Category Archives: International Impact

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

Scholar’s Spotlight: Ramnath Venkat Bhagavath

Continuing the series profiling University Music Performance Scholars; this week, Masters student in Actuarial Science, Ramnath Venkat Bhagavath.


Having been born into a family of musicians, I started my vocal training in South Indian Classical music (Carnatic music) at a very young age.  I still remember my childhood days when my grandmother would wake me up at 5 am in the morning and make me practice for 2 hours, every single day. Being an accomplished Veena artiste, she was a perfectionist in every sense. I gave my first public performance at the age of 13 and since then, I have been regularly giving vocal concerts.

After completing my schooling in India, I did my undergraduate studies in Toronto, Canada, and immediately followed that with a Masters at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. I relocated back to India in 2012 after my studies and worked there for five years before I decided to come to University of Kent to do my second masters. I was actively pursuing and performing music throughout, alongside studies and work. I was fortunate to perform on many prestigious stages in India and abroad.

When I first came to University of Kent, I was a little worried whether I would have the opportunity to pursue music along with my masters. I was even apprehensive when I applied for the University Music Performance scholarship as I wasn’t sure whether Indian classical music would be encouraged. All this changed when I had my audition for the scholarship. Both Susan (the Director of University Music) and Daniel (the Deputy Director of University Music) were extremely welcoming and encouraging of Indian classical music. When I got to know that I was selected for the scholarship, I was very thrilled and delighted beyond words.

When I first stepped into the Colyer-Fergusson hall, I was amazed at the splendor, grandeur and acoustics of the hall. I was lucky to have couple of my skype music classes with my Guru in India, right in that hall. I also had access to practice rooms with just an email notice. I was able to actively pursue music while at Kent.

Ramnath and musicians performing in Colyer-Fergusson Hall, May 2018

When I was given the opportunity to do a lunchtime concert at Colyer Fergusson, I was inexplicably happy. After all, to perform in such a hall will be every musician’s dream! My performance was well attended and appreciated by everyone. I had excellent musicians from London accompanying me on the Violin, Mridangam and Ghatam for the lunchtime concert. If not for this concert opportunity, I would not have had the chance to know these musicians. We already have plans to collaborate again in future.

Furthermore, I also had the privilege to perform during the Scholars lunchtime concert, where I performed along with other music scholars. I also worked with the University wellbeing department to conduct workshops on Raga singing, as a part of their wellness week program. I sincerely express my gratitude to everyone at the Music department for giving me wonderful opportunities to showcase South Indian Classical music. University of Kent has truly given me beautiful musical memories that will be etched in my heart forever!


Read more profiles of University Music Scholars here.

Strings on tour!

Bon voyage to the members of the University String Sinfonia, whose members left Heathrow Airport early this morning on their way to Canada.

Comprising undergraduate students from across the university, including the Schools of Law, Psychology, Politics and International Relations and European and Culture and Languages, the group will be performing in a special event at the Varley Art Gallery (read more about that in a previous article here), and as part of the Chinese Artists Society of Toronoto’s annual Gala concert, alongside the CAST Philomusica and various soloists, in a packed gala programme.

We wish them well; follow all their adventures on #sinfoniaontour on Instagram at unikent_music and on Twitter; it promises to be an exciting trip!

Recognising outstanding contributions to University music: Music Prizes 2018

Towards the end of each academic year, the Music department takes the opportunity to recognise the outstanding contributions made by a few of those who have participated in music between September and June in an awards ceremony, held as part of Summer Music Week.

Left to right: Douglas Haycock, Lydia Cheng, Jasper Rose, Alice Baker, Charlotte Webb, Molly Richetta, Matthew Cooke

