Category Archives: International Impact

News, views and stories about our international Music Scholars, students, visitors and events

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.

Virtual Music Project: Virtual Vivaldi comes together

The Virtual Music Project (see previous post here) is in full swing – adjective applicable if you’re thinking about the Duke Ellington, perhaps not quite so if you’re aware of the Vivaldi Gloria performance which we’re building…then again…!

We’re delighted to share the first fruits of the collaboration which brings together University students, staff, alumni and their families in a virtual rendition of the first movement of Vivaldi’s glowing choral work. Each track has been recorded individually by participants during the current lockdown period, ranging right across the country from Canterbury through London to Somerset, Bristol, Northamptonshire and even across Europe to Germany, Luxembourg and reaching even as far as Japan, proving the universality of music as a means of coming together.

The first movement is also available to listen in a project Playlist on SoundCloud, alongside some of the early mixes of instruments and strings only, and a brief excerpt from an early mix of the virtual Dance Orchestra’s building Duke Ellington’s Dont Get Around Much Anymore.

I’m hugely grateful to everyone involved in bringing this project to digital life, for their enthusiasm, commitment and for taking the time to learn and record their individual contributions; it really is a wonderful example of the University community doing what it is good at – coming together, supporting one another, and making remarkable things happen.

Now onto the second movement and a piece by Mozart…!

Without borders: Laura Osswald reflects

This year, the Music department is delighted to welcome Erasmus student, Laura Osswald, here for two terms as part of her studies in the School of Psychology. Here, Laura reflects on what music means for her and getting involved in the musical life of the University.


Music has always been a very important part of my life. I have been playing the recorder and the cello for 15 and 13 years respectively. In various orchestras and ensembles from Baroque to contemporary music, some of them international, I have experienced how music does not know any borders.

Making music together with others has always been a great pleasure for me – creating something amazing with people who share your passion is just wonderful. I started studying Psychology in Würzburg, Germany in April 2018 and since then I belong to the Academic Orchestra and a choir. I am very happy about that, not only because of the great music we make, but also because I have met so many nice people from different backgrounds, studying different subjects. Therefore, when I applied for Erasmus at the University of Kent, I was very glad to read about the Music Department with all its various possibilities.

During Welcome Week, I first got in touch with members of the Music Society and they were very friendly and welcoming from the start! In the following weeks, I joined the Symphony Orchestra and the Cecilian Choir, the String Sinfonia and the Pops Orchestra – I didn’t quite expect to be this involved with music at Kent, but I am more than happy about it and enjoy playing in these groups very much! In addition to the regular ensembles, there are some smaller formations for various occasions. Together with Jeni, a violist, I played a duet in the second Open Mic Night of the Music Society. Two weeks ago, I played in a concert in Calais with the University  Camerata which was a great experience and I feel very honoured that I was selected for this ensemble.

The second concert in Kent for me was the Nostalgia Night with the Cecilian Choir.

I am very excited for our next performance, the meditative Advent Breathing Space with Christmas carols and antiphons in a candlelit medieval church this Friday.

Even though you cannot study music on the University’s Canterbury campus, the Music Department offers an amazing variety of opportunities for students who want to get involved. It feels like all the different musicians and ensembles are part of one big family. I am very grateful to be part of that family.

All that jazz: General Tomfoolery is back in action…

Dust off your dancing-shoes, you’re going to need them this year; the 1940’s dance orchestra, General Harding’s Tomfoolery, has emerged phoenix-like from the ashes and is back playing once more.

The ensemble performs from original sheet-music bequeathed to the Music department back in 2005 by George and Maureen Morgan; the collection belonged to George’s group, the Ken Lewis Dance Orchestra, which was active throughout the 1950s to the 1970s playing around the county. This wonderful legacy form the core repertoire for the department’s ensemble, which breathes life anew into the vintage parts.

This year, the group is joined by guest singers with an international spirit, second-years Elle Soo (from Singapore) and Robbie Frederick (from Spain). Elle will be familiar to followers of the University Big Band, with whom she sang last year and continues to do so this year; both Elle and Robbie are bringing alive classic tunes including Lady Is A Tramp and Baby, It’s Cold Outside.

The ensemble will be in action as part of Nostalgia Night on Friday 22 November, performing pieces including Moonlight Serenade,  and then taking to the foyer-stage at 1.10pm for A Christmas Tomfoolery, on Weds 11 December, as a prelude to the ‘Christmas Swingalong’ later that day.

It promises to be a vintage year – make sure you catch them playing this year; details on our What’s One pages here.

Serenade across the sea: Camerata performs in the city of Calais

A standing ovation from over six hundred people greeted the end of yesterday’s concert by the University Camerata in L’Eglise de Notre Dame in the heart of the city of Calais.

The Camerata is a real cross-section of the University community, comprising undergraduate and postgradudate students, staff and alumni, all coming together to represent the University in public concerts throughout the year. Yesterday’s performance was the result of an invitation earlier this year by Calais city council to bring the two cities of Calais and Canterbury together, to recognise and celebrate the cities’ shared history (Calais was once part of the Diocese of Canterbury) and to make cultural connections (see previous post here).

