Category Archives: Be My Guest

Guest posts and contributions.

Season of mists and mellow Open Days…

Brochures: check. Leaflets: check. Laptop: check. Wireless connectivity: check (finally, thanks Sarah Y!). Scholarship information: check.

But there’s something missing, something crucial. Oh wait: Revels! Check. Phew.

University campus
Green and pleasant land...

Yes, it’s Open Day again, and the Director of Music and I are once again at the ‘Making Music at Kent’ stand, o’er-brimming with details about the musical life of the University and the music scholarships. Campus is buzzing with visitors to the University, and the hall is full of vibrant youth enquiring about courses and musical opportunities at Kent. And we’ve got chocolate…

11am update: we’ve seen visitors from Derby, Herts, and the prize for Coming from Farthest Flung Corner is currently by someone from Lincolnshire. Singers, guitarists, a violinist, bass-players have all passed by the stand. Hopefully there’ll be a lull so we can grab a quick coffee shortly…

12.45pm: (after coffee!); a steady stream of visitors to the stand, coming from Surrey, Essex, Bedford, and including singers and instrumentalists, and suddenly a trend of interest in Music Theatre (Music Theatre Soc: take note!). Lots of interest, too, in the new music building – visitors to the campus today are walking past the construction site, so there’s something tangible towards which to point them: “See that steel skeleton ? In year’s time…”

2pm: heading into the final hour, further visitors from Cambridgeshire, Chelmsford, Surrey, and the Revels are running low, a sure sign the end of the Open Day is in sight. If all the visitors translate into students here in 2012, our Concert and Big Bands and choirs are going to be bursting, Music Theatre Society will be awash with soloists and RockSoc inundated with guitarists and bass-players. Bring it on!

Handel opera hero provides tough choices on Prom date

Be My Guest: an occasional series featuring guest posts and contributions. This week, for one former musical alumnus, going to a performance of Handel’s Rinaldo at this year’s Proms raises some serious questions about which man she wants in her life…

BBC Proms 2011Remember how I went out with N.? How it was all lovely and picture-perfect, but neither of us really felt a spark? Well, seeing as we’re nearing our one-year anniversary of that date (and haven’t really been in touch since) we decided to repeat last year’s performance and go to the same outdoor festival. Now, I’m still not really in the market for dates, but this seemed to be more a reminiscent outing than anything else- we had a fun time watching a movie last year, so why not do it again.

The organisation was very simple- after all, we’d done this date before. The only apparent problem was that on the day of the festival, it was raining like mad (what with it being August in London and all), and I couldn’t really see us sitting outside on the ground, huddling in the downpour, trying to keep the mud from seeping into our mats and blankets, all while balancing umbrellas,  trying to see the screen and eating sushi. I guess you can see my priorities here.

Either way, I proposed what I thought of as an excellent alternative to outdoor cinema: Prom 55. It has the same picnic + culture spirit as the original plan, but instead of in the rain, we’d sit in the Royal Albert Hall. I love opera, I love Handel, I love Handel operas- I was already completely sold on the idea. In a quick text, my date agreed and we settled where and when we’d meet.

I spent half the afternoon researching Rinaldo, reading synopsis and interpretations and pre-listening to important arias online. I was positively giddy when I arrived at our meeting point. Also because I was curious to meet N. again. But yeah, mostly for meeting R.

Our pre-Prom queue banter quickly showed that N. hadn’t even realised he was going to a partially-staged opera performance instead of an orchestral concert. His face twitched slightly when he asked “Oh, with singing and everything?”- which should have warned me. However, I was in my own little bubble of enthusiasm and just replied “Yes, it’s going to be amazing!” instead of picking up on his scepticism.

We got gallery tickets, and found space to sit near the bannisters about in the middle of the gallery. Excellent promming! We could see the entire stage, albeit through “prison bars” as my date charmingly put it, and I got even more excited.

I was enthralled from the first notes of the ouverture (go listen to it here). Prom 55 was the Glyndebourne 2011 production of R. by Georg Friedrich Handel, where the Crusade Age plot is re-imagined as a revenge-fuelled school boy’s dream after he’s been bullied one time too many. Seeing as the original baroque opera’s plot is confusing at best, and racially, sexistically and religiously insensitive and bigotted at worst, I thought this was a clever choice(although on a whole the “transported in modern time through one thing or other” strategy isn’t my favourite staging tool) and overall, the transformation into a teenage fantasy worked for me.

