholar in the Kent and Medway Medical School, Michael Lam gave an outstanding recital as part of the spring term’s Lunchtime Concert series, the first student to be invited to do so, delivering a highly-accomplished programme entirely from memory. He also played the celeste part in the December concert in Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Suite. The John Craven prizes were presented by Head of Music Performance, Dan Harding (awarded to Michael in absentia, as Michael was on placement throughout the week).

Joanna Adaran (l) and Felicity Bourdillon and Nathan Sharp (r) with David Humphreys’ daughters

The David Humphreys Music Prize is warded to a student who has made a particularly special contribution to music-making; this year, it was awarded jointly to Joanna Adaran, Felicity Bourdillon and Nathan Sharp , and presented by David’s daughters, Belinda and Jo, who spoke briefly about their father’s enjoyment of, and support for, music.

Final-year Comparative Literature and Drama student, Joanna Adaran is a Music Performance Scholar and has been a major participant in this year’s activities by the Musical Theatre Society in showcases and events, and also had a principal role in the society’s production of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame performed in the Great Hall of Kent College in March. She also sings with the Cecilian Choir. 

Final-year Drama and Comparative Literature student, Joanna Adaran, receiving her prize

Final-year Psychology student Felicity Bourdillon holds a Music Performance Award; she has really grown in her abilities this year, taking a lead role in the Chamber Choir, Cecilian Choir and Chorus; she sang the opening solo verse in the University Carol Service at the Cathedral in December, and will be singing the solo Pie Jesu movement of Faure’s Requiem in the chamber choir Crypt concert in June. Her singing has really developed this year, and she has led the soprano section in chamber choir particularly with authority. 

Final-year Psychology student, Felicity Bourdillon (r), receives her prize

Second-year Music and Audio Production student and Music Performance Scholar, drummer Nathan Sharp has been a major force behind the weekly live music nights and Open Mic nights at the Deep End venue in Medway with the Medway Music Society, playing in numerous bands and also being partly responsible for organising the events. He also performed in the Pop Platform event in the Gulbenkian Café in December. 

Second-year Music and Audio Technology student, Nathan Sharp, collects his prize

The final prize, presented by the Director of  Engagement, Philip Pothen, was the University of Kent First-Year Music Prize, which is occasionally awarded to a student who has made a major contribution to music in their first year , and which was awarded to to Yuyu Hosokawa.  Yuyu is a highly accomplished flautist, a Music Performance Scholar and a vital member of the woodwind section in the Symphony Orchestra, playing with poise in both the December and the March Cathedral concerts, as well as taking part in a Music Scholars’ masterclass with the London Conchord Ensemble in March.

Together with the Music Scholars’ Lunchtime Recital which precedes the award ceremony, the two events are an excellent opportunity to highlight some of our outstanding performers and participants who have made such a vital contribution through participating in extra-curricular music alongside their studies, taking the opportunity to engage in rehearsals and performances as part of their cultural life whilst at Kent.

Some of the recital performers, prize winners and prize-givers together after the event

Congratulations to all the prize-winners, and our thanks to all the guests, supporters, and those presenting the prizes, as well as to the performers and all those who came along to support the event.

Images © Chris Wenham / University of Kent