The Canterbury Festival Music Prize, awarded to a final-year student who has made an outstanding contribution to music, was awarded jointly to Lydia Cheng and Charlotte Webb. A final-year student reading Law, Lydia is a wonderfully talented violinist – indeed, she turned down music scholarships to both Berkeley and McGill to come to Kent! Such is her commitment and talent that she has lead the Symphony Orchestra for the last two years. She also plays in the String Sinfonia and has performed in chamber music lunchtime concerts. She is a Music Performance Scholar, studying with Floriane Peycelon and Kathy Shave, and has also been one of the Symphony Orchestra Assistants for the past two years. This year Lydia has been in great demand from other local orchestras to play in their concerts so has been an excellent ambassador for our music-making. Charlotte Webb is a final-year student reading Biomedical Science with a year abroad
Charlotte spent her third year in Canada and has certainly made the most of her final year back in Kent. She is a Music Performance Scholar, studying singing with Peter Cox, and sings in the University Chorus, Chamber Choir and Cecilian Choir. She has featured as soloist in many concerts, including our performances this year of Handel’s Messiah and Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater. And as well as all this, Charlotte has also played Principal Trumpet in the Symphony Orchestra this year, and acted as the Music Society Social Secretary, whose main role seems to be carting people off to K-Bar after rehearsals…

The students received their awards from Keith Mander, Chair of the Canterbury Festival and former Pro Vice Chancellor at the University.

The Colyer-Fergusson Music Prize, which is awarded in recognition of a student’s involvement in organising music at the University went to Alice Baker, a final-year student reading Wildlife Conservation. The award recognised her exceptional all-round behind-the-scenes organising and admin skills as the Chorus Manager this year – the issuing and returning of all the chorus members’ vocal scores for each major concert and liaising closely with the Music Department, no mean feat for a leviathan chorus numbering around 180 members! She is a Music Performance Scholar, studying singing with Juliet Schiemann, and sings in the University Chorus, Chamber Choir, Cecilian Choir, and the Lost Consort.

Alice was presented with her award by the Director of Music, Susan Wanless.

The University Music Prize is an award donated by Professor John Craven, a former Deputy Vice Chancellor at Kent, and is awarded to returning students who have made a major contribution to music throughout the year. This year, it was awarded jointly to Matthew Cooke and Molly Richetta. A second-year student studying French and Business Administration, Matt has certainly had a very busy year of music-making. He is the student conductor of the University Chamber Choir and was the musical director for the Musical Theatre Society’s production of Bonnie and Clyde in the Marlowe Studio. He also plays trumpet in the Concert Band and Big Band, and sings tenor in the University Chorus, Chamber Choir and Cecilian Choir. This year he has received a Music Performance Award to study singing with Peter Cox and was a soloist in both the December Choral Concert and in Messiah. In her second year studying Mathematics, Molly Richetta is a Music Performance Scholar and studies violin with Floriane Peycelon. She made the fatal mistake of telling us that she also plays viola (a rare breed!) so this year she has swapped between playing both instruments in the String Sinfonia, and has become a very accomplished leader of the viola section in the University Symphony Orchestra. Like Lydia, she has also been in great demand from other local orchestras to play in their concerts so has been an excellent ambassador for our music-making.

Both students were presented with their awards by  Professor April McMahon.

Finally, the David Humphreys Music Prize, which is awarded to a student who has made a particularly special music contribution, was awarded jointly to Douglas Haycock and Jasper Rose. A final -year student, reading Law, Douglas Haycock is a Music Performance Scholar, studying singing with Peter Cox, and sings in the University Chorus, Chamber Choir, Cecilian Choir and the Lost Consort. He has featured as soloist in many concerts, including the December Choral Concert and Messiah last term. He has just finished his year as President of the Music Society and also plays tenor saxophone in the Concert and Big Bands. It is particularly fitting that Doug is receiving this prize as he conducted the Chamber Choir in his second year and, thanks to the David Humphreys’ Music Fund, was able to go on a conducting course and have the opportunity to perform in Canterbury Cathedral’s crypt. Jasper Rose is a final-year reading Criminal Justice and Criminology on our Medway campus, and has played trombone in the National Youth Jazz Orchestra and is a Music Performance Scholar, receiving lessons with Geoff Mason. He is a really exceptional player, leading the trombone section in Concert Band and taking the spotlight in many improvised solos in the Big Band. He has also been principal first trombone in the University Symphony Orchestra for the past three years.

Douglas and Jasper received their awards from David’s daughters, Josephine Humphreys and Belinda Howard.

The Music Awards Committee has a difficult job in deciding which candidates in particular to recognise with awards, and this year was especially challenging with so many involved in our music-making across the year; our thanks both to the award-winners, and to the wider community of University musicians, students, staff and alumni, who have given so much of their time and enthusiasm in rehearsing and performing this year. What will next year bring…

Chamber Choir take part in centuries-old tradition of Choral Evensong

Congratulations to the University Chamber Choir, which on Tuesday sang Choral Evensong at Canterbury Cathedral.

