Category Archives: Keeping It Real: reviews.

Concerts and events reviews.

Image Gallery: Chamber Choir #EarBox and Breathing Space events

Many congratulations to the University Chamber Choir, which Friday performed at two very different events on the same day.

The lunchtime concert in Studio 3 Gallery saw the Choir fill the resonant space against the backdrop of the gallery’s latest exhibition, ‘The Ash Archive,’ to an audience that just kept on arriving – never have so many chairs been called for! Thanks to Rose Thompson, the gallery’s co-ordinator, for helping to bring the event together.

Later that evening, the Choir travelled out to the village of Hernhill, to sing at the church’s Breathing Space event, a sequence of music and silence by candlelight that afforded an hour-long period of tranquility, calm and reflection. Our thanks to Reverend Paulette Stubbings for making the Choir so welcome, we hope to return to St Michael’s in May – watch this space…

The Chamber Choir is back in action this Friday when it performs in the Eastern Crypt of Canterbury Cathedral, in a programme including Pergolesi’s vivid Stabat Mater.

The most wonderful time of the year…

And so our music-making this term came to a festive conclusion last night, in the company of the University Big Band, directed by Ian Swatman.The annual Christmas Swingalong always draws a packed crowd, and last night was no exception, audience spilling out onto the balcony around the hall to enjoy a lively seasonal programme with jazz-infused takes on traditional repertoire. Third-year singer Dottie Grenfell joined the band for renditions including The Man With The Bag and Santa Baby; the Brass Band provided the accompaniment for communal carols to the give the Big Band a breather, and the event came to a conclusion with Dottie leading everyone in White Christmas.

The enthusiastic audience flooded out into the foyer afterwards to the strains of a jazz trio with pianist and alumnus Chris Manley (a neat touch). Congratulations to everyone involved, the foyer was buzzing afterwards (nothing to do with the mulled wine and mince pies, of course…) and Colyer-Fergusson was brimful of Christmas cheer.

‘Tis the season…

As usual, there’s a steady crescendo of events leading up to the end of the Christmas term; on Monday night, the University Chamber Choir performed amidst the candle-lit hush of Canterbury Cathedral as part of the University Carol Service.

Image: Matt Wilson / University of Kent

Second-year Matthew Cooke made his conducting debut with In Dulci Jubilo, and other carols the Choir sang included Russell Hepplewhite’s Star of the East, fresh from having performed it live on BBC Radio 4 last week.

Image: Matt Wilson / University of Kent
Image: Matt Wilson / University of Kent

On Tuesday, the String Sinfonia gave a seasonal concert amidst the current exhibition in Studio 3 Gallery as part of the continuing #EarBox series, in a programme that included Corelli’s Christmas Concerto.

Final-year student Lydia Cheng was the featured soloist in a dynamic, energy-filled performance of ‘Winter’ from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

And there’s no respite, as the Big Band prepares for its annual Christmas Swingalong in a few hours’ time, the final event in our Christmas hamper…

Making singing exciting: students work with the London Community Gospel Choir

Colyer-Fergusson Hall was buzzing throughout the day on Friday, when members of the London Community Gospel Choir came to the campus to perform.

During the afternoon, many lucky students took part in a workshop with some of the Choir, and were able to perform alongside them during their roof-raising concert later in the evening, including members of the University Chamber Choir, Gospel Choir and Musical Theatre Society

Rehearsing in the afternoon workshop

Shalom Ozua (pictured right with Bazil Meade), a second-year student in the School of Law and President of the University of Kent Gospel Choir, was one of those who took part; here’s her reflection on the day…

During the day from the workshop to the concert with LCGC, everything was amazing! Singing with the choir’s director, Bazil Meade, was a very good experience which allowed us, as a choir, to learn a lot about different dynamics of singing and also how to make singing exciting. During the workshop we learnt a number of songs which were challenging as they tested our musical abilities, however it was a great lesson! As a choir we have learnt a lot which we will be able to take away and make a difference during our rehearsal times. We are very grateful for the opportunity, and hope to work with Bazil later in the future!

