Category Archives: Keeping It Real: reviews.

Concerts and events reviews.

Be My Guest: Alanya Holder reviews Ronnie Scott’s Big Band

Be My Guest: an occasional series featuring guest posts and contributions. This week, Music Society President Alanya Holder reviews the Ronnie Scott Big Band as part of the Sounds New Festival, Canterbury.


Ronnie Scott: “If it doesn’t turn you on…”

On Sunday 16th May, as part of the Sounds New festival, Ronnie Scott’s Big Band came to the Gulbenkian Theatre. But as an extra special treat, selected musicians from Canterbury Christ Church University were invited to an afternoon workshop with the director of the band, Pete Long. I was lucky enough to sit in and watch the experience! Pete Long is a fantastically extrovert character who clearly has a passion for all things jazz and big band. He was also a brilliant director, getting the absolute best out of everyone within minutes. The noise that engulfed the Gulbenkian Cafe was astounding. We also got a little insight into how rehearsals with the Ronnie Scott band must be as everyone was so relaxed and having a great time just enjoying the music. I also feel greatly enlightened by Pete Long’s words of wisdom during the day. A lesson every musician must learn is this; “Playing a note is like streaking, once you’ve started you’ve got to commit to it!” Also I think it is important we remember the day in a certain context; “Big band music – sometimes it’s used to accompany strippers.”

Album cover
Atomic Basie (1957)

So as the afternoon drew to a close everyone was eagerly awaiting the evening performance of the two iconic jazz albums: Atomic Mr. Basie and Ellington at Newport. The evening was not only fantastic music but I felt I left knowing a lot more about the two albums and the artists as Pete Long gave each song an introduction and history (not to mention a joke or two). It was great to hear the songs performed by the band that the students had played about with earlier in the day, as you could appreciate just how good both the students and Pete Long were at bringing the music to life. Almost every member of the Ronnie Scott band had a solo opportunity during the evening, the crowd favourite being the drummer who not only stunned us with drumming but juggling as well! A quirck which put a smile on my face was watching the pianist’s feet tapping away at an incredible speed along with all the songs, I was worried he might fall off his chair.

Ellington album
Ellington at Newport (1956)

The evening went from strength to strength and towards the end of the night every song and every solo received a cheer and a standing ovation. The passion for the music in the room was evident, even if jazz wasn’t your thing! But as Pete Long said; “If it doesn’t turn you on…then you haven’t got a switch.”

Written by Alanya Holder.

ArtsFest is coming…

Saturday 12 June, 2010, from 1pm: get it in your diaries now!

The University’s end of year cultural celebrations on the Canterbury campus, with a host of sound-stages, music, dance, drama, an evening Prom Concert and events at the Gulbenkian Theatre. This year, the Gulbenkian is also the focus for family and children-friendly events and activities, and there’ll be the usual refreshments and wandering entertainment throughout the afternoon.

From capoeira demonstrations to stand-up comedy, drama presentations and dance to live music including rock, jazz and classical, there’ll be something for everyone. Local community and school groups will also be performing, and Rubber Biscuit – Kent’s hottest rhythmn and blues band – will be headlining on the main stage in the evening.

The evening will conclude with the traditional dazzling pyrotechnic wizardry of the firework display on the slopes overlooking the floodlit Cathedral.

A full list of the day’s event can be found on-line here. It’s going to be another cracker…

A very good year:Jazz @ 5.

So, the Jazz @ 5 season has drawn to a close. Now into its second year, the regular Wednesday showcase for jazz-loving Scholars, staff and students has really found its dancing feet. Set up by Dan Harding when he started in 2008 as a foil for the large-scale music-making of the University Big Band (as well as a chance to indulge in his passion for small-scale jazz ensemble-playing), the series has flourished since taking its first tentative steps in October 2008 onto the Gulbenkian Theatre foyer stage. 