Sadistic teachers, wise teachers, mean girls, luring synchronised swimmers, armies of bicycle riders and football playing boys- R. filled his dream with some too-well-loved stereotypes and cliches along with some very bright ideas. While the latex-clad Armida as teacher with cane and posse of St Trinian lookalikes felt a bit heavy-handed for me, I found the reimagining of the final battle scene of christians and muslims as a slow-motion football game that ended with R. scoring into the orchestra simply ingenious.

The Orchestra of Enlightenment was fantastic, and although I wasn’t entirely convinced by his harpsichord solos, I really liked Ottavio Dantone’s musical direction. The singers were spirited and lively, with Sonia Prina’s title role a special treat.

You can tell, I adored it from the first minute. Poor N. really didn’t. He hadn’t read the plot beforehand, and my hastily whispered 45 second introduction to a story along the lines of  “…and then A dresses up as B and her lover C falls in love with her in costume, so she plots revenge together with B’s lover D, who she has imprisoned earlier. Oh, and she’s a witch!” didn’t really enlighten him either.

The Prom performance was not surtitled like most other foreign language opera performances (a decision I don’t understand), N. thus had hardly any chance to understand what was going on for the next two-and-a-half hours.We discussed our experiences in the first interval, and it became clear he had resigned to just listening and ignoring the plot completely. And although he was too polite to explicitly state it, it was quite obvious that baroque opera was not the music he would usually choose to listen to for an evening while sitting on the linoleum covered floor amidst a bunch of opera-fanatic strangers.

This essentially gave me a choice to either a) be a very nice person, suggest to leave during the interval and get some drinks instead and spend some more quality time with X. or b) resist the social clues, stay for the rest of the opera and spend some more quality time with R.

I went with b). Because I truly fell in love with R. I’ve been obsessively listening to the recording over and over again in the past days. I’ve imagined our future, how I’ll buy the DVD when it comes out and how I’m going to go to all future Glyndebourne proms. I couldn’t wait to tell my friends, and just writing it down now makes me smile.

N. took it very gracefully, and I promised him non-operatic drinks next week.


(Read more from about our guest’s grappling with life on their own blog here).

Live blog tomorrow

It’s that time of year again: the University Open Day, when we’ll be at the ‘Making Music at Kent’ stand for all your enquiries about musical activities at Kent, as well as information on music scholarships and how to apply.

And as we’re hi-tech hip over here, we’ll be blogging live from tomorrow morning again, as we did last year. We’ll be in front of the stand emblazoned with spectacular images of our music-making over recent years, and you can come and collect a copy of this year’s brochure to discover what happens musically during the year. From choirs to jazz bands, orchestras to rock bands and madrigal consorts to music theatre, we’ve got something for everyone.

If you’re coming to the University Open Day tomorrow, we’ll see you there!

Be My Guest: Matt Bamford reviews the Chamber Choir concert at Wye

Be My Guest: an occasional series featuring guest post and contributions. This week, first-year International Business and French student Matt Bamford reviews last Friday’s concert by the Chamber Choir.

The rural village of Wye was the setting for another fantastic concert by the University of Kent Chamber Choir, conducted by the Deputy Director of Music, Dan Harding. The church at Wye is a great building, although we quickly realised that it was also very cold- warmer outside than inside in fact!

The concert aimed to explore the rich and varied music of England, Wales and Scotland and this aim was certainly achieved as the programme travelled from madrigals by Weelkes to a brilliant arrangement of the jazz piece Flowers by Watkiss.

The concert began with the religious version of the English round Perspice Christicola which was the oldest piece that was sung by the choir. The audience were then treated to two pieces of Henry Purcell which were again, excellently delivered.

The piece that stood out for me in the first half and was received with great applause from the rest of the audience was The Gallant Weaver by James Macmillan. The modern piece composed in 1997, based on the 1791 text by Robert Burns, had a very Gaelic feel and the sopranos really did excel. All three soprano parts in the arrangement were all handled very well and this allowed the tranquil mood of the piece to be brought out well.

After a short interval, (and an unsuccessful trip to try and find a glass of wine!) the second half began with the secular lyrics to the same English round that began the concert, Sumer is Icumen in. The second half was full of excellent performances but the last three pieces really did stand out.

