Category Archives: Be My Guest

Guest posts and contributions.

Court in the act: from playing the trumpet to working at Wimbledon with first-year Sophie Kitson

Not content with filling her extra-curricular life at Kent with both music and sporting activities, first-year Forensic Science student and trumpeter, Sophie Kitson, could recently been spotted on the courts at Wimbledon, where she has been working these past three weeks as a line judge.

When not playing with the Women’s Cricket Team at the University, Sophie can also be found amongst the trumpet-sections of the Concert Band and Big Band, but lately swapped her instrument for a smart blazer and the opportunity to act as a line judge at this year’s Championship.

“Having played tennis since I was three years old and coached for the past couple of years,” reflects Sophie, “I was given the opportunity to attend a line umpire course in Loughborough at the beginning of May. Upon passing the course I became a qualified LTA official. Just a couple of days after the course I was told I’d been selected to line umpire at the Nottingham Trophy, Wimbledon qualifying and the Wimbledon main draw! This past month has been slightly surreal, working on court with some of the best players in the world! And getting to put on the Ralph Lauren line umpire uniform and walk onto court at Wimbledon for the first time was slightly nerve-wracking but an absolutely amazing experience. I even had the chance to be on Court 12 (a semi-show court) twice in the two weeks; having never had a crowd that big and seeing yourself on BBC iPlayer was pretty cool!”

Congratulations, Sophie, on what must have been a memorable experience – we hope you’re all ‘set’ to play in the trumpet-section again in September…

Extra-curricular music at Kent: the Music Society view

Here’s a pass-the-baton-with-a-difference introduction to being involved in extra-curricular music at the University, from members of this year’s Music Society.

We hear from Music Society President, David Curtiss (Physics), Holly Porton (Architecture), Felicity Bourdillon (Psychology), Amy Tokel (Drama & Theatre Studies), international student Paschalis Kontypyrgos, (Psychology), Ellie Gould (Biomedical Science), Beth Chapman (English Language & Linguistics and German), Harriet Wilde (Psychology),b (Drama & Theatre Studies) and Maddie Rigby (Drama & Theatre Studies).

Filmed in isolation; edited and created by Maddie Rigby

Find out more about getting involved on our website here.

Coming home: Laura Osswald reflects on music-making and the impact of lockdown

Erasmus-student, cellist and singer, Laura Osswald, looks back on her time as part of extra-curricular music-making, and how she continues to be involved all the way from her home Germany during lockdown.

More than two months have passed since I have left the University of Kent. But the connection with the Music Department is still strong and will continue to be.

Card on the table: Laura (left) backstage in Colyer-Fergusson

Looking back on my Erasmus semester in Canterbury, music and the amazing people I got to know through it were a huge part of what turned this time into a great, enriching experience. Music allowed me to develop friendships not just based on the common fate of going to the same lecture or living in the same flat, but based on the shared passion of making music, especially making music together with others.

Within the music department, I never felt like a stranger – instead, going into the Colyer-Fergusson building more and more felt like coming home.

Being part of the Symphony Orchestra, the Cecilian Choir and the String Sinfonia and several small groups, I was very involved in the Music Department from the start. In my blogpost from November, I could only look back on the first concerts, but many more have followed. Christmas time had started wonderfully with the Advent Breathing Space with the Cecilian Choir in the medieval St Michael’s Church in Hernhill. My first term then ended with the fantastic concert with the Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. 2020 continued to be full of various musical activities. For Alice in Wonderland, I got the chance of not only singing in a choir, but also dancing as a playing-card which I enjoyed very much!

On the cards: the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ chorus in rehearsal

With the amazing University Camerata, we had a nice family concert of Peter and the Wolf where I was leading the cello section – so exciting and a great experience! I also continued to make chamber music: I joined a string quartet that performed at the Law Ball and a piano trio. With the Symphony Orchestra and String Sinfonia, we worked hard on our repertoire for the concerts in the end of March and I loved our rehearsals – but unfortunately, Covid-19 came in the way. Particularly the cancellation of the Cathedral Concert was very sad for me as it would have offered the unique opportunity to play in the impressive Canterbury Cathedral – I even would have had a small solo in Duruflé’s Requiem. It would have been a great finale for my musical time in Kent.