The event was the first time in the history of the University that the Chamber Choir has taken part in the centuries-old tradition of choral evensong, and an auspicious occasion held in the very cradle of the Anglican church itself.

Directed by Deputy Director of Music, Dan Harding, the choir sang music by Stanford, Smith and Fauré, to a packed congregation, comprising regular attenders and parents, as well as overseas visitors, in the Cathedral Quire.

The Chamber Choir is back in action on Friday 1 June, and indeed back in the Cathedral, when it launches this year’s Summer Music Week festival with a performance in the Cathedral Crypt at 7.30pm; see all that’s coming up as part of the annual music festival celebrating the end of the University year here.

Classical Connections: String Sinfonia to perform at the Varley Art Gallery in Toronto

The #EarBox series of events combining live music with visual art takes on an international flavour next month, as the University of Kent String Sinfonia will perform at the Varley Art Gallery in Toronto as part of a five-day visit to Canada.

The performance on Thursday 14 June is one of two concerts in which the group will be playing, and takes place against the backdrop of the gallery’s new exhibition, which explores the physical and psychological effect of nature for humans and animals, and the intersection of human and arboreal timelines. The exhibition includes two- and three-dimensional works and installations; Refuge by Karen Miranda Abel, Anna Williams’ Canada House and Mother Trees of Future Forests by Lisa Hirmer.

Source Pool (Riverine) by Karen Miranda Abel (2018)

Classical Connections will illuminate the exhibition’s central themes of water, surface, liminal spaces and spatial relationships, and the passage from nature to culture with a pastorally-themed musical programme, complete with birdsong, including works by Elgar, Holst, Warlock, Dvořák and John Williams. The programme, like the players, crosses continents to animate the gallery and resonate amongst the various media on display, setting them amidst an aural backdrop that invites the audience to experience both the art-work and the music in a new way.

The Director of the ensemble, Floriane Peycelon (pictured) – a freelance violinist, performer and teacher who also leads the Folkestone Symphony Orchestra – is particularly looking forward to the event; “It’s a terrific thing for the students,” she enthuses, “giving them the wonderful opportunity to take their music-making abroad and showcase the prolific talent amongst the string-players at Kent – and they are not even reading Music as a degree! The chance to play at an art gallery is very exciting – I love finding unusual spaces in which to perform.’’

The ten players will perform in the evening concert in the gallery followed by a reception and a tour of the exhibition; the group then travels to Scarborough Citadel on the Saturday to play as part of the closing Gala Concert of the Chinese Artists of the Society of Toronto, alongside the CAST Philomusica Orchestra and soloists.

The String Sinfonia performing with the Cecilian Choir in Colyer-Fergusson Hall, March 2018

The String Sinfonia is part of the vibrant extra-curricular musical life of the University of Kent, and brings together students from a range of degree programmes including Law, Psychology, Mathematics, Politics and International Relations and Economics to rehearse and perform throughout the year. The ensemble regularly performs in Colyer-Fergusson Hall, in Studio 3 Gallery and in concerts off-campus.

Performing in Studio 3 Gallery on the University campus, December 2017
The ensemble giving a lunchtime concert in Colyer-Fergusson Hall, March 2018

The Varley Art Gallery opened in 1997, and welcomes around 45,000 visitors annually, a preeminent cultural institution reaching audiences both nationally and internationally. This is the first time that the University Music department will travel to perform in Canada, and we’re very much looking forward to beginning our trip with a special event at the gallery. We are also very grateful to the gallery’s Public Programs Coordinator, Rachel D’Oliveira Fell, for the invitation to perform.

The Frederick Horsman Varley Art Gallery. Image: Gisling / Wikimedia Commons

Find out more about the Classical Connections event online here – and if you’re in the area, book yourself a ticket!

Lunchtime Concert explores South Indian music on 30 May

We’re delighted to have been able to reschedule our postponed Lunchtime Concert from February, to bring music from South India on Wednesday 30 May at 1.10pm.Postgraduate University Music Performance Scholar, Ramnath Venkat Bhagavath is studying for a Masters in Applied Actuarial Science at the University of Kent, and brings a strong performing tradition to the campus. In 2016, Ramnath performed in the renowned ‘Swathi Sangeethotsav’ at the royal palace of Trivandrum, an event which attracts musicians from across the globe.

