An occasional series featuring guest articles. This week, third-year Mathematics student and guitar Scholar Andrew Kitchin reviews the Eden-Stell lunchtime concert.
A certain degree of suspense was created by the dimly-lit stage as the concert began, which displayed nothing but two empty chairs and a footst00l. The two performers didn’t disappoint, providing the attentive audience with a varied repertoire ranging from Bach to Rodrigo.
From the outset, the virtuosity of the Mark Eden and Christopher Stell was clear, highlighted by the hauntingly clear trills in Bach’s arrangement of Marcello’s Oboe Concerto, arranged for two guitars by Christopher Stell, and the subtle vibrato displayed in Timothy Bowers’ Fantasy on an Old English Melody.
Between performances, the duo contextualised the repertoire with informative and witty comments, alluding to the history and meaning of the pieces they clearly loved to play.
They also performed two pieces by Mompou, arranged this time by Mark Eden.
The stand-out piece of the concert was the pair’s performance of Rodrigo’s Tonadilla. This devilish dance encapsulates everything that is special about the Spanish guitar repertoire. Swirling runs, aggressive rasgueado strumming and delicate folk melodies, all of which the pair executed magnificently, bringing the performance to a rapturous end.
The concert was a brief, warm, Catalan reprise, from an otherwise wet and windy November day.
An occasional series featuring guest posts and contributions: this week, Drama student and saxophonist Will Rathbone reviews Kasai Masai’s lunchtime concert.
Kasai Masai are a 5-piece band based in London and led by Nickens Nkoso. Named after a region in Congo, their sound is a very authentic African one, full of infectious rhythms and driving guitar hooks.
Playing at the Gulbenkien Theatre as part of the Lunchtime Concert series last Monday, they opened their set with “Esale”, a piece with a gentle Bossa Nova feel to it, and it immediately had the audience tapping and nodding along. Throughout the set, as I looked around the auditorium, everyone was bobbing their head, caught up in the effortless groove that the band had. Nickens’ voice is a powerful one, at one point during the song he held a very long note, leaning away from the microphone so as not to deafen us; such was the power he could get from his voice.
They continued with “Omela”, a song about a boy who gets lost in the forest but meets a bear who helps him to get home. This song was more upbeat and featured a catchy chorus. Every member of the band was continually moving the beat, the bass and drums pushing, the djembe a constant pulse. It showed the life in their songs, with Kawele Mutimanwa’s beautifully clean guitar sound throwing out riff after riff while the tenor sax floated solos over it all.
With both “Jambo” and “Muana Muke”, the audience got involved. We were given a vocal line to sing and encouraged to clap along and join the music. I’m often not a fan of rhythmic clapping from an audience, as it can often drift in and out of time, however here, such was the strength of the groove, and the tightness of the band, that the claps stayed in time, and the audience sang.
“We call this music, happy music”, said Nickens. I couldn’t put it better myself. Watching him dance for the finale, everyone was grinning. A really great show.
Be My Guest: an occasional series of guest posts and contributions. This week, a review of the recent Brodsky Quartet concert at the Gulbenkian Theatre by Danielle Broadbent. Danielle is a second-year Architecture student, and Music Scholarship Student. She plays the cello in the University Symphony Orchestra, and has also set up some additional string groups.
There was a good turn-out at the Brodsky Quartet concert at the Gulbenkian on Wednesday 19th May.
Many people come regularly to see the group play, so the audience knew to expect a good evening. There was a really friendly atmosphere with even a group of young people from St. Edmund’s School among the audience. It’s so easy to get to that I was surprised: for just £7 for a Student Stand-By ticket, you would have to pay a lot more to get such a professional performance any where else!