“It was a brilliant night which helped to showcase the talent we have on campus,” observed Aaron Thompson, Vice-President (Activities) with Kent Union, “and it really gave the students an amazing opportunity and experience.”

Out of this world: University singers perform with the Philharmonia at the Marlowe

Music truly was out of this world on Wednesday 8 November, when ten singers from the University performed alongside the Philharmonia Orchestra and Philharmonia Voices, in a sell-out performance of Holst’s The Planets Suite under the baton of John Wilson at the Marlowe.

Ten members of various University choirs, including several University Music Scholars, headed down the hill during the afternoon to rehearse with Aidan Oliver, founding director of Philharmonia Voices, before returning in the evening to lend their voices to the ethereal final movement which brings Holst’s famed orchestral work to a celestial conclusion.

Rehearsing at the Marlowe Studio with director of Philharmonia Voices, Aidan Oliver
Clockwise from top: Charlotte Webb, Alice Baker, Alice Scott, Alice Hargreaves, Fleur Sumption, Alice Shires, Ruth Webster, Lulu Hammond, Carmen Mackey, Helen Sotillo

First-year Law conversion student, Helen Sotillo, was among the singers who took part: this is her story (spoiler alert: contains references to fish and chips and Strictly Come Dancing…)


Soprano amongst the stars: Helen Sotillo

The highlight of Wednesday’s programme was Holst’s Planets Suite, the last movement of which, Neptune, features a choir of ethereal upper voices singing offstage. Considering the power and might of the earlier movements, particularly Mars and Jupiter, this very quiet, mystical ending to the performance is designed to leave the audience spellbound. Considering the complexity of the music and the logistical difficulties of singing out of direct sight of the conductor, (not to mention the world-class level of the performers on stage), we were all feeling the pressure to deliver.

Our numbers were helpfully swelled by female singers from Philharmonia Voices and a short but successful run-through with the chorus master left us feeling very excited for the evening’s concert.

As Sue very pertinently pointed out, the ‘glamourous life of a musician’ inevitably entails a certain amount of hanging around and the experience did not fail to deliver on that front. Of course, the perk of ‘hanging around’ a professional rehearsal is that you get a free preview of the Philharmonia in all their glory. Admittedly some of the time was spent in a fervent discussion about where John Wilson’s accent was actually from (guesses included Newcastle, Liverpool, Leeds and simply ‘up North’) but the privilege of seeing such a renowned orchestra up close was lost on no one!

After a sizable break which involved, among other things, pizza, fish and chips, and Strictly, we returned to the Marlowe. A spot more waiting around, (unfortunately backstage this time), and then it was time for us to take our places in the wings, although corridor might be a better description (the glamour!). The chorus master took his cue from the live tv monitor and then it was our moment to shine! The next few minutes passed very quickly and before we knew it we were slowly processing even further away from the stage allowing the music to slowly fade away. By the time the rapturous (I assume) applause began we were already ensconced back downstairs in the dressing rooms.

Despite our somewhat detached role, I think it’s safe to say we all thoroughly enjoyed our debut with the Philharmonia. Certainly, it was clear from the briefest of discussions with those lucky few who managed to grab one of the sold-out tickets that the performance was a triumph and it is satisfying to think we played some part in that. The experience of performing with such renowned musicians was out-of-this-world.

Helen Sotillo


Director of Music, Sue Wanless, said:‘It was such a privilege to be part of this concert and to see from ‘back-stage’ the extraordinary expertise and detail that these distinguished musicians bring to create the performance on the night.’ Congratulations to the ladies on their involvement in a terrific concert, and our thanks to the Philharmonia musicians for providing such an unearthly experience for our students…

Brewing up a storm: Canterbury International Festival to set city ringing in October

The annual Canterbury International Festival launched this year’s programme a few days ago, and there’s much to which to look forward.