The Lunchtime Concert, taking place in Colyer-Fergusson Hall, will feature a selection of different ragas and thalas in the Carnatic music tradition, accompanied by violin, mridangam and ghatam.

Admission is free, with suggested donation £3.

Furley Page logo
Sponsors of the Lunchtime Concert series

International Women’s Day: Director of University Music, Susan Wanless

She might not thank me for doing so, but on International Women’s Day it seems fitting to pay tribute to our Head of Department, conductor Susan Wanless, who has been at the helm of extra-curricular music at the University for a very long time. A positive role model for female musicians,  Sue’s career is a great example of how gender should be no barrier to succeeding in musical life and in areas of cultural responsibility and leadership, including wielding a baton in front of the massed ranks of assembled performers in the glare of the public eye.

Sue’s tireless championing of music as part of the life of the University includes conducting the University Chorus and Symphony Orchestra each year, including the epic annual Colyer-Fergusson concert in Canterbury Cathedral, as well as a variety of other ensembles. From a humble fifty members originally rehearsing in the Senate Building, the University Chorus has grown to over two hundred students, staff, alumni and members of the local community, now able to rehearse and perform in the magnificent Colyer-Fergusson Hall, itself a testament to the value the University places both on music-making and Sue’s advocacy for cementing it into life at Kent.

Under her leadership, music is now a flourishing part of the University; over four hundred students and staff are involved each academic year, with over fifty musical events taking place in Colyer-Fergusson – both departmental concerts as well as visiting ensembles and performers – throughout the course of the year. The Music department regularly commission new music written especially for its forces to perform – witness this Saturday’s premiere of an orchestral work by Professor of Composition at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Kent-based composer Matthew King. When not busy on campus, she can be found on the panel of judges for the Canterbury International Festival’s annual music performance competition. (And, as many of us know, also on the golf course…!)

Digging the first hole
The Honourable Jonathan Monckton and Director of Music, Susan Wanless, turning the first sod to mark the construction of the Colyer-Fergusson Building in May, 2011

Sue was also heavily involved in the design and consultation process behind the creation of the Colyer-Fergusson Building, travelling up to London to confer with architects, designers and sound engineers at the point that crucial decisions were being made. Thanks to the generous bequest from the Colyer-Fergusson Charitable Trust, chaired at the time by the Honourable Jonathan Monckton, and since opening its doors in December 2012, Colyer-Fergusson has greatly enhanced the possibilities for making music at Kent, and continues to flourish under Sue’s watchful eye. Each year, a host of students graduates from the University with fond memories of having performed in the Nave of the Cathedral, the Crypt, Colyer-Fergusson Hall, churches around the county, and with friendships forged in the white-heat of rehearsing and performing alongside their academic studies; all facilitated by the Music department and Sue’s leadership. Who can forget those summer performances in Eliot Dining Hall, or Chorus rehearsals in the Grimond Building in the Era Before Colyer-Fergusson…Depending on the era in which students passed through the University, they might have been involved in the summer opera projects, in which Sue helmed fully-staged productions of works such as La Traviata, The Magic Flute and Tosca with professional soloists; they might have performed on one of the stages that popped up around campus during ArtsFest, which itself transformed into the current annual music festival celebrating the end of the academic year that is Summer Music Week.

University Orchestra in Haydn’s ‘Farewell’ Symphony in Eliot Dining Hall!

Here’s to Sue, and to women musicians who are making such an impact on musical life in their communities everywhere!

Chamber Choir perform live on Radio 4’s Today Programme

Congratulations and thank you to the members of the University Chamber Choir, who rose to the occasion (and rose early, too…) to sing live on this morning’s Today programme on BBC Radio 4.

Image: Dan Worth / University of Kent

The programme was broadcast directly from the Gulbenkian, and the programme closed with the Choir performing Star of the East, a carol written by composer Russell Hepplewhite. A lovely opportunity to present a recent carol to a wide listenership; thanks to all the singers.

Waiting to go on-stage…
The Chamber Choir with Today presenter, Justin Webb

Here’s the moment shared by BBC Radio 4:

and the University’s clip: