Category Archives: Notes on Music

The philosophy of music: or the music of philosophy ?

Serenade across the sea: Camerata performs in the city of Calais

A standing ovation from over six hundred people greeted the end of yesterday’s concert by the University Camerata in L’Eglise de Notre Dame in the heart of the city of Calais.

The Camerata is a real cross-section of the University community, comprising undergraduate and postgradudate students, staff and alumni, all coming together to represent the University in public concerts throughout the year. Yesterday’s performance was the result of an invitation earlier this year by Calais city council to bring the two cities of Calais and Canterbury together, to recognise and celebrate the cities’ shared history (Calais was once part of the Diocese of Canterbury) and to make cultural connections (see previous post here).

An early morning start saw the coach-load of musicians leaving Colyer-Fergusson in various stages of wakefulness (well, 6.30am on a Sunday can be a little early for some…), with a welcome coffee at the Folkestone terminal of Le Shuttle enlivening the group further still on its way to an 11am (French time) rehearsal in the church beneath glorious November skies.

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Music by Elgar and Warlock was soon swirling around the nave of the magnificent church, with later on the strains of Marcello’s Oboe Concerto lifting into the roof courtesy of Professor Dan Lloyd, who joined the string group on oboe, stepping out of his busy schedule as Deputy Head of the School of Biosciences.The Camerata’s international make-up mirrors that of the wider University community, with members from Germany, Lithuania, France and Canada, including an Erasmus-student cellist; the Schools of Psychology, Law, Mathematics and Biosciences were also represented by the ensemble’s constituents, many of whom are either current or former University Music Performance Scholars. It’s a testament to the nature of extra-curricular music-making at Kent that it transcends boundaries – geographical, hierarchical, institutional – as it creates communities working together in rehearsal and performance.

The concert, part of the city’s current festival, drew over six hundred people to witness the power of collaborative creativity which lies at the heart of the University’s vision. We’re already looking forward to the second event in our planned collaboration later in the year.

Congratulations to all the performers, to leader Floriane Peycelon and conductor Susan Wanless, on a magnificent ambassadorial showcase that illustrated, to an international audience, what an international University can do.

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Facebook users can view an album of photos from the day here.

Allons-y! University Camerata visit to Calais is coming

Preparations are underway here at Colyer Towers for a special event next week, when the University Camerata will cross la Manche to give a concert at the l’Eglise de Notre-Dame in the city of Calais.

Featured in next month’s local magazine, Les Rêves de Notre-Dame, the event is first of several events throughout the current academic year which celebrates Canterbury’s historic links with the city; the string ensemble, comprising students, staff and alumni, will cross the Channel armed with a programme of music by Purcell, Warlock and Elgar, as well as  Marcello’s Oboe Concerto featuring the Deputy Head of the School of Biosciences, Dan Lloyd.

The Camerata last sailed in to port back in March for a performance of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf; we’re looking forward to presenting a largely English musical feast for the burghers of Calais at the end of next week, on Sunday 10 November; should you happen to be in the city at 3pm, the event is free, join University musicians as we celebrate our historic links with the French city-port – event details online here.

Celebrating Leonardo da Vinci in words and music

A fascinating event comes to the University of Kent’s Colyer-Fergusson Concert Hall on Saturday 9th November. Marking the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, I Fagiolini will bring their new programme Leonardo: Shaping the Invisible to Canterbury as part of their national tour.

The event combines projections of his best-loved masterworks with choral pieces that connect with the images. Leonardo expert Professor Martin Kemp and I Fagiolini’s director Robert Hollingworth will also be introducing the evening.

Shaping the Invisible culminates in a new commission on a theme of Leonardo and scientific endeavour, with poetry by Gillian Clark and music by Adrian Williams.

You can listen to repertoire included in the event on the group’s Spotify playlist here, including works by Monteverdi, Howells, Rubbra and more, an aural glimpse of what’s to come…

Tickets available online here.

Find out more: Weds 18 September

With Welcome Week about to burst into vibrant activity here at the University, make sure you come along to Colyer-Fergusson on Wednesday 18 September to find out about getting involved in extra-curricular music, whatever you are studying.

Between 11am and 3pm, members of the music staff and the various Music Societies will be on hand to enthuse about the many opportunities to get involved in music as part of student life at Kent. Visitors can look round the award-winning Colyer-Ferguson concert hall, practice rooms and band room, as well as learn about the differing ways in which to become a part of music: whether it’s singing with Chorus, Chamber Choir, Cecilian Choir or the upper-voice choir, Minerva Voices; instrumentalists can join the Symphony Orchestra, Concert Band or Big Band, and there are other music societies active during the year including the Musical Theatre Society.

Plans for the Wednesday event include live music on the foyer-stage throughout the day, and there’s the possibility of a Scratch Orchestra play-through of popular film scores, and even choruses from Messiah.

We look forward to welcoming you through the doors of Colyer-Fergusson during Welcome Week, and especially next Wednesday – come and find out how to make rehearsing and performing a part of your university experience, whatever course you may be studying!

Piping hot: first-year Scholar Eloise at the National Piping Centre

As part of her Music Performance Scholarship, first-year Biochemistry student and highland bagpiper, Eloise Jack, recently took part in a piping course at the National Piping Centre in Glasgow. Here, Eloise reflects on her experience.


Thanks to the music scholarship I received from the University, I was able to attend an intensive piping course from the 24th-28th of June at The National Piping Centre in Glasgow. Each day consisted of three one-to-one sessions, with time between the lessons to practice in one of the centre’s practice rooms. Throughout the week I had lessons with four different instructors, covering different styles and playing techniques, and also tuning the pipes and general maintenance.

