One of the pleasures of engaging digitally with people this past year has been catching up with various alumni and finding out how they have been creatively active at a time when creativity and the arts has been facing real challenges.
My guest earlier is no exception – former Music Scholar Lena Younes, who graduated in 2011 having read Drama and Theatre Studies and History at Kent, singing with the Chamber Choir and at the Jazz @ 5 sessions on the old Gulbenkian cafe stage.
Lena releases her first single, Hold Your Heart, at midnight tonight (or will have done, depending on when you read this…), and I took the opportunity to chat to her about her writing process, the challenges of remaining creative during the past year, and the influences on her music. Watch it online here – my thanks to Lena for taking part.
Many thanks to alumna and former Music Scholar, Steph Richardson, who joined me in the virtual studio this week for a live webchat about new fashion brand, Awkward Tiger.
Since graduating in 2014 having read Drama & Theatre Studies (many readers might remember her singing with the University Big Band and the Chamber Choir), Steph has recently been working at Farnham Maltings in Surrey, and over the past eighteen months decided to launch her own fashion brand.
In the webchat, Steph talks about the inspiration for the company, the ethical values embedded in it, her love for British Sewing Bee, and her imminent move to work at the National Theatre. Watch it here if you missed it…
The Virtual Music Project is in action again this festive season, as University students, staff, alumni and families are invited to contribute towards a series of carols being recorded this term.
Many thanks to Erasmus student and multi-instrumentalist and singer, Laura Osswald, seen here in suitably festive mood recording from her home in Germany;
To alumna from the School of Biosciences, alto Catriona Bradley, whose career in seamstressing has come in handy for her medieval-themed seasonal selfie:
And to Melody Brooks, former Music Performance Scholar and alumna from the School of Psychology, and Jeni Martin, alumna from the School of Economics, seen here recording string-parts from Hertford and Bedfordshire respectively.
The Virtual Music Project (see previous post here) is in full swing – adjective applicable if you’re thinking about the Duke Ellington, perhaps not quite so if you’re aware of the Vivaldi Gloria performance which we’re building…then again…!
We’re delighted to share the first fruits of the collaboration which brings together University students, staff, alumni and their families in a virtual rendition of the first movement of Vivaldi’s glowing choral work. Each track has been recorded individually by participants during the current lockdown period, ranging right across the country from Canterbury through London to Somerset, Bristol, Northamptonshire and even across Europe to Germany, Luxembourg and reaching even as far as Japan, proving the universality of music as a means of coming together.
The first movement is also available to listen in a project Playlist on SoundCloud, alongside some of the early mixes of instruments and strings only, and a brief excerpt from an early mix of the virtual Dance Orchestra’s building Duke Ellington’s Dont Get Around Much Anymore.
I’m hugely grateful to everyone involved in bringing this project to digital life, for their enthusiasm, commitment and for taking the time to learn and record their individual contributions; it really is a wonderful example of the University community doing what it is good at – coming together, supporting one another, and making remarkable things happen.
Now onto the second movement and a piece by Mozart…!
‘May you live in interesting times,’ runs the ancient saying. The second part, possibly lost in the mists of time since it was first uttered, may have been something along the lines of ‘and may you also have to adapt your working practices to cope with sudden, profound change.’ Maybe.
Monday 23 October, 2012: the Music Department bids a fond farewell to its home since the mid-80s in Eliot College, and moves into the newly-built Colyer-Fergusson Building, to begin music-making in a purpose-built, award-winning concert hall and practice facilities.
Fast-forward to Monday 23 October, 2017, and the Department celebrated the five-year anniversary since Colyer-Fergusson opened its doors to both the University and the local community (and beyond) with a reception, open rehearsals, tours of the building, and a special exhibition of photographs from the eighteen-month construction project.
It was a real pleasure to welcome donors, supporters, alumni, friends, and key people involved in the initial project, including Tim Ronalds Architects, project managers, and the former Chairman of the Colyer-Fergusson Charitable Trust, the Hon Jonathon Monckton, to share the celebrations. This wonderful building was made possible thanks to a major donation from The Colyer-Fergusson Charitable Trust, a legacy from Sir James Colyer-Fergusson himself, contributions from over 200 other individual donors and support from the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s Matched Funding Scheme; a true coming together of the generosity of Sir James together with many of the donors and supporters of music-making at the University, to establish a landmark building that has afforded new opportunities for rehearsing and performing.
Thanks to their generosity, the Music Department now offers an ever-developing breadth of musical opportunities, both to showcase the extraordinary commitment and talent of the students (and staff) who, each year, participate in extra-curricular performances, as well as to provide the main concert venue for many of the local community groups, schools, youth organisations and visiting summer schools. Alongside other major venues throughout the region, Colyer-Fergusson has now become a key element in the south-east’s flourishing cultural reputation.