Weelkes’ madrigal Hark, All Ye Lovely Saints Above was superbly performed and the contrast in dynamics really stood out. There was a fantastic beat that was defined by the emphasis of certain words and this really added to the madrigal fun!

I have heard many arrangements of Steal Away but there really is something quite incredible about Chilcott’s. It begins with an almost dissonant and uncertain feel but there is a climax in the middle of the piece that was probably the most powerful part of the concert. Again, fantastic dynamic control here from the choir.

The concert certainly ended with a bang, Harding’s arrangement of Cleveland Watkiss’ piece Flowers. The audience really took well to this piece that you would not normally expect to hear in this programme. As I looked around I could see many pensioners almost dancing to the fantastic beat that was held down by the bass section. I must point out here also that there was some brilliant improvised scatting from Steph Richardson.

Congratulations to all on a clever programme that was delivered to a very high standard! I am already excited for June’s concert at St. Vincent’s Church, Littlebourne!

Go ahead and jump!

Be My Guest: Andrew Bailey reviews the Rite of Spring lunchtime concert

Be My Guest: an occasional series featuring guest post and contributions. This week, third-year student Andrew Bailey reviews the Rite of Spring lunchtime concert.


The reputation of Stravinsky’s magnum opus had clearly preceded it, with a packed Gulbenkian visibly demonstrating the esteem that ‘The Rite of Spring’ continues to hold with audiences today. Sitting with a clear view of the grand piano and the score, I wondered how Peter Hill and Benjamin Frith’s interpretation of the infamous score would challenge my own understanding of it. Having worn out three copies of “Fantasia” on VHS when I was a toddler, The Rite and Stravinsky’s work has always continued to fascinate me and I have continuously endeavoured to experience its different adaptations. As my old music teacher used to recount: “Every time you listen to The Rite, you always discover something new; be it a note, a motif, or a new feeling”. She has yet to be proved wrong.

Prior to the performance, Hill presented a concise yet detailed synopsis of the piece’s origins and I was glad that he took care in running through the “plot” of the piece. What was clear from his emphasis on its genesis and the difficulty in rehearsals was that Hill wanted us to appreciate the piece as Stravinsky would have first written it and how innovative it is musically; discarding our memories of the spectacle we now associate it with. It was then that the theatre went silent; a soft C was then heard, almost floating its way around the room, as the infamous opening began.

Without the visuals of an extravagant ballet, the audience’s attention was drawn to the physical performance of the musicians; clearly caught in the music as they thrashed their heads to the rumblings of ‘The Augurs of Spring’. Undoubtedly, one could not ignore the musicality of the piece as its dissonance, sometimes suppressed by an orchestra, was all but fully exposed on the piano. Despite what could seem a cacophony of sound, Hill and Frith demonstrated without a doubt that they knew the piece intimately and that all the right notes were indeed being played in the right order. The rapturous applause the musicians received was indisputably well deserved (alongside Dan Harding’s impeccable page turning skills!)

This Lunchtime Concert definitely demonstrated the musical complexities of The Rite and the four hands arrangement is certainly the optimum version to take notice of if one wishes to examine Stravinsky’s musical innovations. Is it now my favourite arrangement though? No. Not that I believe Hill and Frith did not play well enough; on the contrary I think they performed outstandingly! However in my opinion, The Rite should be as much a spectacle as it is a musical innovation. As Hill pointed out in his synopsis, Stravinsky remembered the violent image of the Spring as the ice would crack open around St Petersburg; he dreamt the disturbing image of a girl dancing herself to death. The notorious riot at its premiere was as much a reaction to Vaslav Nijinsky’s controversial choreography, as to Stravinsky’s score.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe the piece is not ‘innovative’ enough; I will happily acknowledge and rant about how it is a landmark piece in the history of music. What I want to emphasise it that I personally believe the piece works best with a spectacle to watch. In Sir Simon Rattle’s documentary on the piece, ‘The Augurs of Spring’ and ‘Sacrificial Dance’ are performed whilst images of a maiden dancing through a forest are shown, consequently making the piece more haunting in my opinion. There is even some filtered footage of the First World War thrown in to demonstrate how the violence of the work was reflected the following year with the outbreak of the conflict.

Although a complete different interpretation of Stravinsky’s intentions (as well as harshly cutting out and editing the various sections all over the place) I still think that watching The Rite segment in Fantasia is fascinating and the fight between the Stegosaurus and the Tyrannosaurus heightens the tension and excitement of “The Naming and Honouring of the Chosen One” movement.