An early morning start saw the coach-load of musicians leaving Colyer-Fergusson in various stages of wakefulness (well, 6.30am on a Sunday can be a little early for some…), with a welcome coffee at the Folkestone terminal of Le Shuttle enlivening the group further still on its way to an 11am (French time) rehearsal in the church beneath glorious November skies.

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Music by Elgar and Warlock was soon swirling around the nave of the magnificent church, with later on the strains of Marcello’s Oboe Concerto lifting into the roof courtesy of Professor Dan Lloyd, who joined the string group on oboe, stepping out of his busy schedule as Deputy Head of the School of Biosciences.The Camerata’s international make-up mirrors that of the wider University community, with members from Germany, Lithuania, France and Canada, including an Erasmus-student cellist; the Schools of Psychology, Law, Mathematics and Biosciences were also represented by the ensemble’s constituents, many of whom are either current or former University Music Performance Scholars. It’s a testament to the nature of extra-curricular music-making at Kent that it transcends boundaries – geographical, hierarchical, institutional – as it creates communities working together in rehearsal and performance.

The concert, part of the city’s current festival, drew over six hundred people to witness the power of collaborative creativity which lies at the heart of the University’s vision. We’re already looking forward to the second event in our planned collaboration later in the year.

Congratulations to all the performers, to leader Floriane Peycelon and conductor Susan Wanless, on a magnificent ambassadorial showcase that illustrated, to an international audience, what an international University can do.

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Facebook users can view an album of photos from the day here.

Kent-Calais Connections: exploring a musical entente cordiale

During last week’s heatwave, the Music department found itself walking the streets of Calais, exploring various cultural venues throughout the city as part of a planned collaborative partnership in the forthcoming academic year.

From its humble beginning as a fishermen’s village, recorded as early as the eighth century, Calais rose to become the Gateway to France. The cities of Calais and Canterbury are united by the former’s history as a trading-port with England, with Calais having been a part of the diocese of Canterbury following the seizure of the throne of France by Edward III in 1347. The damage suffered by Calais during the Second World War laid the way for major rebuilding projects, leading to the creation of several striking venues and a city endowed with exciting creative spaces. The shared history between Kent and Calais is something which the Music department and the Calais city council will be looking to explore and celebrate.

Following an approach earlier this year from the city council about a shared endeavour, we found ourselves boarding the Eurotunnel early on Wednesday morning, travelling to meet the representatives from Calais at the historic L’Église Notre-Dame de Calais, the first stop on our tour of the plethora of cultural venues threaded throughout the city.

After the city was retaken by the French from the English in 1558,  L’Église Notre-Dame became its most important church. A majestic altar-piece of marble and alabaster presides over a large church currently undergoing restoration, which began in 2009 and which are bringing the vanished magnificence to life once more. Once a year, the church is filled with over 4,000 candles for the Festival of Light, which attracts visitors from all over France.

Our next stop was La Halle, a flexible space on the Place d’Armes which can open its striking concertina-door, which occupies one entire side of the covered hall,  onto the plaza. The space hosts outdoor and indoor performances as well as festivals throughout the year.

Next on our cultural odyssey was the Museum of Lace and Fashion, housed inside an original lace factory from the nineteenth century, with vast echoing galleries and an auditorium.

The Forum Gambetta is a bright, modern venue that would be ideal for a bustling big band set; its jazz atmosphere has seen its stage graced by legendary French jazz violinist Didier Lockwood.

The next venue was, fittingly, L’Ecole Nationale de Musique de Calais, of which Lockwood is a former student commemorated in the Studio Didier Lockwood.

Our steps then led us to the Musee des Beaux-Arts, which houses artwork from the sixteenth century to the present day.

The tour came to a magnificent conclusion at the city’s town hall, built in 1885 but harking back to the sixteenth century. The gardens adorning the museum’s grounds include one of the fourteen bronze casts throughout the world of Rodin’s The Burghers of Calais from 1889, and commissioned to commemorate the six residents who were prepared to sacrifice themselves to save the city during the Hundred Years War.

The town hall itself includes beautiful rooms, a wonderful Grand Salon just crying out for a string orchestra to perform the music of Lully, imperious marbled corridors, and a belfry 75 metres high which affords panoramic views across the city; across the Channel, we could see the cliffs of Dover looking towards the bustling port.

With such rich history rubbing shoulders with modern venues, artistic exhibitions, festivals and all within walking distance of each other, Calais offers fertile ground for some exciting artistic collaborations – we’re looking forward to building and developing ideas in the new academic year.


Mille remerciements to Philippe and the team from Calais City Council for making us so welcome, and for sharing the city’s vibrant artistic possibilities with us – we are looking forward to taking the first steps in a musical entente cordiale celebrating both sides of La Manche!

Leaving your comfort zone: Corinna Jung on her musical year at Kent

Corinna Jung came to the University in September from Germany to study International Criminal Justice as a postgraduate. Here, she reflects on her musical time at Kent and the importance of music to her life alongside her legal studies.