The quartet plays standing up which is unusual but works really well. It allows for lots of movement, which means that the group sometimes looks like they are dancing as they play. The four players dip and dive, showing the spark between them as they work together in a really strong team. The first violinist is very expressive. His showy, tapping, style took him up to two metres away from the stand at times! Complimenting this is the unfussy, solid performance of the second violinist. The viola player is the spokesman of the group, introducing pieces with interesting facts and a few jokes. Beautifully interwoven with his approach is the elegant playing of the cellist. There is a definite sparkle within the group, as they use eye-contact and general movement to bring the music alive. Their playing is so well integrated that it sometimes feels like they are holding a musical conversation.
The first piece was Mozart’s Adagio and Fugue in C Minor (K546). We were told how Mozart took the examples of Bach and Handel and said ‘I can do better!’ The playing was crystal-clear with incredibly expressive playing from inside players. They made the most of the silences in the piece and looked like they had great fun playing the last movement.
The second piece was the Schumann Quartet in A Major, op. 41 no 3. 2010 is Schumann’s 200th birthday celebration year and last time the Brodskys came to the Gulbenkian earlier this year they also played his music. There was rapturous applause, and even cheers at the end of the piece!
After the interval, the concert continued with Tchaikovsky’s first quartet in D major. This came complete with regulation coughs and shuffles between movements! The first movement was stirring, the second beautiful and the third fascinating, but the masterful, boisterous and playful rendition of the final movement was definitely my favourite part. The clever programming and showmanship of the performers worked the audience up so that the applause left no-one in any doubt that an encore was necessary!
This turned out to be the group’s own arrangement of a piano piece from Schumann’s Album for the Young. The tired but jubilant quartet settled the audience down with this lovely, quiet piece rounding up the concert in style.
Written by Danielle Broadbent.
The Brodsky Quartet in 2008, playing the Brahms Clarinet Quintet:
Be My Guest: an occasional series featuring guest posts and contributions. This week, Music Society President Alanya Holder reviews the Ronnie Scott Big Band as part of the Sounds New Festival, Canterbury.
Ronnie Scott: “If it doesn’t turn you on…”
On Sunday 16th May, as part of the Sounds New festival, Ronnie Scott’s Big Band came to the Gulbenkian Theatre. But as an extra special treat, selected musicians from Canterbury Christ Church University were invited to an afternoon workshop with the director of the band, Pete Long. I was lucky enough to sit in and watch the experience! Pete Long is a fantastically extrovert character who clearly has a passion for all things jazz and big band. He was also a brilliant director, getting the absolute best out of everyone within minutes. The noise that engulfed the Gulbenkian Cafe was astounding. We also got a little insight into how rehearsals with the Ronnie Scott band must be as everyone was so relaxed and having a great time just enjoying the music. I also feel greatly enlightened by Pete Long’s words of wisdom during the day. A lesson every musician must learn is this; “Playing a note is like streaking, once you’ve started you’ve got to commit to it!” Also I think it is important we remember the day in a certain context; “Big band music – sometimes it’s used to accompany strippers.”
So as the afternoon drew to a close everyone was eagerly awaiting the evening performance of the two iconic jazz albums: Atomic Mr. Basie and Ellington at Newport. The evening was not only fantastic music but I felt I left knowing a lot more about the two albums and the artists as Pete Long gave each song an introduction and history (not to mention a joke or two). It was great to hear the songs performed by the band that the students had played about with earlier in the day, as you could appreciate just how good both the students and Pete Long were at bringing the music to life. Almost every member of the Ronnie Scott band had a solo opportunity during the evening, the crowd favourite being the drummer who not only stunned us with drumming but juggling as well! A quirck which put a smile on my face was watching the pianist’s feet tapping away at an incredible speed along with all the songs, I was worried he might fall off his chair.
The evening went from strength to strength and towards the end of the night every song and every solo received a cheer and a standing ovation. The passion for the music in the room was evident, even if jazz wasn’t your thing! But as Pete Long said; “If it doesn’t turn you on…then you haven’t got a switch.”
Be My Guest: an occasional series featuring guest posts and contributions. This week, a look back over the musical events of the Spring term, the second article from second-year Law student and recently-elected President of the Music Society, Alanya Holder.