Laura (second from left) with the chamber group

But then, we found an alternative ending: a Facebook livestream concert with a piano quintet playing the beautiful music of Ólafur Arnalds. This was actually a dream of mine coming true, since I have loved his music for years and always wanted to play it myself – and now I could, together with four amazing musicians. I am very thankful that this happened, giving me a perfect ending to my Erasmus semester and bringing a bit of calm and peace into a troubled world.

When I think of all the music-making and concerts I have been part of, I am incredibly grateful that I had this opportunity and I am so happy I could experience all of this before the coronavirus started to change our lives so much. However, a positive side-effect is the emergence of the virtual music projects! Thanks to the great commitment of Dan Harding and the wonders of technology, I can continue playing with the people I love and miss. Of course, this is very different from making music together face-to-face and it can’t quite replace it, but nevertheless it is a beautiful opportunity to maintain my connection to Canterbury, the Music Department and joint music-making in general.

Social distant-strings; Laura recording as part of the Virtual Music Project from her home in Germany

The music, the memories and the people will stay in my heart. Thank you for welcoming me in Canterbury with open arms, I hope I can come back one day.

Are the performing arts more accessible in lockdown? A reflection on accessing live music in lockdown, shielding and solitude.

As part of our occasional guest series, a reflection on the arts in lockdown by Dr Francesca Bernardi, RSA Fellow and independent researcher into children’s rights, dis/abilities and the arts.

Sometimes people like to use the phrase ‘wearing different hats’ as an expression of versatility, in different contexts or in a single space that requires one to assume different guises to get through the day (at the very least). I suppose that might be a good way to start a brief introduction of my own different hats. I would describe my self as a children’s rights and dis/ability activist, but then feel I am neglecting the very medium of such activism: the arts, visual and performing.

Francesca Bernardi

In this time of crisis I have worn a new guise which has been with me always (unnoticed) and has positioned me in a place of vulnerability and, consequently, I am shielding. Responding to this heightened vulnerable self, has caused me to look at personal ideas, hopes and ambitions in a very different light. I have also been hit financially by the changing shape of academia and my potential role within that space. An added sense of displacement comes from my inability to return to Italy (my home) where I would like to continue my research with communities that are seldom heard, in research, the media and their own social spheres.

Continue reading Are the performing arts more accessible in lockdown? A reflection on accessing live music in lockdown, shielding and solitude.

Creativity in the time of corona: guest post by Livy Potter

Former University Music Scholar and History gradaute, Livy Potter, now works at York Theatre Royal. In a special guest post, she reflects on the impact of the current climate on theatre-making.

The creative industry, like many others, is having a rather turbulent time of late (unprecedented, you might say – but if I hear or read that word one more time, I may scream). York Theatre Royal, along with theatres and cinemas up and down the country, closed its doors and cancelled all its upcoming performances following government advice on Tuesday 17 March. I was faced with the strange prospect of being the Marketing Officer for an organisation whose usual function is to entertain large groups of people in a confined space…

But can a theatre still have a purpose even if its doors are shut?

Continue reading Creativity in the time of corona: guest post by Livy Potter

A chicken sandwich, a shoe emergency and a conductor’s baton: a day in the life of Hannah Ost

Recently, first-year Music Performance Scholar, Hannah Ost, had the opportunity to work as Music Assistant to Andrew Lippa at the Royal Festival Hall; here, she reflects on the hectic pace of life, the need for the right shoes, and working on The Little Princess

A few months ago, I saw an email advertising open auditions for Andrew Lippa and Brian Crawley’s musical A Little Princess. The auditions were for the main child leads and, needless to say, I was a little bit too old to go! However, there was contact information listed, so I decided to send an email to express my interest in the show and offer my assistance in any way possible. To my great surprise, I received an email back from the executive directors of the show, who had forwarded my email to Andrew’s full-time assistant. There were a couple of emails back and forth between us and about a week later I found myself sitting in my study, on a Skype call with Mr. Andrew Lippa himself (mildly freaking out, as he is my all-time favourite composer, but managing to keep calm and composed… if you’ll pardon the pun!) He talked to me about the possibility of my being his assistant; we went through the role, his expectations of me and what I should expect on rehearsal days.