Dina Watten
Dina Jazz

The series this year has featured a dizzying array of singers from the ranks of staff and students alike: Jo Turner, Jo Pearsall, Sophie Meikle, Miriam Zekagh, Dina Watten (pictured), Amy Clarke, Crystal Cowban, Lizzie McIver, Alanya Holder: all have graced the stage. Even former Scholar and jazz pianist Chris Manley has hot-footed it up the hill from Canterbury after work in order to continue playing in the series. Music this year has ranged from Fairground Attraction to Radiohead, as well as the usual array of popular standards and show-tunes. 

The original ensemble has grown to feature a regular quintet: pianist and leader Dan Harding, the elastic improvisations of guitarist Andrew Kitchin (pictured), the robust solos of saxophonist Will Rathbone – now enhanced by the arrival of some solid bass-playing from Sophie Meikle and the rhythmic underpinning of drummer Jon Nicholls. 

Guitarist Andrew Kitchin
The Kitchin sink: Andrew on guitar

And these groups are like buses: you wait for one, and then two arrive at once. This year has seen the birth of the JA Cross Quartet: Scholarship pianist James Cross and drummer Mike Macdonald have teamed up with Andrew and Will to form a refreshingly exploratory group, embracing Monk and Coltrane in their sound. 

Many thanks to everyone who has participated this year and made it such a success. As mentioned in a previous post, we were even blogged about by LondonJazz blogspot: it doesn’t get much better than that! Well, maybe Downbeat magazine, perhaps… 

We also present an album of images from Jazz @ 5, courtesy of the creative photography of Mick Norman. Some of the performers will be appearing in the Marlowe Tent at ArtsFest on Saturday 12 June: details to follow. 

Mick’s images.

The lights on-stage have faded, the piano is closed, the microphone stands alone. The singers sang, and set the sun. For now…

A feast at lunchtime: the concert series in review.

This year, the University presented another eclectic range of music in its annual Lunchtime Concert series, with enthusiastic audiences averaging around two hundred for each performance in the Gulbenkian Theatre.    

Mambo Jambo  – October   

Mambo Jambo!


The series was launched in style by Mambo Jambo, a two-piece group who between them played more instruments that you would have thought possible. Using all acoustic instruments and drawing on musical styles from around the world, their repertoire included music from Latin America, Africa, Brazil and bluegrass.   

The English Muse – November  

In contrast, the second concert explored Baroque music from Purcell to Handel with a trio of renowned early music performers: Terence Charleston (harpsichord), Anna Crookes (soprano) and Penelope Spencer (violin). The programme included Purcell’s Sound The Trumpet and a Handel cantata of outrageous musical inventiveness.  

Carnival of the Animals – November   

Charles Darwin
Seeing Double: Charles Darwin ?


The influence of the Darwin centenary celebrations was apparent in the last lunchtime concert of the Autumn term, a performance of Saint-Saens’ enduringly popular Carnival of the Animals by the University Camerata. Playing to a packed theatre, the ensemble featured musical staff of the University, ranging from a Deputy Vice-Chancellor to the Director of the Unit for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning, as well as various visiting music teachers. The concert was a part of the University-wide Darwin celebrations, and even featured a guest appearance by Darwin himself, who bore a rather uncanny resemblence to the Drama department’s Dr. Olly Double…    

KD Jazz and Dance Orchestra – January
The New Year kicked off in lively manner with the KD Jazz and Dance Orchestra,
KD Jazz
KD Jazz & Dance Orchestra


which included several of the visiting Music Department staff. An enthusiastic audience were treated to a vivacious mixture of songs from the 1940’s to combat ‘Blue Monday’s’ blues. Saxophonist and singer Peter Cook didn’t allow himself to be incovenienced by a cold, as he had handily brought a megaphone for that authentic sound. Some solid support from sousaphone player Steve Wassall was matched by some light-footed improvisation from Ian Swatman. 

