As we reach the end of a busy period marking the festive season, there’s just time to wish all our loyal readers a very Merry Christmas from the Music team, in the company of the University Big Band, conducted by Ian Swatman, with first-year Elle Soo singing Everybody’s Waiting for the Man with the Bag from the band’s recent ‘Christmas Swingalong.’
We’re back in the New Year; watch out for an action-packed spring season to be unveiled early in January!
The preparations to the University Big Band’s annual Christmas Swingalong were featured on BBC Radio Kent last night on The Dominic King Show.
Your Loyal Correspondent is heard talking with the conductor of the Big Band, Ian Swatman, as well as student players Owen Kerry (Physics), Megan Daniel (Law), Fleur Sumption (History of Art) and David Curtiss (Physics) about life in the ensemble, fitting music into their academic life, and Christmas jumpers…
You can listen to the interview online here, starting at 1 hr 28 mins and 31 secs. Many thanks to Dominic King for featuring the band on the airwaves.
An action-packed finale to the term; a festive sprinkling of seasonal Baroque music and carols from the Flute Choir and the upper-voice chamber choir, Minerva Voices, followed by the annual roof-raising Christmas Swingalong with the University Big Band, conducted by Ian Swatman, featuring singers Elle Soo and Fleur Sumption.
We’re delighted to reveal the new season of our What’s On is now launched online!
Our customary Lunchtime Concert series this term brings the Ferio Saxophone Quartet, an exploration of the music to Hitchcock’s classic Vertigo and seasonal music from the CantiaQuorum ensemble; the University Chorus and Orchestra explore the ‘Old and New’ in a programme of seventeenth century music and modern realisations and responses to it; the University Musical Theatre Society performs its termly showcase including songs from Chicago, Hamilton and Dream Girls, and the term concludes in festive style with the traditional Christmas Swing-Along featuring the University Big Band.
Together with the Canterbury Festival, we also bring a dark realisation of the story of Hansel and Gretel in a blend of chamber music, puppetry and animation, with music written by composer Matthew Kaner to words by Simon Armitage; the Festival also brings percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie and Trio HLK in November. Elsewhere, Aurora Orchestra brings Mozart, Mendelssohn and Jorg Widmann, and there’s a chance to hear Sir Thomas Allen. With visits too from local societies and orchestras, the new autumn season will see Colyer-Fergusson Hall filled with music old and new as we head towards the festive season.
See all that’s to come online here, or download the brochure (PDF) here; we look forward to welcoming you to Colyer-Fergusson over the coming months.
And so our music-making this term came to a festive conclusion last night, in the company of the University Big Band, directed by Ian Swatman.The annual Christmas Swingalong always draws a packed crowd, and last night was no exception, audience spilling out onto the balcony around the hall to enjoy a lively seasonal programme with jazz-infused takes on traditional repertoire. Third-year singer Dottie Grenfell joined the band for renditions including The Man With The Bag and Santa Baby; the Brass Band provided the accompaniment for communal carols to the give the Big Band a breather, and the event came to a conclusion with Dottie leading everyone in White Christmas.
The enthusiastic audience flooded out into the foyer afterwards to the strains of a jazz trio with pianist and alumnus Chris Manley (a neat touch). Congratulations to everyone involved, the foyer was buzzing afterwards (nothing to do with the mulled wine and mince pies, of course…) and Colyer-Fergusson was brimful of Christmas cheer.
Our annual Summer Music Week festival launched in fine style over the weekend, as the Big Band headed to the seaside to perform on the Memorial Bandstand at Deal.
Blue skies, clear weather and a great crowd greeted the players under the baton of Ian Swatman, with audience scattered on the greensward around the bandstand in deck-chairs and sun-hats.
Day Two yesterday carried on the jazz theme, as General Harding’s Tomfoolery filled Colyer-Fergusson Hall with swing music from the 30s, 40s and 50s in Five O’Clock Stomp. The thirteen-piece dance orchestra were joined by The Minervettes, and unveiled an energy-filled programme of popular favourites including The Charleston, Puttin’ On The Ritz and classic Glenn Miller tunes.
Today, Day Three, sees a Lunchtime Recital by University Music Scholars in music by Piazzolla, Joseph Horovitz and Sonny Rollins at 1.10pm, followed by the presentation of the annual Music Prizes. Summer Music Week continues until Saturday; details here.
Depending upon what time you pass by Colyer-Fergusson on a Wednesday night, you’ll either hear stirring film scores such as Gladiator, swing classics by Count Basie or versions of Stevie Wonder tunes ringing out. It can only mean one thing: rehearsal night for the University Concert Band and Big Band (though thankfully not at the same time…)
On the conductor’s podium is the sprightly figure of Ian Swatman – Bob Marley devotee and possibly the most dedicated fan Hull City will ever have – vigorously taking charge of Wednesday rehearsals and leading the assembled forces through repertoire in preparation for their various termly concerts. In December, the Big Band can be found in Santa hats and jazz-infused versions of seasonal repertoire for the popular Christmas Swing-along, whilst both forces combine each March for their roof-raising Spring concert, and for a farewell concert each June.