The St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra presents an all-Russian programme including Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto no.2 with cellist Tim Hugh on Saturday 21 October. Violinist Tasmin Little joins Canterbury Choral Society and the English Chamber Orchestra for Vaughan Williams’ popular The Lark Ascending and Dona Nobis Pacem in the Cathedral on Saturday 4 November. Elsewhere, soul singer Ruby Turner will fill the Spiegeltent on Saturday 21 October, and there’s a day-long celebration of progressive rock and the ‘Canterbury Sound’ on Saturday 28 October.

Renowned choir Tenebrae celebrates its fifteenth anniversary with the newly-commissioned Path of Miracles by Joby Talbot (best-known for his addition of ‘Pluto’ to Holst’s Planets Suite and the ballet-score to the Royal Ballet’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) filling the Cathedral Nave on Saturday 28 October.

Among the literary events is a one-man celebration of poets Philip Larkin and John Betjeman, alongside essays by Alan Bennett, A Meeting of Minds on Sunday 29 October. The festival’s comedy programme includes the laconic Rich Hall on Friday 3 November, and a series of talks welcomes travel writer Nicholas Crane and radio presenter Jenni Murray.

There are also plenty of activities for families, including a ‘Canterbury Throwdown’ pottery project and Baby Loves Disco, adventurous puppetry in Curious Creatures on Thursday 26 October and free events in Whitefriars including live music and dance throughout the day on Sunday 14 October.

The University again has a presence as part of the Festival this year; Your Loyal Correspondent teams up with Dr Dan Lloyd from the School of Biosciences for Cellular Dynamics, exploring the links between music and science in a combination of music for one and two pianos with image-projection from cutting-edge research. The School of Biosciences also sponsors the Festival’s Science Strand again this year, which builds on the success of last year’s Cocktail Laboratory with The Beer Lab exploring science and the art of brewing.

Festival logoThe full programme is now online here, with brochures now popping up all around Canterbury; October will see the historic city abuzz with events and visitors as the Festival bursts into life once more.

Music prizes recognise outstanding students during Summer Music Week

At the end of the academic year, it’s always a pleasure and a privilege to be able to recognise particular students for their outstanding contributions to music-making. During Summer Music Week, a public presentation takes place in which to acknowledge their participation and involvement in music with a number of prizes, and the occasion on Tuesday 6 June followed the Scholars’ Lunchtime Recital as part of the week’s event.

Music Prize winners 2017
Jenn Morgan

The Canterbury Festival Prize, presented by Festival Director Rosie Turner, awarded to to a final-year student who has made an outstanding contribution to music at the University, went to Jennifer Morgan, who has just finished reading French and Spanish. Jenn has been Principle double bass in Symphony Orchestra, bassist in Concert Band, star electric bassist for the Big Band, and our 1930s dance orchestra, General Harding’s Tomfoolery. Throughout her final two years, Jenn was a Music Performance Award holder, and was Social Media Representative on the Music Society Committee this year.

The Colyer-Fergusson Music Prize, awarded to a student who has made a major contribution to the organisation of music at the University, was presented jointly to Amy Poulter and Inger Kviseth.

Amy (right) with Tomfoolery

Amy is a final-year student reading Philosophy and English Language & Linguistics, and has been awarded the prize for her exceptional all-round behind-the-scenes organising and admin skills as Concert Band and Big Band Assistant, in which she plays alto saxophone. This involved liaising with the conductor, Ian Swatman, helping to set-up rehearsals and co-ordinating, circulating and collecting all the many sheets of music which go into the instruments folders (a somewhat arduous and thankless task – especially when they go missing!) She also had the mammoth task of running this year’s student battle-of-the bands event, Keynestock, in her capacity as College President.

Inger (left) rehearsing with the Chamber Choir

A final-year student reading Conflict, Peace and Security, Inger’s award recognised her role as Chamber Choir Assistant and Minerva Voices Assistant. She managed the running and the choral library for both choirs during this year, liaised with the choir members about rehearsals and performances and organised the catering during workshop days (which, as anyone who has ever worked with musicians will know, was very important!). She also organised a fund-raising carol-singing afternoon in aid of Cancer Research UK on a very cold December day. Her quiet, proactive efficiency has been a crucial part of the success of both choirs this year. Both students received their awards from the former Chair of the Colyer-Fergusson Charitable Trust, the Honourable Jonathan Monckton.

