All posts by Daniel Harding

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

Seat of learning: dedicating the David Humphreys memorial bench

A lovely occasion this morning, which saw the dedication of the memorial bench to the late David Humphreys, a wonderful supporter of music-making at the University, and whose legacy continues to support the University Chamber Choir’s annual concert in the Crypt of Canterbury Cathedral.

(l-r): Peter Coleman, Joseph Bryant, Dan Harding, Floris Claassens, Marek Iwaniak; Carmen Mackey, Alice Shires, Helen Sotillo, Fleur Sumption(lir): Peter Coleman, Joseph Bryant, Dan Harding, Floris Claassens, Marek Iwaniak; Alice Shires, Helen Sotillo, Fleur Sumption

The bench, which overlooks the historic Cathedral city from the hill between Eliot and Rutherford Colleges, commands perhaps the finest view of Canterbury, and was a favourite spot of David’s. Members of his family were present at the occasion, at which some of this year’s Chamber Choir sang Tallis’ If Ye Love Me, one of David’s favourite choral works.

Our continued thanks to David and his family for their terrific support, which provides a wonderful experience for members of the Choir each generation.

David Humphreys with the University Chamber Choir at the Crypt Concert in 2012

Hannah’s American Diary: the Last Word

In the final instalment of her American Diary, second-year Drama and English Language and Linguistics student and Music Performance Scholar, Hannah Ost, reflects on the final part of her experience at the French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts in New York, including teaching a Geordie accent as a Kentish dweller…


Apologies for the very long delay in this blog post! I have well and truly thrown myself back into university life and especially into preparations for the Chamber Choir, which I am conducting this year. But, to take you back a month and a half, I’d like to tell you about my final session at French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts and how this fantastic summer came to a close…

This session got off to an absolutely flying start. I got put on two shows – a junior show called Freckleface Strawberry, which was, needless to say, adorable. Also, the director of the camp itself runs one show per session. This time it was Billy Elliot and I got one of the Musical Directing roles on the show team! It was so nerve-wracking being given so much responsibility, especially with the time constraints; I only got the score two days before the first rehearsal, so very little time to prepare.

As normal, I was also teaching six, half-hour voice lessons per day, so my schedule was jam-packed! Once the session got started, I was rarely two steps away from a piano. I even took part in the Staff Show (High School Musical), in which I played Kelsi – the piano playing Musical Director, what a coincidence!

The camp gives out scholarships to certain children, particularly for music, and many of them are invited during the final session of camp. I had such wonderful musicians in my cabin (where my co-counselors and I looked after thirteen children, outside of my jobs in the two departments I worked in). Five of them were music scholars and one was even the leader of the concert band! We had many a chat about what music was like where we are from and the kids were excited to learn about the music department at the University of Kent.

Making a show in twelve days is incredibly hard. We had two, hour-long rehearsals per day, so effectively each show is made in twenty-four hours: just one full day. As the only English person on the Billy Elliot show team, it became my job to teach the cast, aged 11-17, the Geordie accent, which, as someone who has lived in Kent for their entire life, is not something I was particularly familiar with! I put to use all of the skills I learnt in first year Linguistics classes and did some online research and by the end of the rehearsals, I had most of the kids doing pretty decent Geordie accents… even if I do say so myself! I also taught two of the songs from the show (as there were three MDs working on the production) which the cast absolutely nailed. I’m sure they are all future Broadway stars.

Freckleface Strawberry was a different story entirely. I did become somewhat of a babysitter during this show; sitting with the kids and helping them to learn the songs – singing the lyrics with them when they got stuck. Our youngest cast member was just five years old, so needed a little push in the right direction occasionally!

Both shows were hugely successful – full standing ovations at every performance. It is an indescribably amazing feeling to see a cast of young people standing on a stage, belting out music you have taught them and absolutely having the time of their lives. When camp came to its end, everyone was incredibly emotional, me especially, as Billy Elliot was the final show, on the final night of camp. Afterwards, many of the students I had taught from the session, including some I had taught for multiple sessions, came up to me to thank me for what they had learnt. It was very moving and a bittersweet end to my time at French Woods Festival.

I did also get to see a bit of America when camp finished! Times Square, Broadway, even a trip down to Universal in Florida were planned for my last ten days in the US, before my flight back to Heathrow. All summer long, I kept a travel journal and I actually managed to visit seven states during my stay! It’s been not just a learning experience, but a cultural eye-opener as well. I’ve met so many people from all around the world and have friends in not just America, but Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Mexico and many more places too – I am so grateful and humbled by the experience.

I’d like to thank everyone who made this past summer possible – the music department at the University and all of its patrons. It has been utterly life-changing and I picked up many transferrable skills which I am now applying to my conducting, musical directing and vocal classes here at Kent. This experience has been one I will definitely remember forever!

