Category Archives: Keeping It Real: reviews.

Concerts and events reviews.

Different risks for the New Normal: a concert by Anne Müller

In an era when musicians (and in fact artists generally) are adapting to the current climate by presenting and performing online, I had the fortune recently to watch a streamed Wohnzimmer performance by cellist, composer and music-and-electronics exponent, Anne Müller.

Continue reading Different risks for the New Normal: a concert by Anne Müller

Lockdown Lunchtime Concert with University Music Scholars

In these unusual times, we’re pleased to present a ‘virtual’ Music Scholars’ Lunchtime Concert as part of a re-imagined Summer Music Week.

The concert featured several Music Performance Scholars and Award Holders, who had each filmed themselves performing in isolation from their homes around the country. From Scottish piping to French art-song, nimble woodwind pieces and a song from Disney’s Prince of Egypt, a novel way of highlighting just some of the musicians that take part in our extra-curricular music-making.

With thanks to all the performers (and their accompanists!) who took part.

Music on the marshes and a Russian fairy-tale in a busy weekend of music

Congratulations to all the performers involved in two concerts over the weekend, a busy time for the Music department which saw two contrasting events taking place both on and off-campus.

The University Chamber Choir and Consort travelled to the twelfth-century church of All Saints, Graveney, on Friday afternoon, heading out across the marshes near Faversham to rehearse and perform a vibrant programme, including the European premiere of Vow by American composer, Jocelyn Hagen; the choir and strings came together in several works, including the fiercely dramatic setting of the Stabat Mater by Rheinberger. The concert raised over £600 towards the church’s much-needed campaign to continue as a part of the Graveney community; our thanks to all the team at the church for making us so welcome.

Second-year assistant conductor, David Curtiss, led the Choir in part of the programme including a moving setting of The Road Home by Stephen Paulus.

And on Sunday, members of the University Camerata teamed up with Senior Lecturer in Drama, Will Wollen, to perform Prokofiev’s popular Peter and the Wolf once more, in what looks set to become an annual tradition. We welcomed back some familiar faces as alumni musicians joined the ensemble of students and staff for a rousing family concert.

And it doesn’t stop there: in two weeks’ time, we have two events again – Music Performance Scholars in a Lunchtime Concert on Weds 18 March, and the hugely-popular roof-raising gig from the University Concert and Big Bands on Friday 20 March. Make sure you’re keeping up…!

Debussy at Dockside: Music Scholars perform at Medway

Congratulations to University Music Performance Scholars Tom Wust and Meg Daniel, who performed trio music at the  Galvanising Cafe last Friday as part of Dockside Live, a series of lunchtime concerts each Friday during term-time run by the University’s Arts and Culture team.

A home-turf event for fourth-year clarinettist Tom, who reads Business Studies on the Medway campus, the concert also featured second-year flautist and Law student, Meg, in a colourful programme with Your Loyal Correspondent joining them on the piano in the Petit Suite by Debussy,  the slow movement of Piano Concerto K467 by Mozart,  and closing with three cheeky waltzes by Shostakovich.

The Galvanising Cafe is a great, informal performance space, and the opportunity to avail oneself of coffee and pre-concert toasted sandwiches and fries is never one to miss…

Following the concert, we grabbed some of the students in the audience who had travelled over from Canterbury to visit the HMS Gannet, and then a crucial post-performance analysis over a meal at Nando’s with the Medway Music Engagement Officer, Chris Barrett (pictured, right).

Our thanks to Chris for the opportunity to participate in the Dockside Live series – we look forward to coming back…

A night to remember: Nostalgia Night research showcase

Congratulations to all the performers involved in last Friday’s Nostalgia Night, a research showcase presented by Dr Chris Deacy in the School of European Culture and Languages as part of this year’s nationwide Being Human Festival.

Dr Chris Deacy

Reader in Theology and Religious Studies at the University, Chris’ event was also a part of the Open Thinking at Kent strand, which promotes ideas and public engagement with University research, led by Will Wollen from the School of Arts. Friday night saw Chris presenting his research into the idea of nostalgia – what it means and how it shapes us as human beings – in a session enhanced by live music provided by the University Chamber Choir, Cecilian Choir and General Harding’s Tomfoolery, the 1940s dance orchestra. Music included Moonlight Serenade, the theme to RainbowWhen I Fall In Love, the theme tune to the Pink Panther,  a Christmas carol, Lady Is A Tramp featuring second-year vocalist Robbie Frederick, and  it all came to a rousing conclusion with the audience joining in to sing Bring Me Sunshine.

The University Cecilian Choir
General Harding’s Tomfoolery

Tomfoolery also played the audience out with The Charleston and American Patrol, before performers and audience mingled in the foyer for a post-event glass of mulled wine.

Before the event, the student barbershop quartet, the Razor Sharps, took to the foyer-stage to entertain the arriving audience with a selection of popular favourites, setting a suitable scene for a trip down Memory Lane.

Singers from the Cecilian and Chamber Choirs: how many can you fit into a selfie…
Members of General Harding’s Tomfoolery backstage…
Some Cecilian Choir who didn’t make it into the previous choir selfie…

Thanks to all those who took part; we brought fun, we brought sunshine, we brought love!

Sigrid at Glastonbury 2019: new-minted intensity on show in confident set from Scandi pop sensation

For anyone who watched Scandi pop-sensation Sigrid’s set at Glastonbury on Saturday, having also see her set two years ago, it was a momentous moment – we were witnessing (well, I was from the comfort of the sofa, anyway…) a real coming-of-age set delivered by someone empowered now with a confidence in both her performing and her material, as well the commercial success of March’s release of her album, Sucker Punch.

