Congratulations to all the members of the University Cecilian Choir and Consort on last Friday’s night’s premiere of the new commission piece by Russell Hepplewhite.
The combination of words, music and images brought the new setting of the Magnificat, in which the sacred text was interspersed by new poetry by Nancy Gaffield, to vivid life. The Choir and strings, comprising students and staff from across the University, came together in vibrant form to deliver an accomplished performance of a brand-new work, always a challenge and especially in front of a live audience including both composer and poet!
If you missed it, the piece will be performed again on Friday 9 June as part of this year’s Summer Music Week, our annual music festival bringing the musical year to a close.
Congratulations to Minerva Voices and organist John Wyatt, who yesterday sang Choral Evensong at Canterbury Cathedral. Conducted by Your Loyal Correspondent, the choir presented contemporary settings by Jeremy Woodside and Justin Breame as part of the music sung during the service.
The service was livestreamed on the Cathedral’s YouTube channel, and can be viewed below:
(The choir begins processing in just after the four-minute mark)
Well done to all the students involved; the Choir will be in action again at the start of June, singing as part of the choral concert in the Cathedral Crypt on Friday 2 June as part of Summer Music Week.
The latest film by the Faversham-based company, Kent Creative, promoting excellence in arts and culture across the county, features an interview with Your Loyal Correspondent, talking about extra-curricular music at Kent, the social aspect of music-making, the Colyer-Fergusson Building, and more.
Filmed a few weeks ago, it also features Minerva Voices, our upper-voices chamber choir, in rehearsal as it prepares to sing Choral Evensong at Canterbury Cathedral; one of this year’s Music Scholarship students having an instrumental lesson; and photos from the recent concert by University Chorus and Symphony Orchestra.
Many thanks to Nathalie Banaigs for creating such a lovely way of highlighting extra-curricular music at the University, and all we do.
The University Cecilian Choir has been hard at work rehearsing a brand-new setting of the Magnificat, the Song of Mary, which the Music department commissioned as part of its year-long anniversary celebrations of the Colyer-Fergusson Building’s ten years. Last night, the Choir was delighted to welcome poet Nancy Gaffield to the rehearsal; Nancy has written four new poems which are interspersed with the text of the Magnificat, with music written by Russell Hepplewhite for mixed choir and string orchestra.
The new piece is an exciting blend of high energy, driving rhythms, lyrical melody and sumptuous harmonic colours, particularly in the sections setting Nancy’s poetry; each of the four poems is written in response to a famous piece of art representing stages in the life of Christ, including Michelangelo’s The Birth of Adam, Ghirandaio’s The Visitation, and Piero della Francesca’s The Baptism of Christ. Here, the music revels in the same richly-colourful textures as each of the paintings; last night was an opportunity for Nancy to talk with the choir about her poems, the relationship to the paintings, and to hear some of the piece coming to life in rehearsal.
The first performance takes place in Colyer-Fergusson Hall on Friday 31 March, with a second performance on Friday 9 June as part of this year’s Summer Music Week; details and tickets for the premiere performance online here. It should be quite something…
It’s been a busy period for third-year Music Performance Scholar and drummer, Nathan Sharp. Alongside studying Music and Audio Production, Nathan has been in action gigging in London recently, including an EP release with Adam Kelly, and two gigs with singer/songwriter Nate Francis.
As a reflective tribute to the late Queen Elizabeth II, Head of Music Performance, Dan Harding, plays the gently meditative Farewell to Stromness, written by a former Master of the Queen’s Music, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies.
The piece was written by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies CH CBE (1934 – 2016), who from 2004 to 2014 was Master of the Queen’s Music, a position previously held by composers including Sir Edward Elgar and Arnold Bax, and most recently by Dame Judith Weir. The piece was premiered in 1980, and rose to particular popularity after being performed at the marriage of the then Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall in 2005 in an arrangement for strings.
The village of Stromness lies on the largest of the Orkney Islands, off the coast of Scotland, where the composer lived and worked.The piece was also performed at the service of thanksgiving for the life of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 12 September, 2022 at St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh.
Filmed in the Colyer-Fergusson Building on the University of Kent’s Canterbury campus.
Colyer-Fergusson Hall will host what promises to be a wonderfully atmospheric event at the end of this month, as pianist Clare Hammond brings a combination of music and film to the concert-hall as part of the Ghosts and Whispers tour.
The project, a combination of live piano pieces haunted by ideas of ‘fragments, last thoughts, elegies and absences’ and specially-commissioned film, embraces music by an eclectic range of composers; before the performance on Friday 27 May, The event beguils with its promise of immersing the listener in a world of illusions and shadows, interweaving works by Mozart, Schubert, Schumann and others with piano miniatures by John Woolrich.
Intrigued at the notion, I caught up with Clare and asked her about some of the ideas behind the project…
How did you decide which composers’ repertoire to pull together ? It’s a wonderfully eclectic mix of composers for the theme of the event.
We wanted to explore fragments – short pieces, many of which are unfinished – and create a rapidly changing tapestry of different styles. Listening to the programme (and performing it!) really is a unique experience. You will hear fragments of pieces by Mozart and Schubert for the first time – ideas for sonatas that never saw the light of day. There are works that muse on death by Janacek, Stravinsky and John Woolrich, a touching Sarabande from Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, and a philosophical puzzle by Robert Schumann. It provides a radically new perspective on familiar composers while the visual elements transport us to a surreal and unsettling world.
How do John’s Pianobook pieces work to hold the programme together ?
John’s Pianobooks are essentially a series of miniatures that explore a myriad of different themes – Goya’s Caprichos (engravings of witches and monsters that form a grotesque counterpoint to Enlightenment ideals), Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil), and ‘micograms’ by visionary Swiss writer Robert Walser, highly admired by Kafka but then incarcerated in an asylum for much of his life. While the miniatures are ‘finished’, they are ephemeral and many just evaporate into thin air. They are the perfect partners to these vanishing fragments by more familiar composers, some of which barely register before they disappear.
How do the live music and the filmed content related to one another ?
We created the musical programme first and the Quay Brothers then put together a sequence of fragments from previous films that had been unused – left on the cutting room floor! Music and film are very tightly bound together and precisely synchronised. On the whole, music in a more familiar or tonal style is paired with abstract images, while John Woolrich’s music coincides with these grotesque puppets. The narrative, again, is fragmentary – it promises continuity and then snatches it away.
How would you like / do you hope audiences will respond to the immersive combination of music and film ?
Ghosts & Whispers is so unusual that it is impossible to predict how people will react. I hope that the audience will very quickly feel submerged in this bizarre universe, and that they think back to the piece for many years to come. I have performed it several times now and whenever I return to the work, I find more layers to unpack. It is certainly very macabre and, at times, unnerving but, in providing such an unorthodox perspective, it also brings depth and a wealth of new ideas.
The performance will fill the concert-hall on Friday 27 May at 8pm; book tickets here for what promises to be a unique experience…