Throughout the day, rehearsals in the hall featured student and staff musicians including the Chamber Choir, string ensemble, third-year Music Scholarship flautist Natanya Freedman, members of the Musical Theatre Society, and a special Come and Sing in which everyone present arrayed themselves around the choral risers to sing Somewhere Over The Rainbow.
On behalf of the Music team, our thanks to everyone who attended, who was involved in making the Colyer-Fergusson Building possible, and to the Events team who kept the invited guests fed, watered and on occasion even chased errant balloon-displays which were endeavouring to escape down Giles Lane.
Former Music Performance Scholar and singer, Livy Potter, has truly caught the Acting Bug since graduating from Kent in 2015 studying History, and next week appears in a production of CS Lewis’ classic The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe at Ilkley Playhouse. I asked her to reflect on the rehearsal process and the challenges involved before curtain up next Wednesday…
There comes a point during the rehearsal process, whether it be for a concert or play, where things seem to inexplicably come together, as if some higher power has snapped his/her fingers and declared ‘This shall work’. For the production I’m currently involved in, a stage adaptation of the ever magical The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, this moment occurred three rehearsals ago, which was a relief because we have just over a week left before our ten day run begins.
The play is being staged in the Wharfside Theatre at Ilkley Playhouse, a thriving community arts hub in the idyllic Yorkshire spa town of Ilkley. Its yearly season offers eight main-house and two studio productions, and it also plays host to community arts events such as the Ilkley Film Society and the Ilkley Literature Festival throughout the year.
The adaption of CS Lewis’ classic tale we are using was written by the late poet and playwright Adrian Mitchell for the RSC’s 1998 season. It’s filled with catchy songs and lots of magic moments that, we hope, will help spread the Christmas spirit during this festive season.
Our Director, the ever enthusiastic and patient Damien O’Keeffe, has not set himself an easy task with this production. Two teams of the Playhouse’s youth theatre group pupils (20 young people in total) will alternate performances throughout the run, supported by a small group of adult actors.
However, all the cast has risen to the challenge wonderfully and embraced the creative chaos that has been our rehearsal period, which has been an absolute joy and a truly collaborative effort from everyone; all suggestions and ideas have been encouraged and valued. Our Aslan, Faz Singhateh (now renamed Fazlan for obvious reasons), has a mighty impressive roar that actually made me jump when I heard it the first time, and the large ensemble do a fantastic job of playing multiple magical creatures, going from centaurs to hags (what even is a hag?!) in the space of one scene.
I play one of four narrators – we are on stage almost continuously, watching the action from a distance, keeping the story moving, and maneuvering large wheeled set pieces by means of ‘actor power’, as Damien often refers to it.
I made my debut at Ilkley in July, after auditioning on a whim for a small part in their summer musical Betty Blue Eyes and loving every minute of it. Before this, I had done very little acting but, after obtaining a singing scholarship whilst at the University of Kent and receiving an incredible amount of support and encouragement to expand my creative repertoire during my time there, I graduated with a desire to push myself and try my hand at some acting. When I was offered a part in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, I said yes without any hesitation. It appears that I have truly caught the acting bug and will be back on the Wharfside stage again in March playing Benvolio in Romeo and Juliet, a prospect I find both exciting and terrifying!
Catch Livy and the crew in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe from 7-17 December at Ilkley Playhouse. Tickets can be purchased from the Playhouse website here.
University alumna and singer Suzannah Lipmann found herself at Abbey Road studios yesterday, as part of a special livestream broadcast.
For one night only, there was a special performance to launch the soundtrack to the new Final Fantasy XV game by composer Yoko Shimomura, performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the London Philharmonic Choir, conducted by Terry Davis; the composer herself was present at the performance. Pictured above, Suzannah is on the front row of the sopranos, eight from the left.
The hour-long event presented highlights of music from the forthcoming game soundtrack, and can be watched here:
Whilst reading Social Anthropology (including a year abroad in Japan) at Kent, Suzannah was a regular performer featuring prominently in the former Jazz @ 5 sessions on the former foyer-stage in the Gulbenkian, as well as singing with the University Chamber Choir and Chorus.
Using the skills developed as an undergraduate, she now handles the Japanese side of her family business in metal-trading, whilst slo learning Japanese at SOAS, and travels to Japan for three weeks each year on business. As well as the London Philharmonic Choir, Suzannah sings with the Godwine Choir and in a band.
“The LPC gets to do some pretty exciting gigs,” she enthuses, “like this one, the BBC Proms and others at the Royal Albert Hall and the Royal Festival Hall!” Suzannah is next in action singing in a performance of Verdi’s Requiem at the Royal Albert Hall on 24 September. Fantastic to see she’s still keeping up her music in Life After Kent in such a spectacular fashion!
With thanks to the London Philharmonic Choir for the images.
Because it does. Doesn't it ? Blogging about extra-curricular musical life at the University of Kent.