But that is just my opinion.

Overall, a great Lunchtime Concert which will, I feel, be talked about for years. But if you want to experience more Stravinsky before the Colyer-Fergusson Concert on March 12th, where “The Firebird Suite (1919 Version)” will be performed by the UKC Music Society Orchestra, then I cannot recommend highly enough watching The Rite in its original ballet form (choreography, sets, costumes etc) to truly experience its spectacle.

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Be My Guest: Alanya Holder on bringing Christmas cheer to campus

If you heard the quasi-medieval sound of recorders and carols floating on the crisp, winter air around the campus at lunchtime yesterday, it was us: members of the Music Society, accompanied by a recorder duo, travelled from the Gulbenkian to Rutherford Dining Hall, where they sang to visitors to the UCAS Open Day, ending up on the Jarman Piazza and bringing some seasonal music to the university community. Here, Music Society President (and instigator of the event) Alanya Holder looks back at it.


It’s that time of year again! Yes, once again it’s Christmas time and everyone is slowly getting into the Christmas spirit, so a few of us in the Music Society thought that we would help speed up the process. On Wednesday 8 December, a group of talented and eager singers wrapped up warm and braved the elements in order to bring Christmas joy to the masses. There was even a Santa hat and a pair of antlers!

With medieval-style duet recorder accompaniment, we sang a few old favourites including the Holly and the Ivy, O Come All Ye Faithful and Good King Wenceslas. But deciding the temperature outside was a little too much to bear, we also brought joy to the masses inside Rutherford Dining Hall. With smiles and Christmas joy well and truly spread, everyone is very much looking forward to Christmas.

Same time next year!

Music crossing borders: diploma award for Aisha Bove

It’s with great delight that we can reveal that Aisha Bové has recently received her diploma certificate from the  conservatory of music in Luxembourg. In her first year at Kent, Aisha sings with the University’s Chorus, Cecilian Choir and Sing!, and plays cello in the Symphony Orchestra. Here, Aisha reports on the ceremony, and her trip down memory lane…


Reward for one’s musical achievement? That’s probably something every musician is aiming for. Simple applause, a cheering crowd or a convinced board of examiners makes a musician feel that what he or she is doing is being appreciated. A diploma was the reward in my case, a simple piece of paper which made me get on a plane and head back to what I call home; the small country of Luxembourg.

It was an invitation from the headmaster of the conservatory of music in Luxembourg which made me go back to the place where a huge part of my musical experiences have been formed up to now. The trip down memory lane was obviously included. First cello lessons, nine years of orchestra rehearsals, numerous concerts and an amazing four years of singing lessons.

Aisha BoveThe diploma I worked for last year certifies my passing of the exam ‘examen de la première mention avec la mention très bien’. The actual exam was the third exam you can take in the singing section of the conservatory, and candidates normally present themselves to the board of examiners, formed by professional musicians from France or Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany, in their 5th or 6th year. The actual exam is divided into two parts, the first part being more ‘technical’ with a singing exercise and two other pieces at one’s choice.

For the second part you have to prepare four pieces, of which one has to be an aria and one has to be a German ‘Lied’. My choice of pieces were G.F.Haendel’s ‘Come and trip it’, F. Mendelssohn’s Lied ‘Auf Flügeln des Gesanges’ (On wings of song), F. Hensel’s ‘Warum sind denn die Rosen so blass?’, G. Fauré’s ‘Le Voyageur’ to cover the French part of the repertoire, and two Arias from W.A. Mozart’s amazing opera ‘Cosí fan tutte’, which were my absolute favourites. All the hard work was rewarded not only by the great feeling you get when standing in front of a board of examiners performing and simply showing your love for music, but also by the moment you hear your name get called, you step on the stage, get your diploma and remember all the work and energy you had put into it. But it was at that moment that I also had to realise that this diploma is most likely my last one at the conservatory, and you realise a certain sense of finality.

Since September, my new place of music making is the University of Kent, and I’m happy to be a small part of this big, welcoming department. Because one thing I learned in all these years is that, wherever you go, take your music with you and you’ll be a step closer to home. As they say, music is a universal language, and once you get infected, you’re sure to be addicted to the music-drug all your life, in some way or another.

Be My Guest: Andrew Kitchin reviews the Eden-Stell Guitar Duo

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.

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