First-year Scholar, Eloise, rehearsing in Colyer-Fergusson Hall

In the first lesson I set my goals for the week with Finlay MacDonald, head of piping studies at the National Piping Centre. These included: –
• Expanding my musical repertoire and learning new styles of tunes.
• Learning the correct technique to tune my bagpipes myself, by ear (Usually someone else tunes my pipes for me using an electronic tuner.)
• Developing my embellishment techniques and overall piping technique.
Each further lesson was different and tailored to my needs, and depending on what instructor I had depended on what we worked on in the lessons.

I usually play marching tunes as I play with a marching band, however I wanted to expand my solo music repertoire. During the course, I was introduced to and started learning music in four different styles, including a jig, a reel, a strathspey and a four-part 2/4 march.

Eloise in full dress uniform to perform in the Music Scholars’ Lunchtime Recital during Summer Music Week at the University of Kent.

Tuning my pipes by ear was something that I was very keen to learn, as I normally have to rely on someone else to tune them for me. It is a difficult technique to master because you have to keep a steady pressure whilst trying to tune the drones so that the reeds in the drones and in the chanter vibrate steadily.

In completing this course, I managed to achieve all the goals I initially set. I also completed some much-needed maintenance on my pipes which was an unexpected expense, but the results in terms of the sound I can now achieve made it well worth it. They not only sound better when played, but the adjustments make it easier for me to practice tuning as make it easier to hear when they are in tune.

I really enjoyed the course. Being able to focus on just bagpiping really helped and I would definitely attend another intensive course in the future so that I can continue to develop my overall technique and repertoire.

Summer Music Week: Saturday Gala concert

Congratulations to everyone involved in Saturday’s annual Music for a Summer’s Day Gala concert, the crowning event as part of Summer Music Week.

The University Chorus, Orchestra and Chamber Choir each gave a final, valedictory appearance in seasonal, summery music, whilst the members of the Limoncellos filled the foyer before the concert with stirring film tunes and pop music arrangements.

Assistant conductor Hannah Ost rehearsing the Chamber Choir ahead of the concert
The Limoncellos performing in the foyer ahead of the Gala concert

Final-year sopranos Helen Sotillo and Fleur Sumption brought a packed hall to tears with a rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone on the final occasion of their singing with the Music department in what has proved to be a memorable year for both ladies.

The incoming President of the Music Society, second-year Owen Kerry, provided some scene-stealing moments as he deftly wielded name-cards (and at one point a mobile phone for a couple of selfies…) as part of An Illustrated Guide to the History of the Symphony.

And final-year flautist Robert Loveless was handed the baton to conduct the traditional encore which brought the concert to a rousing conclusion.

Following the concert, audience, performers and guests spilled out into the marquee for the annual cream tea, for which the sun shone and blue skies bloomed overhead.

What becomes apparent at the end of the Gala concert is what a wonderful sense of community has been built up during the academic year by everyone involved in extra-curricular music-making at the University. It’s a real tribute to how committed everyone is, and how involved they have become, to see so many of those graduating so moved by the occasion of their final appearance; parents, friends and family all coming along to support throughout the series of events often remark on how much being a part of music at Kent has meant to the students involved throughout their time. There’s a lovely feeling of camaraderie throughout the entire week, as the various ensembles gather for a final musical hurrah before the academic year ends.

Our thanks to everyone who has been a part of the Music department across the year; undergraduate and post-graduate students, staff, members of the community and all the alumni who have returned at various points either to participate or to be part of the audience. To all those who are leaving this year: thanks for all your contribution – hail and farewell!

Summer Music Week: Days Five and Six

The relentless pace of Summer Music Week continues; Wednesday saw a roof-raising gala concert from the University Concert Band and Big Band under the baton of Ian Swatman entertaining a packed house. Prior to the concert, the sax quartet played on the foyer-stage, led by Peter Cook.

Sax appeal: Peter Cook, Megan Daniel, Owen Kerry, David Curtiss

And yesterday saw a celebration of chamber music in A Musical Miscellany, ranging from a fiercely-modern duet for two violins by Prokofiev to the first movement of Borodin’s String Quartet no.2, lively woodwind music by Seiber, a fragile aria by Copland and the String Sinfonia in not-quite-Mozart…

l-r: Owen Kerry, Charlotte Read, Helen Sotillo, Leon Schoonderwoerd
Pianists Will Morgan and Kiyan Agadjani, with diligent page-turning from Jenny Pang
l-r: Florence Nightingale Obote, Zaneta Balesevic, Molly Richetta, Ken Macdonald
Soprano Alice Shires
The String Sinfonia, directed by Flo Peycelon

Plus post-performance selfies, of course…

Summer Music Week continues tonight with the premiere of Between Worlds by composer/violinist Anna Phoebe by the Chamber Choir and String Sinfonia, plus string music by Britten and Pärt.

Summer Music Week: Days One and Two

As temperatures soared and the weather became balmier, Summer Music Week launched over the weekend in the first two events of this year’s annual celebration of the musical year at Kent.

On Friday, the University Chamber Choir and Consort gave an electrifying concert in the Crypt of Canterbury Cathedral, for which they were joined by composer and violinist Anna Phoebe in three evocative movements from Anna’s Between Worlds, an exploration of music and science that receives its full premiere later this week. Second-year student Hannah Ost led the choir in a piece in the first half as part of a wide-ranging programme that received huge applause from a packed crypt audience.

And yesterday, conductor Ian Swatman bravely headed out to the seaside with the University Big Band, to entertain a Sunday crowd at the Memorial Bandstand at Deal, including guest vocal appearances from final-year student Fleur Sumption and first-year Elle Soo. Sea, sunshine and swing – perfect conditions for a perfect day.

Well done to everyone involved; Day Three of Summer Music Week today features the University Rock Choir in action. Find out all that’s going on throughout the week here.