Category Archives: Keeping It Real: reviews.

Concerts and events reviews.

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.

Jazz @ 5 gets LondonJazz blogged!

Jazz @ 5I”m delighted to announce that the most recent Jazz @ 5 has been reviewed on the LondonJazz blog, one of the top ten London blogs and a mecca for jazz-enthusiasts.

Run by Sebastian Scotney, the jazz critic for the Daily Telegraph, the review is penned by Adam Tait, and highlights the nature of what Jazz @ 5 is really all about. Click here to read the review.

Congratulations to everyone who has helped make Jazz @ 5 a success again this year: bring on the next one!

Curtain up: Get Fiddlin’!

Fiddler on the Roof poster

The University of Kent Music Theatre Society is preparing to raise the curtain on its production of Fiddler on the Roof from tomorrow at The Playhouse Theatre, Whitstable, directed by final-year English student, Laura Harrison. Including such well-loved hit songs such as ‘If I Were A Rich Man’ and ‘Far From The Home I Love,’ the annual productions by the University’s Music Theatre Society are always fantastically vibrant events, with superb sets and costumes.  Production Manager Tim Colegate is a second-year Drama student, whilst second-year English and American Studies student Katie Hogben is this year’s Costume Designer. 

Musical Director Elizabeth McIver, a final-year Music Scholar, soprano and Biosciences student, says the musical has always been close to her heart. “When I was about seven or eight years old, I saw the film version for the first time and I used to pretend I was Tevye and dance around like he does in’ If I Were A Rich Man.’ (Luckily our Tevye does a much better job than I did). 

“Our singers are full of enthusiasm and are so hard-working! I am so glad we have such a lovely venue in which to showcase their work. Our band is a mixture of UKC and Christchurch students, and it’s fantastic working with them all.” 

The first performance is on Thursday 1st March at 7.45pm, and the production runs until April 3, with a matinee at 2.30pm on the Saturday as well. 

Tickets are selling fast, appealing priced at  £10 (£5 for UKC and Christchurch students) and are available through the Playhouse Theatre website or from their Box Office on 01227 272042. 

It promises to be a fun-filled and exciting event: don’t miss it!

Travel information – the number 4 bus from Canterbury bus station leaves every 15mins on normal service, on Bank Holidays it runs a Sunday service so the buses leave only every 30mins. There is a bus stop directly outside the theatre, the advice is to push the button as you see either ‘Lucy’s Sandwich Bar’ on your left or ‘Deco 5’ on your right – or ask the driver!

Buy one, get one free: two choirs go to Littlebourne.

The good citizens of Littlebourne got more than they bargained for when they wrote to me last Autumn, inviting the Music Department to provide a concert for them. Last week, to their surprise, not one but two choirs arrived at St. Vincent’s Church, Littlebourne, for a concert of choral music. 

Chamber Choir
University of Kent Chamber Choir 2010

The evening was shared between the University’s Chamber Choir, who were returning for the second year running, and an ensemble new to the University, the Cecilian Choir. Directed with authority by third-year Drama student Amy Clarke, the Chamber Choir explored a varied repertoire, ranging  from Schütz’s eight-part German Magnificat for double choir, and Bruckner’s Os Iusti to the wonderfully luminous Lux Aurumque by Whitacre, featuring some ethereal top notes from the sopranos. Tučapský’s Five Lenten Motets brought a suitably seasonal feel to the concert, and the concert ended with a lyrical rendition of Vaughan Williams’ folk-song settings. 

Cecilian Choir logoThe occasion was also the inaugural concert for the University’s Cecilian Choir, founded back in November as an opportunity for students, staff and alumni to make music on a smaller scale as a companion to the University Chorus. The group is a fine example of the nature of music-making across the university community observed in a previous post.  Directed by Dan Harding, they gave a spirited performance of Vivaldi’s Gloria, with a profound exploration of the dissonances of the second movement, Et in terra pax hominibus. There was also high drama in the Domine Deus, Rex coelestis which pitches a solo voice against a beseeching chorus. Soloists were drawn from students and staff alike. The choir also sang two short but colourful motets by Howard Skempton, who is fast becoming a favourite of the University concert programmes. 

St. Vincent’s Church has a window in the south aisle dedicated to St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music, after whom the Cecilian Choir is named, and it was a fitting place for the choir in which to make their debut performance. The saint would have been delighted to hear the music of both choirs, we hope. 

Congratulations to all the musical staff, students and alumni who took part. I wonder how many choirs will turn up next year ?

The programme for the entire concert can be viewed here.

Music from a farther room: the Eliot College Soirée

Eliot College Soiree
(l-r);Sarah Davies, Maddie Harris, Dan Wheeler, Kate Lumley, Dan Pargeter, Alice Godwin, Vici Hemming, Lizzie McIver, Lucy White, Nicola Ingram, Esra Yazar, Amy Clarke, Lena Younes, Ben Tomlin, Chis Gray; foreground: Dr. Michael Hughes, Dan Harding. (Missing from the photo is oboist Dr. Dan Lloyd, whom we think was at the bar by this time...!).

From the sweeping grandeur of Canterbury Cathedral to the intimacy of Eliot College in just five days: music at the University gets everywhere.  

The soirée musicale last Thursday in Eliot Senior Common Room saw a packed audience of staff, students and guests entertained by Scholars and musical staff and students in an evening of French music. Repertoire ranged from the high-art chansons of Fauré and Saint-Saëns via the tenderness of Poulenc’s Sonata for Oboe,  an Italian evening on the Grand Canal in Belle Nuit (Barcarolle) from Offenbach, to the contemporary, gutsy blues of Regarde les Riches. The University Clarinet Quartet tripped deftly through Chaminade’s Danse Créole, whilst other woodwind duets featured players, who had the week before filled the Cathedral, in works by Fauré, Poulenc and Bizet.  

An eight-part vocal consort drew the performance to a close with a traditional French folk-song arrangement, and also let in the only imposter of the evening, Morten Lauridsen, with his setting of En Une Seule Fleur. Well, fair enough: Lauridsen is a rising star of the American choral scene, but it was a setting of a poem by Rilke, and it is something of a showpiece for singers as well, so it was allowed. (So there.) 

The enthusiastic audience included many donors and benefactors who support the University’s Music Scholarships as well as all its music-making, and this was a great opportunity to thank them for their continuing support.  

Thank you to Michael Hughes, Master of Eliot College, for the invitation to perform, and to Meredith Johnson, the Master’s Assistant, for co-ordinating the lavish buffet which followed to the delight of all, especially these three ladies…  

Sometimes the food is just too tempting...
Sometimes the buffet is just too tempting...