All posts by Daniel Harding

Deputy Director of Music, University of Kent: pianist, accompanist and conductor: jazz enthusiast.

Without borders: Laura Osswald reflects

This year, the Music department is delighted to welcome Erasmus student, Laura Osswald, here for two terms as part of her studies in the School of Psychology. Here, Laura reflects on what music means for her and getting involved in the musical life of the University.


Music has always been a very important part of my life. I have been playing the recorder and the cello for 15 and 13 years respectively. In various orchestras and ensembles from Baroque to contemporary music, some of them international, I have experienced how music does not know any borders.

Making music together with others has always been a great pleasure for me – creating something amazing with people who share your passion is just wonderful. I started studying Psychology in Würzburg, Germany in April 2018 and since then I belong to the Academic Orchestra and a choir. I am very happy about that, not only because of the great music we make, but also because I have met so many nice people from different backgrounds, studying different subjects. Therefore, when I applied for Erasmus at the University of Kent, I was very glad to read about the Music Department with all its various possibilities.

During Welcome Week, I first got in touch with members of the Music Society and they were very friendly and welcoming from the start! In the following weeks, I joined the Symphony Orchestra and the Cecilian Choir, the String Sinfonia and the Pops Orchestra – I didn’t quite expect to be this involved with music at Kent, but I am more than happy about it and enjoy playing in these groups very much! In addition to the regular ensembles, there are some smaller formations for various occasions. Together with Jeni, a violist, I played a duet in the second Open Mic Night of the Music Society. Two weeks ago, I played in a concert in Calais with the University  Camerata which was a great experience and I feel very honoured that I was selected for this ensemble.

The second concert in Kent for me was the Nostalgia Night with the Cecilian Choir.

I am very excited for our next performance, the meditative Advent Breathing Space with Christmas carols and antiphons in a candlelit medieval church this Friday.

Even though you cannot study music on the University’s Canterbury campus, the Music Department offers an amazing variety of opportunities for students who want to get involved. It feels like all the different musicians and ensembles are part of one big family. I am very grateful to be part of that family.

A night to remember: Nostalgia Night research showcase

Congratulations to all the performers involved in last Friday’s Nostalgia Night, a research showcase presented by Dr Chris Deacy in the School of European Culture and Languages as part of this year’s nationwide Being Human Festival.

Dr Chris Deacy

Reader in Theology and Religious Studies at the University, Chris’ event was also a part of the Open Thinking at Kent strand, which promotes ideas and public engagement with University research, led by Will Wollen from the School of Arts. Friday night saw Chris presenting his research into the idea of nostalgia – what it means and how it shapes us as human beings – in a session enhanced by live music provided by the University Chamber Choir, Cecilian Choir and General Harding’s Tomfoolery, the 1940s dance orchestra. Music included Moonlight Serenade, the theme to RainbowWhen I Fall In Love, the theme tune to the Pink Panther,  a Christmas carol, Lady Is A Tramp featuring second-year vocalist Robbie Frederick, and  it all came to a rousing conclusion with the audience joining in to sing Bring Me Sunshine.

The University Cecilian Choir
General Harding’s Tomfoolery

Tomfoolery also played the audience out with The Charleston and American Patrol, before performers and audience mingled in the foyer for a post-event glass of mulled wine.

Before the event, the student barbershop quartet, the Razor Sharps, took to the foyer-stage to entertain the arriving audience with a selection of popular favourites, setting a suitable scene for a trip down Memory Lane.

Singers from the Cecilian and Chamber Choirs: how many can you fit into a selfie…
Members of General Harding’s Tomfoolery backstage…
Some Cecilian Choir who didn’t make it into the previous choir selfie…

Thanks to all those who took part; we brought fun, we brought sunshine, we brought love!

Take a trip down Memory Lane in Nostalgia Night

Next week, the Music department teams up with Dr Chris Deacy, Reader in Theology and Religious Studies at the University, for a special event exploring nostalgia and how it shapes us as human beings, as Nostalgia Night unfolds on Friday 22 November.

Nostalgia Night: what do YOU remember ?!
Dr Chris Deacy

The event is part of the national Being Human Festival, the UK’s only nation-wide festival of the Humanities, and brings together live music, audio clips, interviews and an interactive quiz, as Chris investigates the idea of nostalgia through words and music. Chris’ series of podcasts explores the theme with interviews as part of his research, and the event next week will see contributions from some of those interviewed as well as performances from the University Chamber and Cecilian Choirs, the 1940’s dance orchestra General Harding’s Tomfoolery, and instrumentalists. Music includes Moonlight Serenade, When I Fall In Love, The Pink Panther and other corner-stones of memory throughout the generations.

Tickets are free (reserved in advance here),  bring your dancing-shoes and join us as we take a trip down memory lane for what promises to be a night to, er, remember!

All that jazz: General Tomfoolery is back in action…

Dust off your dancing-shoes, you’re going to need them this year; the 1940’s dance orchestra, General Harding’s Tomfoolery, has emerged phoenix-like from the ashes and is back playing once more.

The ensemble performs from original sheet-music bequeathed to the Music department back in 2005 by George and Maureen Morgan; the collection belonged to George’s group, the Ken Lewis Dance Orchestra, which was active throughout the 1950s to the 1970s playing around the county. This wonderful legacy form the core repertoire for the department’s ensemble, which breathes life anew into the vintage parts.

This year, the group is joined by guest singers with an international spirit, second-years Elle Soo (from Singapore) and Robbie Frederick (from Spain). Elle will be familiar to followers of the University Big Band, with whom she sang last year and continues to do so this year; both Elle and Robbie are bringing alive classic tunes including Lady Is A Tramp and Baby, It’s Cold Outside.

The ensemble will be in action as part of Nostalgia Night on Friday 22 November, performing pieces including Moonlight Serenade,  and then taking to the foyer-stage at 1.10pm for A Christmas Tomfoolery, on Weds 11 December, as a prelude to the ‘Christmas Swingalong’ later that day.

It promises to be a vintage year – make sure you catch them playing this year; details on our What’s One pages here.

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.