The John Craven Music Prize, awarded to a returning student who has a made a major contribution to music at the University this year,  was awarded jointly to Lydia Cheng and Jasper Rose.

Lydia Cheng

In her second year reading Law, Lydia is a wonderfully talented violinist – indeed, she turned down music scholarships to both Berkeley and McGill in order to come to Kent. Such is her commitment and talent that she was given the sole responsibility as leader of the Symphony Orchestra in the cathedral concert this year. She also plays in the String Sinfonia and gave a public lunchtime concert last term as part of a piano trio exploring the world of the tango. She is a Music Performance Scholar and is one of the Symphony Orchestra Assistants.

Jasper Rose (back centre)

Jasper is a second-year reading Criminal Justice and Criminology on our Medway campus, and trombonist who features prominently in both the Concert and Big Bands, as well as the Symphony Orchestra. Jasper also plays in the National Youth Jazz Orchestra and is a Music Performance Scholar. The students received their prizes from Patron of the Music Scholarships, Dame Anne Evans.

Where appropriate, the Music Awards Committee can also award the First-Year Prize,  to a student who has made a significant contribution to music-making during their first year of study. This year, the award went to Tom Wust, reading Business and Management on our Medway campus. Tom is Co-principal clarinet in the Symphony Orchestra  and in Concert Band, and tenor sax in Big Band and General Harding’s Tomfoolery. Tom is a Music Performance Scholar, and demonstrated his prowess in the Music Scholars’ concert with two movements from the fiendish Clarinet Sonata by Joseph Horovitz. Tom’s award was presented by Professor April McMahon.

Jonathan Butten (right)

This year, we were pleased to be able to award the cumbersomely-titled yet no less important Music Awards Committee Prize renamed as the David Humphreys Music Prize, in memory of David who was a terrific supporter of music at the University, and whose fund in memory of his wife, Julia, continues to support the annual Crypt Concert by the University Chamber Choir. The award recognises students who have made a special contribution to music at Kent, and this was awarded to three students jointly: Jonathan Butten, Faith Chan and Cory Adams.

Jonathan is a final -year student, reading Biomedical Sciences, and the prize was awarded for his outstanding contribution as Principal oboe and cor anglais in the Symphony Orchestra. Jonathan has been a remarkable woodwind player, performing in lunchtime concerts, and has been a University Music Performance Scholar, and this year acting as one of the Symphony Orchestra Assistants.

Faith Chan

In her final year reading Law,  Faith received her prize for her special contribution to University Music as a cellist. She is principal cellist in the Symphony Orchestra and Sinfonia and gave a public lunchtime concert last term with the Piazzolla piano trio. Her versatility meant she has also been a very fine continuo player, featuring in Baroque concerts and lunchtime performances over the course of her time at Kent. She is a Music Performance Scholar, and has also been one of the Symphony Orchestra Assistants.

Cory is Masters student reading Hispanic and Comparative Literature; he has been Principal timpanist and percussionist in Symphony Orchestra, and kit and percussion in Concert Band, Big Band and General Harding’s Tomfoolery. He is a University Music Performance Scholar and has just finished impressively organising (and exhausting!) everyone in his capacity as President of the Music Society. The three students received their prize from Chair of the Music Awards Committee and Reader in Biosciences, Dr Dan Lloyd.

Cory Adams

Music-making at Kent, as an extra-curricular activity, really does rely on the participation, commitment and enthusiasm of all the many students (and staff) who take part in rehearsals and performances on top of their studies during the academic year. The awards ceremony during Summer Music Week is an opportunity publically to recognise and to thank a few individuals for all that they contributed during their time at the University; our congratulations to everyone on their awards, and our gratitude for the part they have played in making the musical year at the University such a success.