Wrapping Up Spring.
“Sometimes I forget I’m doing a Law Degree…”
When I first sat down and thought of everything musical that has happened over the last term I realised that if I talked about every single one in detail, this blog post would never end. So instead here is a whirlwind tour of the Spring term with the Music Society…
January began with everyone complaining how much they had eaten over Christmas and how none of us at Chorus could make sense of the Szymanowski Stabat Mater. With the Cathedral Concert only a couple of months away, nerves set in immediately and adrenaline kept us all going until the day. However I must admit that by the day we had come to love the Szymanowski in a strange kind of way and I definitely loved the Poulenc Gloria. A fellow musician, Chris Gray has written a fantastic blog post all about the Cathedral concert day – one of the longest days of my life, but a fantastic one.
So a few weeks into term, not much going on – I know, let’s have a SOCIAL! The Music Society had a ‘blues’ themed social at the Orange Street Club. It was blues night at the club, and the Society all came dressed in blue – or as a Blues Brother in one case (good effort Andrew Bailey!) And as we all danced the night away, I was contemplating my first concert of the term – the Concert Band and Big Band annual concert in the Gulbenkian Theatre.
The band concert is well known for being a night of fun and fantastic music, this year featuring the singing sensation Crystal Cowban! However while the concert all looks fantastic and sounds even better, few know of the hours and hours of preparation that go into it! In the weeks running up to the concert it’s a mad rush making sure that there are enough copies of all the music and trying to tie people down to saying if they are definitely performing so that a seating plan can be made! On the day instruments pile into a van and make their way to the theatre, chairs are stolen from seminar rooms because there just aren’t enough and generally everyone rushes around like a headless chicken until we sit down to rehearse in the afternoon. Similar goings-on after the concert make the day long and hard but definitely worth it – even if my clarinet playing skills are not something to shout about. [Not true! – Ed.].
Something new for me this year was singing in ‘Sing!’ a student run choir that performed in the Gulbenkian Cafe as a warm-up act for the concert. We sang such greats as Lean on Me and a Disney Medley. More to come from ‘Sing!’ at ArtsFest and next year.
At the end of February (yes I’m only up to February!) I took the plunge and volunteered to sing at Dan Harding’s ‘Jazz at 5’ – a brilliant innovation which got me listening to some different kinds of music and gave me the opportunity to sing solo, something I haven’t done for over a year. I sang two songs by Fairground Attraction and Why don’t you do right by Peggy Lee. I’ve loved watching all my friends take part in Jazz at 5 and couldn’t have asked for a better experience in life when I got up there and did it for myself.
Two days after this was the Chamber Choir Crypt Concert. This was my first year in the Chamber Choir and it has been tonnes of fun! Amy Clarke has been a fantastic conductor this year and the Cathedral Crypt just made the evening so special. That evening truly was one of those nights that gives you a shiver down your spine as you’re doing something you love, with people you love in a place that you can’t help but love! Can’t wait for next year…
And finally to my last concert of the term – the Littlebourne Concert. This was a great opportunity for the Chamber Choir to have another chance to sing our repertoire in another location and for a good cause. We were also joined by the Cecilian Choir who sang Vivaldi’s Gloria. This was fantastic, a piece that is a personal favourite of mine.
And so the term comes to a close…I’ve sung, I’ve played, I’ve watched and I’ve organised. This term has been hectic and stressful but also wonderful. I’ve made some really good friends and been given new and amazing opportunities. I will never forget my time with the Music Society at Kent University – it has been my life this last term! I don’t think my parents will forget it either, as they have been at every single concert I’ve been involved in – dedication and a half!
An occasional series featuring guest posts and contributions. This review is written by Alanya Holder, a second-year Law student who sings in Chorus and Chamber Choir, and plays sax in Concert Band and Big Band. She is also the Concerts Assistant, and Big Band rep on the Music Society Committee.