Gofannon Brass – March   

Gofannon Brass
Gofannon Brass


The concert series was brought to a close in heraldic fashion by Gofannon Brass,  founded by trumpeter and visiting teacher Alex Caldon. The five-piece ensemble comprises players from major London orchestras and West End theatre productions. The group is named after the ancient Celtic god of metal-workers who, with all the fine brass instruments on display, must surely have been delighted.  

As ever, our thanks to the firm of Furley Page Solicitors, who generously continue to sponsor the Lunchtime Concert series and allow the University to bring such an array of professional talent into the community. Furley page logo 

For further information about Furley Page Solicitors, visit their website here.

Out to grass: the Glastonbury 2010 line-up.

Glastonbury Festival
In-tents: the Glastonbury festival experience.

The lineup for this year’s Glastonbury Festival was announced yesterday: click here to see who’s hot and who’s not.

Of particular note: the grandiose, theatrical funk of George Clinton and Parliament / Funkadelic, the multi-track vocal trickery of Imogen Heap, the hard-bitten blues of Seasick Steve or the New Orleans pianistic skills of Dr. John.

Oh, and the legend that is Stevie Wonder.

Who’s your favourite this year ?

Alanya Holder is ‘Wrapping up Spring.’

Be My Guest: an occasional series featuring guest posts and contributions. This week, a look back over the musical events of the Spring term, the second article from second-year Law student and recently-elected President of the Music Society, Alanya Holder.

Wrapping Up Spring.

“Sometimes I forget I’m doing a Law Degree…”

When I first sat down and thought of everything musical that has happened over the last term I realised that if I talked about every single one in detail, this blog post would never end. So instead here is a whirlwind tour of the Spring term with the Music Society… 

University Chorus and Orchestra
University Chorus and Orchestra in Canterbury Cathedral: Photo: Robert Berry

January began with everyone complaining how much they had eaten over Christmas and how none of us at Chorus could make sense of the Szymanowski Stabat Mater. With the Cathedral Concert only a couple of months away, nerves set in immediately and adrenaline kept us all going until the day. However I must admit that by the day we had come to love the Szymanowski in a strange kind of way and I definitely loved the Poulenc Gloria. A fellow musician, Chris Gray has written a fantastic blog post all about the Cathedral concert day – one of the longest days of my life, but a fantastic one.

So a few weeks into term, not much going on – I know, let’s have a SOCIAL! The Music Society had a ‘blues’ themed social at the Orange Street Club. It was blues night at the club, and the Society all came dressed in blue – or as a Blues Brother in one case (good effort Andrew Bailey!) And as we all danced the night away, I was contemplating my first concert of the term – the Concert Band and Big Band annual concert in the Gulbenkian Theatre.

University Big Band
Good Times Roll! The University Big Band

The band concert is well known for being a night of fun and fantastic music, this year featuring the singing sensation Crystal Cowban! However while the concert all looks fantastic and sounds even better, few know of the hours and hours of preparation that go into it! In the weeks running up to the concert it’s a mad rush making sure that there are enough copies of all the music and trying to tie people down to saying if they are definitely performing so that a seating plan can be made! On the day instruments pile into a van and make their way to the theatre, chairs are stolen from seminar rooms because there just aren’t enough and generally everyone rushes around like a headless chicken until we sit down to rehearse in the afternoon. Similar goings-on after the concert make the day long and hard but definitely worth it – even if my clarinet playing skills are not something to shout about. [Not true! – Ed.].

Altogether now: Sing!

Something new for me this year was singing in ‘Sing!’ a student run choir that performed in the Gulbenkian Cafe as a warm-up act for the concert. We sang such greats as Lean on Me and a Disney Medley. More to come from ‘Sing!’ at ArtsFest and next year.