So it came to be that on Friday lunchtime (25th June), I found myself carrying a chicken salad and diet coke to the Southbank Centre, to give to Mr Lippa, in a rehearsal for his musical, ‘A Little Princess’. I made notes during the Sitzprobe and formatted them to send in the evening. I got to listen to incredible singers, and musicians (from the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra) perform incredible music, being conducted by the incredible man who wrote it. We had dinner together and we talked a bit about me and my background, and also about his work and his life. He gave me some tips on making it in the industry, how to conduct a cast and orchestra and how the process of composing a full-length musical begins. It was a little surreal, considering Lippa’s music has been some of my favourites for years!

But Friday was nothing in comparison to the crazy day I had on Monday 28th…

9am – I arrived at Andrew’s hotel room, ready to head to the theatre. Helped him with his bags, got in a car and went through the Artist’s Door to the Royal Festival Hall at about 9:30.

10:30am – Technical rehearsal. I sat in the 2nd Violinist’s chair onstage and looked out at the 2,900 soon-to-be-filled seats, down at the performers, then back at Andrew, who was conducting the pianist and actors. Once again, surreal.

2:30pm – Dress rehearsal! I sat in the middle of the front row and watched the full thing. It was a fantastic opportunity and if anybody went to see the performance, you’ll know just how talented that cast was.

5pm – At roughly 5pm, we broke for dinner and Andrew went to get prepared for the show. All’s going well until I realise the showbiz after party is tonight and I’m going to be there. I look down at my £6 Primark plimsoles… I need shoes.

6pm – With an hour ’til house opens and Andrew getting ready in his dressing room, I walk 15 minutes to the Strand and frantically run around trying to find a cheap size 5 pair of heels. After spending 15 more minutes in a Next, I decide on a pair that fits and hurry back to the theatre.

6:55pm (5 minutes before house opens): I wait for the slowest lift in the world to come to my floor, shoot up to the stage and check everything is how it should be: Baton in place, scores organised, water bottles in position. I race back to the dressing room and get there on the dot of 7pm. Showbiz life: nailed.

7:25: Act One beginners call! I take my place in the stage right wing and page the curtain for Andrew, as he enters at 7:30, to begin the show…

From here, my job was essentially finished for a couple of hours. Besides paging the curtain, I was free to watch the show on the monitors and listen to the roar of the crowd after every number. I became a bit like a backstage helper, helping cast members find props, bringing cups of water to nervous performers, drawing the curtains after an exit/entrance. It was wonderful to see the smiles on the kids’ faces especially – when they came off stage after a big number!

At roughly 10:30, after packing up Andrew’s music, I joined him at the after-show party, where I was introduced to performers, press and agents alike. I shook hands with so many people I couldn’t even begin to count and exchanged details with a few too! Being in the presence of so many experienced industry professionals was amazing and I was happy to listen to them talk about their experiences working in musical theatre, television, film; I even spoke to some musical directors which made my heart leap just a little bit!

After that, myself and his full-time assistant, Matt Webster, got Andrew into a car back to his hotel, rejoined and stayed at the party ’til it ended at 11pm. I got the train home, albeit a little too tipsy for my own good, and hit the hay for a needed sleep.

So what does all of this mean for me?

Well, as someone whose life goal is to be a West End Musical Director, these two days gave me the opportunity to see how professional theatre comes together. I’ve worked in ‘Am-Dram’, but this was very different to that in a lot of ways. The main difference is the amount of people it takes to make a show. In the world of youth theatre schools, a sound 15 people will make up the backstage team. In professional theatre, there were at least that many people on the stage at any given moment, with another 30 backstage at least! You realise everybody has their own very specific job, which is of the utmost importance to them, but which others do not realise is happening. It is always non-stop and I barely sat down for two days… but that’s the exciting thing. There was always something to observe. I observed how to conduct an orchestra, two choirs and a full cast simultaneously. I observed how hierarchy works in the business. I observed how and how not to behave in the working world and it’s given me a brilliant new outlook to apply to my own endeavours at University.

