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.
Two days of music-making crowned the Music department’s celebrations as part of the University’s 50th anniversary weekend, and saw musical alumni returning to Kent to relive their musical experiences, this time transplanted to the sonorous surrounding of Colyer-Fergusson.
Chorus, Chamber Choir, and Concert and Big Bands were well represented, alongside smaller chamber ensembles including a woodwind trio, wind ensembles, and a cappella vocal quartet, each day meeting to rehearse but – more importantly! – to catch up over coffee, share memories and find out where Life After Kent had taken each other.
A showcase gave the opportunity for informal performances of repertoire put together over the course of the day; a drinks reception late on Saturday afternoon saw the foyer abuzz, and there was a lively air on the Sunday as an impromptu jazz gig on the foyer-stage from General Harding’s Tomfoolery brought the weekend to a festive conclusion. There was even some spontaneous two-piano jazz in the foyer to entertain visitors. We even managed to photograph some of the former Music Society Presidents from 1992 onwards (as well as the present incumbent, the irrepressible Joe Prescott), although as they weren’t all present on the same day, it took two group photos!
Terrific to see many faces from yesteryear; there was a decisive will to make it an annual occasion – watch this space…!
From the infinite mystery of the opening bars to the dramatically hushed close, Saturday’s performance of Verdi’s Requiem by the University Chorus and Symphony Orchestra for this year’s Colyer-Fergusson Cathedral Concert was full of high drama.
Standing in as a last-minute replacement for the billed soprano soloist, Rachel Nicholls took time out from her current ENO run of Die Meistersingers to step up alongside mezzo Carolyn Dobbins, tenor Gerard Schneider and bass Simon Thorpe, and together all four singers delivered Verdi’s demanding solo parts with consummate skill. Under the baton of Susan Wanless, the Chorus and Orchestra both rose to the occasion superbly. From the off-stage trumpets ranged high above in the organ-loft to the bass-drum positioned down the side-aisle, the combined forces filled the majestic Cathedral with Verdi’s profound meditation on death and redemption, rich in operatic detail crammed into oratorio form.
It’s a long day that starts at 9am with the heroic crew who pitched up on campus to load two vans with all the equipment to take down to the Cathedral, and ends with that same equipment delivered back to campus at 10.30pm, with rehearsal and performance in between. It was lovely to see many alumni come back to sing in the Chorus, with the concert a major highlight of the University’s 50th anniversary celebrations throughout this year.
(Much excitement was caused by the arrival of the 66-inch bass drum from Bell Percussion, which was mobbed by many people eager to be photographed with the monster-drum, you’d have thought it was a Hollywood Celebrity…)
Very many thanks to everyone involved; a triumphant conclusion to all the hard work put it by students, staff, alumni and members of the local community, who came together in the splendour of Canterbury Cathedral for a memorable performance.
The termly concert by the University Chorus and Orchestra last night saw three musical alumni returning to the Colyer-Fergusson Hall.
Soprano Caroline Kennedy, tenor Andrew Macnair and bass Piran Legg came back to Kent for a performance of Mozart’s Vespers, joined also by mezzo Bethan Langford. whilst the Orchestra furnished the remainder of the programme with Mozart’s overture to The Magic Flute and Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony.
Under the baton of Sue Wanless, the Orchestra delivered a sprightly and rousing reading of the Beethoven, in particular with an agile second movement that deftly steered clear of the more usual funereal tempi often heard in performance. The concert also saw second-year violinist Chantelle Yau making her debut as orchestral leader.
The next time Chorus and Orchestra perform, it’ll be in the august surroundings of Canterbury Cathedral for Verdi’s Requiem as part of the University’s fiftieth-anniversary celebrations. And That Famous Bass Drum Bit..
Because it does. Doesn't it ? Blogging about extra-curricular musical life at the University of Kent.