Picture Credits: French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts

Unique exhibition opens a window into Hansel and Gretel

The walls of the Colyer-Fergusson Gallery are currently inviting visitors into a world of darkness, as the space presents for the first time some of the designs and the artwork leading into (and forming part of) a reimagining of the tale of Hansel and Gretel, which Goldfield Productions brings to Colyer-Fergusson in a few weeks’ time. A unique combination of live music, puppetry, projection and shadow-play, the performance brings to life a new take on the classic Brothers Grimm tale by the poet Simon Armitage, with a score by composer Matthew Kaner; the exhibition offers an evocative glimpse into the visual world in which the production takes place.

The display presents the work of artists Clive Hicks-Jenkins, Phil Cooper and Peter Lloyd, which charts the development of the design of the stage presentation, and includes some of the original drawings for a picture-book commissioned from Hicks-Jenkins by Random Spectacular, which turned out to be the starting-point for the whole project. Hicks-Jenkins also designed a cut-out-and-assemble toy theatre on the theme of Hansel & Gretel for Pollock’s Toy Shop in Covent Garden, and original gouache paintings for the toy theatre also feature in the exhibition.

The artworks occupy a wide range of media, from photography, drawing and painting, collage and paper cut-outs, including work by the Whitstable-based painter, Phil Cooper, reflecting his contributions as model-maker and scenic artist to the production.

Image from the production of ‘Hansel and Gretel.’ Image credit: Still Moving Media courtesy of Cheltenham Festival

The exhibition also features the work of paper-cut artist Peter Lloyd, who made the silhouette animation puppets of the Witch.

The Witch: created by Clive Hicks-Jenkins, paper-cut animation puppet by Peter Lloyd

For the first and only time during the touring production, both the performance and the artwork which informs it are presented together on the University’s Canterbury campus, an enticing visual odyssey which hints at a fascinating performance which will fill the concert-hall on Sunday 21 October.

Image from the production of ‘Hansel and Gretel.’ Image credit: Still Moving Media courtesy of Cheltenham Festival

You can find out more about Hicks-Jenkins’ four-year project on Hansel and Gretel over the artist’s blog here. In the meantime, the gallery is open during normal working hours including at weekend; admission is free, and there is disabled access.

Hansel and Gretel (a nightmare in eight scenes) is presented by the Music Department in partnership with the Canterbury Festival; find out more about the performance here.

Festival logoClive Hicks-Jenkins : www.hicks-jenkins.com
Phil Cooper : www.phil-cooper.com

All the fun of the (Freshers’) Fayre

We’ve reached the end of Welcome Week here at Kent, at today sees the second day of Freshers’ Fayre on the Canterbury campus. The piazza outside Jarman and the marquee in Eliot car-park  thrum with activity, as the myriad societies vie for punters amongst faces new and old thronging the campus.

Amongst the hordes can be spotted members of the Music Society, who over the past two days have been spreading the word about the profusion of extra-curricular music-making opportunities afforded to students (and staff!) in the University community; yesterday the committee was based in the foyer in Colyer-Fergusson, where the live stage also hosted live chamber music; today, the committee is in the Eliot marquee.

Music Society Exec 2018: l-r Alice Shires (Secretary), Fleur Sumption (President), Molly Richetta (Treasurer)

Well done to all the team involved over the past several days, led from the front by this year’s Music Society President, third-year Fine Art student, Fleur Sumption (pictured above), supported by her very active team. The Music Society will be joined by the Musical Theatre Society at the Music Intro on Monday 24th October at 7.30pm in Colyer-Fergusson, open to all students at the University, to meet Music Department staff, learn more about the various ensembles and sign up for auditions. See you Monday…

Hannah’s American Diary: Part Three

The third part of Music Scholarship student Hannah Ost‘s summer diary at the French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts in New York…


I’ve just finished at camp and have so much to write about. It’s been so busy, I’ve had no time at all to blog! Here it is, my second session at camp, which brought lots of challenging hurdles to overcome.

I mentioned in my last diary entry that I was going to be the Musical Director and play piano in the pit band for the show Junie B Jones. Well, only 50% of that turned out to be true; I was the Musical Director for the show, but since we ended up using a drummer for the show as well, I decided to conduct and somebody else stepped in, to fill my shoes as pianist. It was a real learning experience to conduct both the musicians and the performers together, especially seeing as the performers were so young – the youngest was nine years old! Myself and my Co-MD, Nicole, taught the full score in what was effectively 24 hours (12 days of 2 hour rehearsals) and the show was a huge hit with parents, staff and campers alike. Definitely a highlight from my time at French Woods.

Again, I taught a lot of voice lessons and it was great to see how much the students learnt in just three, half-hour sessions.

That’s all for this post, I’ll post an update with all the details from my third and final session at camp soon!


Read the previous extract here.

New season, new brochure: a look ahead

We’re delighted to reveal the new season of our What’s On is now launched online!

