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…

Was It Good For You: Hannah Widmann.

Continuing the series profiling musical alumni of the University of Kent. This week, Hannah Widmann.


 When were you at Kent ? 

Hannah Widmann
Still ahead: Hannah Widmann


What subject did you study ?   

BSc Psychology  

What occupation are you now engaged in ?  

I am still studying, and have changed fields only slightly. At the moment I’m busy doing research for my MSc thesis in London, my MSc is in Cognitive Science and Psycholinguistics at the University of Amsterdam.  

If music is not your profession, do you participate in any musical experiences now ?  

I am still an avid choral singer, and will sing in whatever group that will let me. Luckily, I found a nice chamber choir in Utrecht, not far from my new Dutch home, and have been singing with them for the past 1.5 years. Also, I find most of my friends this way, so gatherings have a tendency to go musical after a drink or two!  

How were you involved in music whilst at Kent ?  

I was a member of Chorus and Chamber Choir in all three years, and was lucky to receive a Music Lesson Scholarship for singing lessons. I, also sang in several smaller groups (Ladies’ Barbershop, madrigal groups), went to every single Music Society social, and was generally one of those people that you see involved at every concert (not always musically… but I can shake a bucket nicely!). I was also Secretary to the Music Society in 2007-08. I had a brilliant time!

What did you gain from your University music experience, and has this helped you in any way since leaving Kent ?  

Apart from making what I believe to be great music, I had the best time socially. I met most of my Kent friends through the Music Society, and am still in touch with lots of them. I lived with several “music geeks” in my final year, and sharing this hobby that filled most of our social calendars made it such a fun house to live in! I still use music and singing to kick-start my social life in a new place, and one of my first actions in Holland was to look for a decent chamber choir- it had been so central to my life at Kent! And yes, it worked. Choral people are just so likeminded.  

What was your most memorable musical experience at Kent ?  

Oh, there were so many special moments, it’s very hard to pick just one. Musically, my final year in Chamber Choir and the (if I might say so myself) excellent performance at that year’s Crypt Concert spring to mind. The choir really gelled, and the knowledge that we’d go to Paris with this programme made us all work extra hard. It really was a fantastic night.  

A very corny moment, but surely another one of the highpoints of my time at Kent were the carol services in the Cathedral.  The candlelit procession through the Nave, while singing “Once in Royal David’s city” was always a very touching experience.  

What would you say to current musical students at the University ?  

Make the best of your time at university, and just enjoy the ride.  


If you’re a musical alumnus and would like to be featured, get in touch via the Music Department website: we’d love to hear from you!

Let’s Get This Party started: Guest post on ‘Election Views.’

Hitting the campaign trail: 'Election Views'

 I’m delighted to have been invited to launch the University’s new ‘Election Views’ blog with its first post.

The new blog is kick-started by ‘Let’s Get This Party started,’ a look back at some of the Labour Party’s campaign music choices, whilst we all nervously wait for this season’s tunes-tastic selections to be announced.

There’ll be a follow-up post when all the musical choices have been announced.

Click here to read the post.

How do you solve a problem like Lloyd Webber ?

The full, commercial horror of the Lloyd Webber / Graham Norton Juggernaut has finally struck me this week.

Following on from the success of ‘How do you solve a problem like Maria ?’ in 2006, where young hopefuls competed on national television to take the role of Maria, the series ‘Who will be the next worthy Dorothy ?’ (or something similar) is currently in full flight (‘Over the Rainbow’ – see what they did there ?), with similar youngsters competing to be the next Dorothy in the forthcoming Lloyd Webber-backed Wizard of Oz

Connie Fisher
And the winner is ... ?

When The Sound of Music opened, I’m sure a lot of people flocked to the show,  in order to see in the flesh the former call-centre girl, Connie Fisher, who won the television contest and became Maria in the production. The television programme regularly attracted around six million viewers each week. There’s a real fascination in seeing people live that you’ve seen on television: the same phenomenon surrounded the RSC production of Hamlet in 2008, in which David Tennant was playing the Dane, fresh from saving the universe each week as Doctor Who. 

You can see a pattern emerging here: the series isn’t about television entertainment, or the chance for one young wannabee to be rescued from obscurity and cast into a glittering and well-deserved career. It’s not even about giving the national population some input into the show (viewers can vote for their own favourite in the form of a ‘wild card,’ voting to rescue a contestant who has been knocked out by the panel of judges). 

No: it’s about cashing in on the tie-in between the hysteria surrounding the show and the lucrative ticket sales that will be generated by the theatre show following on from the television series. It’s all faintly nauseating: Lloyd Webber sitting on a golden throne like some sort of benevolent deity, tearful young girls earnestly describing their commitment to the show: ‘We eat, breathe and sleep Dorothy all the time now,’ gushed one contestant recently. The Sound of Music opened scarcely four weeks after Fisher won the series: hype needs to be translated into ticket sales quickly, or the momentum is lost. 

And before anyone leaps up to reach through the screen and poke me in the eye, yelling ‘It’s just television: it’s just entertainment!’ I know it is: Saturday night television along the lines of X Factor, Pop Idol or Strictly Come Dancing is at its heart just entertainment. But there’s perhaps a cynical cashing-in by the ‘Dorothy’ series that leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. 

In fairness, though, 14 pence from each telephone vote is going to a fund to support the arts. 

Cynical hype-to-cash-generating merry-go-round, or top television entertainment: where do you stand on it all ?

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.

Was It Good For You: Sylvia Hinds.

A series profiling musical alumni of the University of Kent. This week, Sylvia Hinds.   

Sylvia Hinds
On song: Sylvia Hinds


When were you at Kent ?     


What subject did you study ?    

English and American Literature, BA Hons    

What occupation are you now engaged in ?    

I work for the University of Kent – in the Admissions Office    

If music is not your profession, do you participate in any musical experiences now ?    

I still sing in Canterbury – both for the University, and in a couple of local chamber choirs.    

How were you involved in music whilst at Kent ?    

I was a member of the Music Society. I sang in the Chamber Choir, and the University Chorus, and I took part in the 2003 Summer Opera.    

What did you gain from your University music experience, and has this helped you in any way since leaving Kent ?    

I transferred to Kent in my second year, and found meeting people quite hard as everyone already knew each other, and my friends were limited to those I met on my course. Once I joined the Music Society, I made a whole new group of friends. Musicians are generally sociable people, and joining the Society helped me find a place at university away from my classes. It also made me want to spend more time at university – I felt part of life on campus, which I hadn’t felt up to then. I went to the library between classes and rehearsals, so it probably helped my grades too.    

What was your most memorable musical experience at Kent ?    

Singing in the Summer Opera was fun, as was performing with the Chamber Choir.    

What would you say to current musical students at the University ?    

Join the Music Society! Joining a choir or orchestra on campus is a great way to let off steam, make friends, and make great music. Getting involved with the Music Committee looks great on your CV, and the social events are always fun, if a little crazy. Making music once you graduate isn’t always so easy, so cheap, or so much fun, so take advantage now. I also met my fiancée in the Chamber Choir, and we’re getting married in October, so if you’re single, the ‘Sue Wanless Dating Service’ is still going strong…


If you’re a musical alumnus and would like to be featured, get in touch via the Music Department website: we’d love to hear from you!

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!