‘Fiddling Around on a Friday Night.’
On April 1st, 2nd and 3rd the University of Kent Musical Theatre Society performed Fiddler on the Roof at the Whitstable Playhouse (as previewed in a recent post here). For a very reasonable student discount price of £5, three friends and I went along on Friday night to support some of our Music Society friends and generally find out what it was all about. I’ve never been to the Whitstable Playhouse before – it’s a small but incredibly cute little theatre which was just perfect to give the performance that ‘personal’ touch. Although I have to say that the woman in front of me really did have quite large hair so for a lot of the time centre stage was blocked out!
Before seeing this production I had absolutely no idea of the plot of the play although I am quite well acquainted with many of its brilliant and classic songs. As promised the show opened its curtains to reveal a fiddler fiddling away and then the show went from musical number to musical number with great success. A personal favourite of mine was Jonathan Grosberg’s rendition of Miracle of Miracles – a wonderful song performed excellently! As a strictly amateur group I was unsure of exactly what to expect from the singers in the show, but thanks to the hard work of all the performers and the incredibly competent musical direction of Elizabeth McIver the show lived up to everyone’s expectations. Unfortunately we didn’t get to witness the musicians on the night but we definitely heard Elizabeth and her orchestra from behind the scenes – a big congratulations deserved all round.
Of course music and singing is nothing in a play without choreography. This was in the control of Jamie Mount who should be incredibly proud of everything the cast achieved. Some particularly fantastic dancing could be witnessed during the song To Life which involves a drunken celebration in a bar! It was evident that immense amounts of time and effort had been put into every aspect of the play, but of course none of it would have been possible without the skills of the Director of the show, Laura Harrison who said that the show was “the greatest part of my entire University experience. To be given the chance and to give the chance to others of putting on such a fantastic musical is a great honour. Over the past few months the show has become my everything and will certainly be sorely missed!”
This performance lived up to my expectations of the Musical Theatre Society, although I had no idea how long Fiddler on the Roof was. That aside, all that remains to be noted is the particular dedication from a few of the cast which impressed me – the few men that grew their own beards especially for the show (in particular Jóannes Lamhauge!) Can’t wait for the next performance!
An occasional series featuring guest posts and contributions.
This post comes from Music Scholar and first-year Architecture student, Chris Gray. Chris plays tuba in the University Symphony Orchestra and Concert Band, and sings bass with the Chamber Choir and the Cecilian Choir. Chris has previously been Principal Tuba with the Wessex Youth Orchestra for three years, and lives in Poole in Dorset. He recently played in the University’s Colyer-Fergusson Concert in Canterbury Cathedral.
Bleurgh. 9am. Is all this really worth it?
Saturday 13th March. Eliot College music store room. Day of the Cathedral Concert.
I guess this was it, the start of a long day, culminating, hopefully, in a wondrous concert. That last sentence is tinged with doubt, not because I have no faith in my fellow musicians, but because on the day of a big concert like this, doubts do start creeping up into your mind about your own musical ability, and being a tuba player, you have good reason to! Hitting the top A in the Strauss, playing the octave jumps in the Poulenc….
I started off the day doing what I am useful for, moving heavy percussion. We successfully threaded the timpani through a tightly-packed store room and through the bowels of Eliot College. I took great delight in marching with the bass drum, banging it loudly informing the residents of Eliot College of my impending heroics lifting timpani into the idling van outside…. more like trying to wake everyone up to let them share the beautiful crisp spring morning with me and the other musicians up at this torrid hour.
A very nervous journey in the percussion van from campus to the Cathedral ensued with glances back at the precious cargo every time we heard a bang or crash. We arrived in the Cathedral Precincts and proceeded to unload the van, carrying the percussion down a small make-shift corridor, through the South door and into the Nave.