Ferio Saxophone Quartet (Image: James Mccormick)

Our customary Lunchtime Concert series this term brings the Ferio Saxophone Quartet, an exploration of the music to Hitchcock’s classic Vertigo and seasonal music from the CantiaQuorum ensemble; the University Chorus and Orchestra explore the ‘Old and New’ in a programme of seventeenth century music and modern realisations and responses to it; the University Musical Theatre Society performs its termly showcase including songs from Chicago, Hamilton and Dream Girls, and the term concludes in festive style with the traditional Christmas Swing-Along featuring the University Big Band.

Hansel and Gretel (Image: Still Moving Media with permission from Cheltenham Festival)

Together with the Canterbury Festival, we also bring a dark realisation of the story of Hansel and Gretel in a blend of chamber music, puppetry and animation, with music written by composer Matthew Kaner to words by Simon Armitage; the Festival also brings percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie and Trio HLK in November. Elsewhere, Aurora Orchestra brings Mozart, Mendelssohn and Jorg Widmann, and there’s a chance to hear Sir Thomas Allen. With visits too from local societies and orchestras, the new autumn season will see Colyer-Fergusson Hall filled with music old and new as we head towards the festive season.

See all that’s to come online here, or download the brochure (PDF) here; we look forward to welcoming you to Colyer-Fergusson over the coming months.

Good musicians really do make good students!

Congratulations to everyone who graduated from the University in July, especially to the many musicians amongst the mortar-boards and gowns swirling around the Cathedral Precincts and celebrating their success. Included as part of the throng were the following:

Douglas Haycock, President of the Music Society 2017-18, Music Scholar reading Law
Lydia Cheng, Music Scholar reading Law
Benjamin Weiland, Music Performance Award holder reading Law
Alice Scott, Secretary of the Music Society, reading English and American Literature and Religious Studies
Imogen Willetts, Music Performance Award holder reading Classical and Archeological Studies and Drama

We wish them – and everyone else who graduated! – all the very best for the future.

Photos © Matt Wilson / University of Kent

Added value: University Music Performance Scholarships

Musicians are versatile people. They are used to the discipline of rehearsing and practising, to the expectations of conductors and collaborators that they will arrive for an event prepared and able to deliver. They are organised (hopefully, anyway), accustomed to setting aside time to practice and juggling rehearsals and performances alongside other demands of life – shopping, studying, going to school, taking exams, doing the laundry, filling out forms (oh the heady glamour…). They are used to working under pressure, performing in the white-heat of the public eye (and ear) in concerts. And they are usually skilled at working with others, at establishing working relationships quickly and confidently.

Here at Kent, the University recognises that all these qualities are immensely valuable in its students, and that potential students looking for a suitable university at which to pursue their degree may often be trained musicians, who have combined their school life with musical commitments for many years, and who want to continue with their musical interests alongside their course of study. If you’ve spent many years learning an instrument or taking singing lessons, putting in endless hours of practice and performance, then music forms a large, rewarding, part of your life that you don’t necessarily want wholly to rescind when you go to university, and it can be a challenge adjusting to the gaping chasm left in your life that was previously occupied by music; listening to it, practising it, performing it.

So we offer Music Performance Scholarships to those who are keen to continue with their musical pursuits whilst studying at Kent. Our Music Scholars (usually numbering between ten and fifteen each year) come from across the university community, studying all manner of subjects from Law to Biosciences, Wildlife Conservation to Politics and International Relations, History to Drama. There are Scholars from across the country; from far-flung corners of the world (Malaysia, South Africa, India, Canada to name a few); and from across the county of Kent itself. All of them, however, united in their enthusiasm for, and commitment to continue making, music for the three years during which they take up residency in Canterbury. Whether attending lectures in Woolf College, drama rehearsals in Jarman, mock sessions in the Moot building as part of Kent Law School, or maths seminars in the Sibson Building, they will all, at various points during the week, make their way in to the Colyer-Fergusson Building to rehearse in the concert-hall or practice in the practice-rooms. And throughout the year, they will perform not only in Colyer-Fergusson Hall, but in Canterbury Cathedral, Deal Memorial Bandstand, and churches and venues around the county, making lifelong friends with others along the way.
Percussionist and former Music Scholar, Cory Adams, talks about his experience, playing with the Concert and Big Bands, Orchestra, General Harding’s Tomfoolery and other ensembles:

And here’s brief excerpts from the Music Scholars’ Lunchtime Recital given as part of Summer Music Week in June this year:

Blond ambition: clarinettist Rianna Carr

The university recognises and values the skills and abilities that musicians can bring to its community when they come to Kent to study; the phrase ‘Good musicians make good students’ is often quoted, with Scholars often going on to graduate with first-class degrees. If that includes you, then take a look at our Scholarships page online here, and see how you could become involved in a rich musical life alongside whatever course you may be looking to study.