Both national and international students, staff and members of the local community find themselves grappling with the complexity of the repertoire Ian hurls at them each year, as they sweat blood to get the music under the fingers. Each year, too, auditions are held for solo singers, for the opportunity to sing with the Big Band.
A particularly exciting aspect to the working life of the Big Band is the opportunity to work with guest musicians; in the past, this has included trombonist Mark Bassey, trumpeter Mike Lovatt from the John Wilson Orchestra, and saxophonist Phil Veacock from the Jools Holland Orchestra. It’s a great opportunity for the young stars of tomorrow to work with, and learn from, accomplished professional performers.
The Concert Band has worked with composer James Rae too, when James was commissioned by the Music department to write a piece for the gala concert to open the Colyer-Fergusson Building in December 2012. As part of an action-packed weekend, the Concert Band gave the world premiere of James’ Platform One.
The groups don’t just perform in the adaptable acoustics of Colyer-Fergusson Hall. The Big Band also launches the annual Summer Music Week, a musical farewell to the University’s academic year, with a trip to the seaside to perform on the Memorial Bandstand at Deal, which involves combining rehearsals and coach-trips with a visit to the promenade chip shop and the roving ice-cream stand. (It’s a hard life…). The band has also headed down the road to perform alongside pupils at St Edmund’s School, and also in Whitefriars in the heart of the city.
Whether it’s epic film soundtracks, 70s funk, classic big band standards or soul ballads: Wednesday evenings certainly sound unlike any other on campus…
Continuing the series profiling some of our University Music Performance Scholarship students here at Kent. This week, reeds specialist studying Business and Management, Tom Wust.
As a kid growing up in a family of musicians and wannabe footballers, my ambitions in life were simple: become Manchester United’s record goal scorer (cue the booing from Manchester City fans!) and to play the piano as well my Dad. And in the present day, I still can’t play the piano as well as my dad, and the whole Manchester United thing is looking unlikely as I’m at university down here at Kent; but heigh-ho, life goes on!
The biggest inspiration for me to become a musician was my Dad. He used to give me piano lessons and try and get me started early, but I just couldn’t hack it. This didn’t stop me learning what all the white and black keys meant, which meant whenever we did music lessons in primary school, I was the expert as I could play an F on a keyboard without having the note names written on in whiteboard marker pen. I may have come across to my peers as a piano playing virtuoso, but I knew I was a million light-years away from being the next Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. At this stage in my life I was still very keen on football, and played for my primary school and a local club.
Choosing a secondary school presented some opportunities to fulfil one of my two ambitions. One of my options was Abraham Darby Academy, a performing arts and business enterprise specialist academy. Their flagship concert band, called the ‘Showband’ had recently returned from Carnegie Hall, New York, and an opportunity like that would have been too good to turn down. I started year 7 at Abraham Darby Academy and was inspired to reach the standard needed for the Showband. I began my first clarinet lessons with the head of music, Rachel Morton, and quickly progressed up through the various ensembles the academy had to offer. The Megaband was the first ensemble I was a part of, where you needed to pass your grade one to enter. Next was the Friday Band, which – you guessed it – rehearsed on a Friday after school. This was an intermediate band with students of around grade 2/3 to grade 7 standards playing. In addition to the concert bands, I was invited to pick up a tenor saxophone and play with the Junior Jazz Band. It was from there where I progressed even further, passing an audition for the Showband and the Senior Jazz Band on 3rd clarinet and baritone saxophone respectively.
As clarinet was my principle instrument, I was trained to play classically. The moment I picked up a saxophone, all of that changed. I was told to forget nearly everything I had learned on the clarinet and soon enough I rebelled against my initial training and became totally engrossed with playing jazz. I would always be willing to improvise in the Jazz Bands, and in year 12 would be invited to be the musical director of the Junior Jazz Band, helping classically trained saxophonists and brass players to find their way in the world of jazz and all it had to offer. I achieved grade 8 saxophone with distinction in year 10 after just 3 years of playing, grade 8 clarinet with distinction in year 11 and grade 8 jazz saxophone with distinction in year 13 to round off my time at the Academy.
Music at Abraham Darby has given me many moments I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life. Playing for the Queen at RAF Cosford for her Diamond Jubilee, representing England in the Palaces of Westminster for the Commonwealth Carnival of Music, playing in Symphony Hall five times, winning Gold at the World Music Contest in the Netherlands, playing as a soloist for Prince Edward, and performing in the Royal Albert Hall just to name some.
I was very happy to learn of the exciting opportunities that music at the University of Kent presents. Playing in an orchestra was something on my musical bucket list that I hadn’t achieved thus far, and at the end of my first term I was part of the ‘Sounding Shakespeare’ concert with the University Symphony Orchestra, which was a very enjoyable experience. And with Tchaikovsky’s 6th Symphony to be performed in Canterbury Cathedral in term 2, I have plenty more to get my teeth in to and enjoy! I study Business and Management at Medway, but making the trip over to Canterbury to perform with the Concert Band, Big Band, Symphony Orchestra and of course the wonderful General Harding’s Tomfoolery is always the highlight of my week – I’m looking forward to times ahead with the Music Department at Kent.