Hannah rehearsing the ‘Pitch Project,’ an a cappella group she has formed at Kent this year

A lot of life lessons were learned in a very short space of time, but I am honoured to have worked for my favourite composer, on a fantastic production at the Royal Festival Hall. One of the best experiences of my life so far, for sure!

A letter from Vienna: Ben Weiland

Currently studying abroad for a year as part of his European Legal Studies with Kent Law School, and a member of the University Chorus and Cecilian Choir, singer Ben Weiland writes from Vienna…

Ben (centre, back) with the Cecilian Choir singing at Heart Kent Radio in 2016

Hello from Vienna! I just wanted to share what I’ve been up to and ask how everything is going with Kent music – I’m missing the Cecilian Choir! I saw that you did the Fauré Requiem recently – very jealous. What an absolutely marvellous work! I remember seeing the programme for the Colyer-Fergusson Cathedral as well which also looked marvellous – Tchaikovsky Symphony 6! I very much look forward to returning to it all in September!

Spending this year in Vienna has been (and will continue to be) an utter delight. It is a thriving city, full of life and excitement. The greatest beauty Vienna has to offer for me is its musical culture, which is unique and unparalleled. I didn’t fully comprehend until I arrived just how central Vienna has been to the history of music. It’s obviously famous for Mozart and Schubert, but Beethoven, Brahms and many other towering figures had lived and composed here. As a result, the current musical tradition is still very strong; you can’t walk around a corner without seeing the famous golden Musikverein poster advertising a concert, or a similar advertisement for an opera at the Staatsoper. Concert-going, I realised early on, is very much both a cultural and societal affair. It’s almost a customary tradition for the Viennese aristocracy to suit up and attend operas and concerts, as if it’s simply a matter of course. This isn’t to say it’s taken for granted, but this is just how life is – the people are surrounded by this supreme musical wealth. However, for someone outside of this aristocracy, the concerts are still very accessible. Ticket prices can be very reasonable depending on certain factors – very often I have decided to go to a concert on the day, which is made possible due to standing tickets (3-4 Euros for the opera; 5-6 Euros for the Musikverein). It cannot be stressed enough, the joy of knowing that every day there is a world-class concert that I could go to if I felt like it.

From a personal standpoint, I was very keen to go to the Musikverein, as this was the home of my father when he studied and played the violin here (before becoming a composer) in his early 20s. He had a month playing in the Vienna Philharmonic, so it was a must for me to attend a concert as soon as possible. I also had to refresh my memory of the great building, as I came here when I was little to attend the concert of my father’s piano trio, performed by the Altenberg Trio. I am reminded of a photo of me standing on the Brahmsaal stage, with the performers at the end of the concert, and naturally it was a very surreal experience for me to be there once again, around 14-15 years later. I have managed to go and hear the superb Altenberg Trio perform twice since being here and it is quite something, hearing wonderful pieces being performed with such a pure beauty. I still get a fuzzy feeling whenever I walk into the Grossersaal (or ‘Golden Hall’), even though by now I must have gone in over twenty times! Its nickname of the ‘Golden Hall’ is very apt, the clue is in the name – there is gold everywhere.

Alongside concert life, I have also been taking part in a lot of singing. Initially, it was just with the University Choir. We had a wonderful first semester, singing Frank Martin’s Mass with the Symphony Choir, and a range of baroque pieces (Palestrina, Byrd) with the Chamber Choir. The highlight, however, has to be the Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony that we performed with the University Orchestra at the Musikverein in September. This was an extraordinary experience! As if I hadn’t been reminded enough, standing on the stage of the Golden Hall it hit me that this is the home of the ground-breaking, incredible piece of music. It was first performed in 1824 here in Vienna, along with so many of Beethoven’s other works. Like with any really great music, regardless of other factors such as the history, it’s very hard to put into words the feelings, emotions and significance of experiencing it – all I can say is that it was a very special evening for everyone involved, something I will remember forever.

