Currently on tour, and having recently performed at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Moonbeam Theatre features former Music Society Secretary and clarinettist in Orchestra and Concert Band, Madeleine Rigby (pictured below). Maddie studied Drama and Theatre Studies at Kent, graduating in 2021 having been Music Society Secretary (as well as Social Secretary in her second year). Moonbeam Theatre is part of the Graduate Artist programme in the School of Arts’ Drama department; here, Maddie reflects on the purpose of the theatre company, being part of the Edinburgh Fringe festival, and their recently launched DIVE playlist on Spotify.
Moonbeam Theatre are a non-profit company who create multi-sensory theatre for children with profound and multiple learning disabilities and special educational needs. We’ve been a graduate theatre company at the University of Kent since 2020 and have been facilitating workshops and shows ever since. We’ve had a busy year this year, taking our show DIVE on tour. DIVE is a multi-sensory under-the-sea adventure which encourages our participants to get involved in exploring the ocean setting of the performance. We’ve visited over 50 SEN schools, charities and community groups and this summer made our Edinburgh Fringe Festival debut.
Being a part of EdFringe was a real bucket list achievement, and having sold out shows was amazing! The reviews we’ve received from all our audiences have been incredible and we are already planning our next show, which is all about The Garden, to tour for 2024. As a University of Kent music department alumna, I am very pleased to say I even play my clarinet in the show! [Well done, Maddie: keep playing!]
But even more exciting is that we have just released the DIVE soundtrack on Spotify; as a company we wanted to make sure our audiences had access to the music so they could continue to experience DIVE in their own spaces or simply keep listening to the relaxing sounds of our ocean setting. To create the music we worked with our music producer, Adam Pattrick, who helped us put all our ideas together. The tracks were created to be ambient and calming, but watch out for the The Chatty Clam’s Hideout as that’s the exception!
You can find the album on Spotify here. ‘Ocean Waves’ is gently hypnotic, very relaxing, and perfect for listeners young and maybe not-so-young too…! There’s the lulling, echoing ‘The Seaweed Forest,’ or the joyous ‘Coral Cove,’ sure to get young toes wriggling. Moonbeam Theatre’s website is here, or see what they’re currently up to on Facebook here.
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.
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.
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.
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!
With thanks to Chris Stones (Head of Tour Development), Jonathan Tunnell (Tour Orchestra Manager) and all the visiting Glyndebourne staff and players.
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…
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
Because it does. Doesn't it ? Blogging about extra-curricular musical life at the University of Kent.