At the end of February (yes I’m only up to February!) I took the plunge and volunteered to sing at Dan Harding’s ‘Jazz at 5’ – a brilliant innovation which got me listening to some different kinds of music and gave me the opportunity to sing solo, something I haven’t done for over a year. I sang two songs by Fairground Attraction and Why don’t you do right by Peggy Lee. I’ve loved watching all my friends take part in Jazz at 5 and couldn’t have asked for a better experience in life when I got up there and did it for myself.

Two days after this was the Chamber Choir Crypt Concert. This was my first year in the Chamber Choir and it has been tonnes of fun! Amy Clarke has been a fantastic conductor this year and the Cathedral Crypt just made the evening so special. That evening truly was one of those nights that gives you a shiver down your spine as you’re doing something you love, with people you love in a place that you can’t help but love! Can’t wait for next year…

And finally to my last concert of the term – the Littlebourne Concert. This was a great opportunity for the Chamber Choir to have another chance to sing our repertoire in another location and for a good cause. We were also joined by the Cecilian Choir who sang Vivaldi’s Gloria. This was fantastic, a piece that is a personal favourite of mine.

And so the term comes to a close…I’ve sung, I’ve played, I’ve watched and I’ve organised. This term has been hectic and stressful but also wonderful. I’ve made some really good friends and been given new and amazing opportunities. I will never forget my time with the Music Society at Kent University – it has been my life this last term! I don’t think my parents will forget it either, as they have been at every single concert I’ve been involved in – dedication and a half!

Sometimes I forget I’m doing a Law Degree…

Be My Guest: Alanya Holder.

Alany Holder
Sax appeal: Alanya Holder

An occasional series featuring guest posts and contributions. This review is written by Alanya Holder, a second-year Law student who sings in Chorus and Chamber Choir, and plays sax in Concert Band and Big Band. She is also the Concerts Assistant, and Big Band rep on the Music Society Committee. 


‘Fiddling Around on a Friday Night.’

On April 1st, 2nd and 3rd the University of Kent Musical Theatre Society performed Fiddler on the Roof at the Whitstable Playhouse (as previewed in a recent post here). For a very reasonable student discount price of £5, three friends and I went along on Friday night to support some of our Music Society friends and generally find out what it was all about. I’ve never been to the Whitstable Playhouse before – it’s a small but incredibly cute little theatre which was just perfect to give the performance that ‘personal’ touch. Although I have to say that the woman in front of me really did have quite large hair so for a lot of the time centre stage was blocked out! 

Before seeing this production I had absolutely no idea of the plot of the play although I am quite well acquainted with many of its brilliant and classic songs. As promised the show opened its curtains to reveal a fiddler fiddling away and then the show went from musical number to musical number with great success. A personal favourite of mine was Jonathan Grosberg’s rendition of Miracle of Miracles – a wonderful song performed excellently! As a strictly amateur group I was unsure of exactly what to expect from the singers in the show, but thanks to the hard work of all the performers and the incredibly competent musical direction of Elizabeth McIver the show lived up to everyone’s expectations. Unfortunately we didn’t get to witness the musicians on the night but we definitely heard Elizabeth and her orchestra from behind the scenes – a big congratulations deserved all round. 

Of course music and singing is nothing in a play without choreography. This was in the control of Jamie Mount who should be incredibly proud of everything the cast achieved. Some particularly fantastic dancing could be witnessed during the song To Life which involves a drunken celebration in a bar! It was evident that immense amounts of time and effort had been put into every aspect of the play, but of course none of it would have been possible without the skills of the Director of the show, Laura Harrison who said that the show was “the greatest part of my entire University experience. To be given the chance and to give the chance to others of putting on such a fantastic musical is a great honour. Over the past few months the show has become my everything and will certainly be sorely missed!” 

This performance lived up to my expectations of the Musical Theatre Society, although I had no idea how long Fiddler on the Roof  was. That aside, all that remains to be noted is the particular dedication from a few of the cast which impressed me – the few men that grew their own beards especially for the show (in particular Jóannes Lamhauge!) Can’t wait for the next performance! 

By Alanya Holder.