Ben (right) with the Cecilian Choir in 2016

Singing in the Symphony choir continues this semester, but the most exciting development since being in Vienna was being invited to sing in a professional choir – the Philharmonia Chor Wien – in productions of Verdi’s opera Rigoletto in an Austrian festival in the summer. Needless to say I was absolutely thrilled by the opportunity, and after already having a week’s rehearsals I am in awe of what the summer promises. The Philharmonia Chor Wien perform regularly at the Salzburg festival and the Baden-Baden festival, and receive engagements from major institutions and orchestras, such as the Berlin Philharmonic and Vienna Philharmonic. I was aware of this before attending my first rehearsal, and indeed I was expecting a high standard, but was still nonetheless taken-aback by the quality of the choir’s sound. As the choir specialises more in operatic music, the sound is different to what I’m used to with more traditional, church choral music. It is different but in a very positive sense; in many ways richer and grander. The eminent chorus master and founder of the choir has very kindly been giving me some lessons, teaching me a real grounding in what is required of an operatic voice. Certainly, my voice has come on a lot in such a short space of time.

This exploration into operatic music has opened my eyes to an area I never had much experience with previously. My musical upbringing has always been with choral, chamber and orchestral music – a wide spectrum but one that can only offer insight to a certain extent into opera. My initial impressions are there is definitely a specific charm to opera that isn’t found in, for example, orchestral music. I am still trying to decide whether I am left overall satisfied to the same degree as with orchestral and choral music, but certainly in the Rigoletto there is a type of excitement and drama to the music that I haven’t come across before. This is ignoring the fact that acting is required in opera as well (something I’m looking forward to engaging in, albeit slightly nervously). Definitely this is one of the many aspects of life here that I wish to try and understand far more by time I leave in the summer, and what better place to learn than to be able to go to one of (if not the) greatest opera institutions in the world – the Wiener Staatsoper – every day if I wanted to!

I could write a small book on the musical life of Vienna, and undoubtedly there is much that I have left out of this short piece. There is so much more to be learnt and experienced throughout this semester, and to enjoy in the summer the numerous Musical festivals Austria puts on show. After my stay here I will have to sit down and try to write out everything that I have seen and experienced – a difficult task! The irony is that I’m actually here to be studying Law, which has been also very stimulating and of course I have been immersing myself in my studies, but music is my love and passion. When an opportunity to be in a place like this comes around, it has to be grabbed with both hands!

I just really wanted to share the experiences I have been having, say hello, and express my looking forward to returning to the University next year. I trust everyone is well at Kent and wish everyone the best for the rest of the year!

Be My Guest: recent graduate and singer Dan Pargeter on choral life after Kent

Recent Classics graduate, Dan Pargeter, on musical life at Kent, and continuing choral life afterwards in a new barbershop group named after a former well-known rehearsal venue on the campus…


I have often wondered, just when exactly would it be my time to contribute to this space? And what would it be that I contribute? I have read the pieces that precede this one, many written by talented musicians who I am fortunate enough to call friends. Friends with whom I have spent countless happy hours, over the course of my university career, making music. One more time then still, allow me to join you. Fitting is it that the occasion I write about now began at the University of Kent.

First Music Social – I arrive a little late, who would’ve thought, me!? Better late than never. For me before, not ever has the phrase rung so true. Told to join something, anything, at university; a music society was better than I had hoped. Monday night Chorus rehearsals? Yeah, why not, a great way to start the week. Hmmm Tuesday evening Chamber Choir practice, sign up for auditions here. A little soon after Monday, but well, nothing to lose right! Apart from my voice almost, before my audition, but that’s the state it’s in at the end of Freshers’ week and immediately after football trials. Just give it your all. 110% even! Evidently I was still in football trial mode.

What a wonderful four years it was. University Chorus, Chamber Choir, Cecilian Choir, even a spot of barbershopping. Rehearsals, concerts, soirees, champagne receptions. Of course I’d do it all again, exactly like that, in a heartbeat. But unfortunately it cannot be.

So what now?

Keep singing. And so I did.

I received an email about a choir that was based not too far away from me, which rehearsed on a Monday night 7.15-9.30pm. ‘Hmmm,’ I thought, ‘I’ve done that before.’ A little earlier a start than I am used to perhaps, but I’ll most likely be late every week of course so actually it is quite perfect.

Rehearsing for my first concert with the choir. Early days but how it felt good to be singing again. Life after Kent.

An opportunity arises. There’s a vacant spot in the concert. They are interested in the barbershop group I’d briefly mentioned at some point. ‘Wow, yes, that would be great.’ So I ask the boys, send over a recording, and we are in the programme as guest performers. Our first gig on pastures new.

Interested in the barbershop. Naturally. Look at us. Interesting bunch to say the least…
Interested in the barbershop. Naturally. Look at us. Interesting bunch to say the least…

A wonderful reason to get together with the old gang. With a month to prepare, we will give it our all and hope for the best.

June 29th, 2013 – Royal Opera House Fused Festival

The beginning of a long day. The boys stayed at mine the night before. A quick sing-through our programme but little more than that. We arrive at the venue, the London Cruise Terminal, shortly before midday. Not quite sure what to expect, we receive a warm welcome from the events team. We are swiftly guided through to the performance space, where we await our scheduled sound check.

First glimpse of the venue
First glimpse of the venue

Ah, an encouraging sign. I notice a smile on the face of a member of the sound team when we finish our first line. Hopefully not the last smile of the day! We sing through our set, careful not to do too much, and once everyone is satisfied we thank the crew and depart the performance area. However this doesn’t mean that today’s preparations stop here. I still have a rehearsal with the Chorus. And then there are the two workshops that the barbershop has signed up to. An action-packed day ahead!

At 2pm, finished with Chorus rehearsal, I head over with the other chaps to take part in the Male Voices workshop. Involving professional musicians, this one is led by a particularly charismatic chap whose energetic style is evident from the beginning. This is just what we need to motivate ourselves for tonight. We explore the male voice through a series of sing-backs and rounds, taking us from the bottom of our “chest voice” through to the top of the falsetto. Something for everyone!

3pm sees us begin the Vocal Warm-ups class. Having done 3 hours of singing today, voices feel warmed-up already. In fact, rather tired is more accurate! Regardless we power through.

The basics reiterated, current knowledge refined, and new techniques to further explore, the workshop leaves us all feeling thoroughly warmed-up and singing in best voices. I personally feel somewhat rejuvenated and fresher than before I went in. The barbershop vow to perform a thorough warm-up before every rehearsal in the future! Good intentions.

And now a couple of hours rest before the evening concert. Or so we thought… We ask one of the event organisers if they could perhaps take a photo of the four of us together. ‘We have a professional photographer for this sort of thing,’ cometh the reply. Well, how lovely!

An hour later, and a hundred or so shots, we have just completed the group’s first photo shoot! Did not see that one coming. Feeling like stars (see below), we sit down, relax, and wait.

“Gentlemen. Introducing… Gentlemen!”  L-R: Charles Green, Dan Pargeter, Steve Graney, Adam Abo Henriksen
“Gentlemen. Introducing… Gentlemen!”
l-r: Kent graduates Charles Green, Dan Pargeter, Steve Graney, Adam Abo Henriksen

Buttons buttoned, laces laced, cuffs linked. We’ve even found time to sit and enjoy the first half of the concert! But now we are backstage waiting to hear our name.

‘Old. Telephone. Exchange!’

‘Old Telephone Exchange,’ I repeat to myself. I smile. We exchange nods. That’s us. We are ready. I walk out to take the stage, stop and turn. We face an audience of four hundred, our biggest yet, and bow in response to a very warm welcome. Experiencing a cocktail of emotion, I compose myself and give an Ab. Immediately the note blossoms in my head into the first chord. Excited, I take a deep breath…

At the end of our performance. We felt it went okay...
At the end of our performance. We felt it went okay…

And yes, even though this music-making wasn’t on familiar ground, as our voices began to fill and resonate in a new space, I think I can safely say that our feet were still very much firmly planted on the floor of the room that we knew as The OTE.

Clearly with feet not firmly planted, and not on the floor of The OTE, this one is undeniably for you, Mr Dan Harding...
Clearly with feet not firmly planted, and not on the floor of The OTE,
this one is undeniably for you, Mr Dan Harding…

Dan Pargeter

To keep up-to-date with the Old Telephone Exchange, follow them on Twitter. For further details on the group, visit the group’s website Hopefully, we’ll be hearing a lot more from them in the future…