When I was considering universities to apply for my postgraduate studies, not only was I trying to find one, which mirrors my academic interests best, but also it has been equally important for me to choose a place, where I can make music and play the violin in an orchestra again.

During the six years of my undergraduate degree in Germany, I was a member of the University Symphony Orchestra, and as I look back, many of my best memories of my study time in Germany have a musical background: I enjoyed making music with people, who share the same passion for music as I do and I met wonderful colleagues who have become my best friends over the years. In addition to that, I am sure I wouldn´t have managed to deal with all my exams and assignments without that kind of support and balance. Therefore, I was more than happy to realise that the University of Kent not only has a fantastic law school, but also a strong music department with plenty of opportunities for students to get involved in. Regardless of
whether you play the violin, the trumpet or sing – there are so many different student ensembles to join!

Corinna (fourth from left) with members of the String Sinfonia after performing Vivaldi’s ‘Gloria’

After last week’s wonderful Summer Music Week, I reflect upon
my time at Kent and can say: what an incredible year full of music it has been! When I joined the first rehearsal of the Symphony Orchestra in September, I was excited to see how they would rehearse and what kind of pieces would be played. The concert in December has been my first one with this orchestra and I enjoyed performing in the wonderful Colyer-Fergusson hall as well as playing a wide range of pieces, both with and without chorus.

Strings attached: Melody, Zaneta (leader), Corinna, Millie, Molly and Rosie after the Cathedral Concert

After the concert, the director of the String Sinfonia, Floriane Peycelon, asked me if I would like to join the Sinfonia from the next term on and all I can say is it turned out to be one of the greatest musical opportunities I have had so far! As a string ensemble, we have been involved in many different concerts over the year, including lunchtime concerts, the Dido and Aeneas performance in February in which we performed Purcell’s opera with the University Cecilian Choir, the premiere of Between Worlds with the amazingly talented violinist Anna Phoebe last week and – last but not least! – our ‘own’ Sinfonia concerts in which we played wonderful – and quite challenging – compositions for strings, such as Tchaikovsky’s Serenade and Britten’s Simple Symphony.

Bows at the end of the production of ‘Dido and Aeneas’ in Colyer-Fergusson Hall, Feb 2019.
The String Sinfonia rehearsing in Colyer-Fergusson Hall

‘Between Worlds’ by Anna Phoebe

One of the highlights of the academic year for me has definitely been the concert in Canterbury Cathedral in March and performing in this unique location was a special experience for me. Beyond that, the Summer Music Week, comprising of a series of concerts with different themes, from an easy-going summery concert with McMozart and ‘Dance of the Comedians’ to a more serious and formal Between Worlds concert. And finally, the Gala concert, featuring Symphony Orchestra and University of Kent Chorus and Chamber Choir. It was a fantastic way to end my musical year at Kent.

I would like to say a huge thank you to Susan Wanless, Daniel Harding and Flo Peycelon – you’ve always made me feel very welcome and appreciated as part of the ‘team’ and you put tremendous effort and energy in creating all these opportunities
for students who want to make music to a high standard and who want to find an important balance alongside their studies. The same applies to my Sinfonia colleagues; you have been so lovely and open-minded!

You can just glimpse Corinna in the crook of Anna’s arm…

Therefore I encourage every (overseas) student to get involved in the musical life at Kent, no matter how awkward it will be at the beginning to leave one´s own comfort zone. And even if it might just be for a year, make the most of your time here and do what you enjoy. I have had a wonderful year with the music department, and I am sure that whenever I will look back at my time in Canterbury, these happy memories will be a huge part of it.

In pictures: Colyer-Fergusson Cathedral Concert

Congratulations to everyone involved in last Saturday’s annual Colyer-Fergusson Cathedral Concert; to all the performers in the University Chorus and Symphony Orchestra, the stewards, those working behind the scenes, conductor Susan Wanless and soprano soloist, Rachel Nicholls.

The early shift: Alice, Fleur, Tom, technician Marc and Estates member, Mark.
Members of the Music Society Committee confer during the morning set-up at the Cathedral
The view from the top tier of the soprano section of the University Chorus
Drummer boy: alumnus Cory, back to play percussion
The violin section, led by third-year Music Scholar, Zaneta Balsevic

Chorus and Orchestra in full swing
Soprano soloist Rachel Nicholls rehearsing Poulenc’s ‘Gloria’
The view from behind the Orchestra as it rehearses Mendelssohn’s ‘Italian’ Symphony
The orchestra being very attentive…
The lower strings of the Orchestra
Conductor Susan Wanless rehearsing Butterworth’s ‘A Shropshire Lad’
The evening stewards: Alex, Kiyan, Euan, Eloise and Tom
Some familiar faces back to take part: Alice H, Charlotte, Ben, Ruth, Alice B, Cory and Alice Sh!
A soprano selfie: but only if your name is Alice…
Chorus members Carmen, Maddie, Helen, Nicholas, Fleur (President of the Music Society), and Joseph
Strings attached: Melody, Zaneta (leader), Corinna, Millie, Molly and Rosie
Leader of the Symphony Orchestra, third-year Music Scholar Zaneta Balsevic
Chorus of approval