The Cathedral was already a hive of activity with vergers, members of the chorus and various students and staff from the University milling around tending to their jobs. Once we had located and set up the timps, we started on the chairs for the orchestra under the expert guidance of Sophie and Dan Wheeler. I had heard that fitting the orchestra in between the towering columns of the Nave was a difficult job with no room for error.
We started with the timpani, then the woodwind making sure that the principals of the woodwind section were directly in front of the podium….. one of Sophie’s pet hates. Then the brass in two rows so the lower brass could deafen the trumpets who in turn could inflict ear-splitting terror on the violas. The strings worked out nicely and with the podium for the conductor and soloists in the correct place, in accordance with Health & Safety providing a 1.4m gap around all obstacles, it was done. I stepped back…. plenty of room, don’t know what the fuss was about!!
Then I saw where I would be sitting…..
Words cannot describe the predicament I would be in. Stuck behind a pillar, wedged between a desk of the double basses and the timpani, I dreaded the moment when ‘the listener is catapulted headlong into a torrid allegro’…. (Sue’s programme notes). I thought I would never get the downbeat in the right place…. What if I came in a bar early….?
Then the long and arduous process of seating the chorus took place. To liken it to a familiar occurrence would be like watching the start of the London Marathon, yet the athletes were tethered down and then when they did break free of their reigns, they would be running on treacle…
Rehearsals started dead-on 11.15am…. yeah right, on days like this you can bet your house that they don’t, it’s something about a large group of chattering people in a confined space that seems to make you lose track of time.
Rehearsals began with the Szymanowski, so time for coffee for the lower brass players or in my case a lovely white Malteser milkshake! One thing I noticed whilst watching the rehearsals, was the length of acoustic in the cathedral. 3 seconds! How we would pull of the Strauss or the delicacy of the Poulenc was beyond me, but somehow in this setting, the pieces seemed to fit and gel with the architecture of the building. Good choice of programme, I’d say!
Then came my moment of glory, my incredibly important part in the Poulenc, all 33 bars of it! I do like the piece, I just find it hard to look past the part I’m playing and listen to the overall work, listening to it, here, now, in the comfort of my own room you can appreciate the ‘juxtaposing of thematic cells’… (Sue’s programme notes again).
Poulenc done. 15 minutes for lunch…. yes I know, that is how committed we musicians are!
Onto the Strauss which does have a very nice tuba part. I enjoyed playing this, although the droves of Cathedral visitors milling around during rehearsal not only annoyed Sue but most of the orchestra as well. Nothing like the musical setting of the transfiguration of a dying artist to the backdrop of chattering schoolchildren. Strauss almost done, but no, we need to rehearse the last 6 bars over and over to try and kill the brass… Then onto the Ravel (sorry not much to say about this, I went outside).
2.15 came, relaxed for the rest of the day. DJ – check. Time to go!!!
7.30 concert time. Well not for me, I watched from the sideline as Ravel and Szymanowski didn’t want me in their music. It was interesting to watch people prepare for the concert the inexperienced paced… the experienced laughed and joked about the inexperienced. First half finished after amazing performances from orchestra, choir and soloists.
Then came the second half and it was time to play some Strauss. I kept fiddling with my bowtie, asking people if it looked right or not, but in the end it didn’t matter because I was sat behind a pillar! The Strauss went well, and it was amazing to be part of such a large orchestra, now, after weeks of rehearsals, playing as such a coherent group of musicians as one huge music making machine churning out bar after bar of absolute perfection. Sorry, got carried away in the music there… it happens. Then the Poulenc, the wonderful individuality of this underrated French composer coupled with the skills of Sue bringing chorus, orchestra and soloist into a blazing finale. Blazing finale meaning fading away into nothing!
The audience loved it, the Cathedral had been filled with vocalists and instrumentalists alike, and we did ourselves proud. On the drive back to campus from the Cathedral, I asked myself the same question that I asked myself that morning, some 13.5 hours ago…
Was it worth it?
Oh yes.. most definitely.
Because it does. Doesn't it ? Blogging about extra-curricular musical life at the University of Kent.