From the moment she strode out onto the Other Stage to audience cheers to launch into the album’s title track, it was clear that Sigrid had a new intent, a new drive and an assurance which has grown since she performed on the Park Stage at the festival in 2017. That time, she was clearly having fun but also slightly in awe of the occasion; at one point, she shared with the audience that she had been talking to a BBC producer earlier in the day, who has said that the size of her home town was “Glastonbury multiplied with SIX!” This year, she was back with a vengeance, and a clear sense of self-belief.

Musically, too, her act has developed along new lines; her songs abounded in new catches, pushes and syncopations to material we’ve heard before, and new harmonic progressions in songs such as Plot Twist; her musical language is maturing at the same time as her stage presence.

Sharing the stories behind her song-writing, she let the audience know that her first single, 2017’s Don’t Kill My Vibe, was written in difficult circumstances, and the fact that she could sing a song about respect at Glastonbury was something special. She then launched into a fierce rendition of the song, with a new-minted intensity, exhorting the audience with fierce gestures to clap along and showing a masterfully defiant side. There was a new-found swagger to her material as well; ‘Don’t stay if you don’t mean it, ‘Cos you f~cked me up again / Just walk away, and we’ll just leave it / ‘Cos I won’t give my heart in vain.’

There were several shots during the gig of a young girl in the audience who was clearly having the absolute time of her life, veering between being utterly carried away by the music and other times so overcome by the occasion that she was in tears; she broke all our hearts, and reminded us exactly what the power of live music can be. Sigrid brought her set to an end with the cheerful melancholia of Don’t Feel Like Crying, although, along with that audience member, the rest of us certainly felt as though we did. If Saturday’s vivacious performance was anything to go by, it’s clear that Sigrid’s vibe is going to endure for a while to come.


Tip o’ the hat to alumna and former Music Scholar, Carina Evans, for permission to use the three main photos, taken at this year’s festival; Carina was there over the weekend amongst the festival-goers…

Summer Music Week: Between Worlds premiere

Congratulations to all the performers involved in the mesmerising first performance of Between Worlds by composer / violinist Anna Phoebe, which took an entranced audience on a meditative odyssey on the penultimate day of Summer Music Week.

Drawing on research media from the School of Biosciences, Anna’s piece explores the intangible boundary between science and art in a collaborative piece for choir, strings, percussion, soloists and film-projections by artist Skyla Bridges. Conducted by Deputy Director of Music, Dan Harding, the University Chamber Choir and String Sinfonia, together with Anna herself on violin, pianist Jacob Downs, second-year postrgraduate Leon on percussion, and oboist Dan Lloyd (also Deputy Head of the School of Biosciences) unfurled Anna’s evocative piece against a tapestry of ambient electronic soundtracks and beneath Skyla Bridges’ wonderfully beautiful projections taken from research imagery by Dr Chris Toseland.

Between Worlds. Image: Dan Lloyd

The first half of the concert saw a conducter-less (for the most part) String Sinfonia in music by Britten, Reger, Purcell and Arvo Pärt’s lachrymaic Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten, for which the strings were joined by conductor, Susan Wanless. Pärt’s haunting tribute to Britten closed the first half an set the atmosphere for the second.

Afterwards, performers, audience and guests mingled for a post-concert reception to celebrate the fruition of a project that has been in rehearsal since January. Read the programme from the event yourself here.

Main images: © Matt Wilson / University of Kent

Summer Music Week: Day Three and Four

Two further music-filled days as part of this year’s Summer Music Week; on Monday, the University Rock Choir, directed by alumni Jonathan Grosberg, had an enthusiastic audience clapping along to songs such as Don’t Stop Believin’  and Roar; the choir’s debut brought a standing ovation in Colyer-Fergusson Hall.

And Tuesday saw the annual Music Scholars’ Lunchtime Recital, which began in unique fashion this year with first-year Biosciences student and highland bagpiper Eloise Jack – her skiriling pipes were heard outside the hall before she entered on the balcony to instant applause.

Final-year Computer Science student, Robert Loveless, dazzled in a rhythmically vivacious Bossa Merengova by Mike Mower.

Four final-year violinists then delivered a pitch-perfect performance of Telemann’s second Concerto for Four Violins; Zaneta Balsevic (reading Music Performance), Florence Nightingale Obote (Biosciences), Molly Richetta (Mathematics) and Melody Brooks (Psychology).

The programme took a folksy turn in the form of two saxophone duets from two first-year Music Scholars, David Curtiss (reading Physics) and Megan Daniels (Law), in melodies from Bulgaria and Spain.

The concert drew to a close with final-year sopranos Fleur Sumption (History of Art) and Helen Sotillo (LLB Law Senior Status) in a lyrical rendition of the ‘Barcarolle’ from The Tales of Hoffmann.

A highly responsive audience greeted all the performers at the end for a collective bow – our thanks to all the players. The concert was followed by the awarding of this year’s Music Prizes, about which more anon…

Image: Millie Falla

There was Of Course time for selfies afterwards…

Our music festival continues tonight with the annual roof-raising extravaganza that is the valedictory concert from the University Concert Band and Big Band under the baton of Ian Swatman. Still plenty more to come…

Main photos: © Matt Wilson