The seasonal musical calendar was opened last Friday, as the University Lost Consort brought the ancient undercroft of the Pilgrim’s Hospital in Canterbury alive to the sound of Benjamin Britten.
The audience filled the historic space to bursting for a performance of Britten’s Ceremony of Carols, in which the choir was joined by harpist and fourth-year student, Emma Murton, conducted by Dan Harding. First-year alto Ruth Webster captured the mournful air of the dissonant ‘That Yongë Childe,’ whilst third-year soprano, Gabriella Grandi, lulled the listener in ‘Balulalow.’ After the opening plainchant, ‘Hodie Christus natus est,’ had died away, the choir launched into a vibrant ‘Wolcum Yole!’ and moved through the lyrical ‘There is no rose’ through to the fierce ‘This Little Babe;’ the challenging ‘In Freezing Winter Night’ rose and fell in the hushed confines of the packed undercroft, before the evergreen ‘Spring Carol’ and the animated ‘Deo Gracias’ led into the reprise of the plainchant, and the piece dissolved amidst the ancient stone.
Credit to Emma for deftly delivering a tricky harp-part, and to the whole ensemble for a spirited and enthusiastic way in which to begin the Music department’s musical Christmas.
Wednesday 3 December sees the last of this term’s Lunchtime Concerts from the Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments, in an exploration of Renaissance, Baroque and traditional Norwegian music – 1.10pm, admission is free with a retiring donation. Here’s fiddle-player & singer with the group, Benedicte Maurseth, in interview:
And on Friday 5 December, the Lost Consort launches our musical celebrations for the festive season with a candle-lit performance of Britten’s enchanting Ceremony of Carols for upper-voices and harp, with harpist Emma Murton, conducted by Your Loyal Correspondent, in the historic setting of the undercroft of the ancient Pilgrim’s Hospital in Canterbury. Admission is free, with a retiring collection in aid of the Hospital.
The University Cecilian Choir and Music Scholars came together in an evocative and dramatic lunchtime concert on the foyer-stage last week, as part of a month-long series of events across the campus to mark LGBT Month.
Conducted by your loyal correspondent, the Cecilian Choir opened the concert with several movements from Britten’s Friday Afternoons, delivered with great vigour. Following this were two of Britten’s folk-song settings; Down By The Salley Gardens (sung by soprano Kathryn Cox) and O Waly, Waly (from soprano Paris Noble). These two moving, initimate reflections on love and loss were performed with real commitment, drawing the hushed audience so close that it was as though the listeners were hunched right around the stage.
The Cecilian Choir returned to the stage, together with third-year harpist Emma Murton, to close the concert with four movements from the Ceremony of Carols, moving from the high drama of ‘This Little Babe’ to the lyrical, evergreen simplicity of ‘Spring Carol,’ through the declamatory ‘Deo Gracias’ and ending with the plainchant of ‘Hodie Christus natus est.’
An engaging concert, and a great opportunity to make a musical contribution to the month’s events. Bravo, team.
The University Cecilian Choir, fresh from its seasonal debut on the foyer-stage at Christmas, is currently in rehearsals in preparation for its concert towards the end of term, in which the Choir will present a range of contemporary pieces alongside Hassler’s Missa super Dixit Maria.
But before then, the Choir will be singing in a lunchtime concert next Wednesday, as the ‘Watch This Space’ series celebrates LGBT Month with the music of Benjamin Britten. The programme will include movements from the Ceremony of Carols including harpist Emma Murton; folk-songs sung by Kathryn Cox and Paris Noble; and will conclude with movements from Britten’s rambunctious Friday Afternoons.
This year, the Canterbury Festival celebrates its thirtieth birthday from 19th October to the 2nd November with its usual dizzying array of music, theatre, comedy, literature, lectures and family events, and tops its usual pot pourri by bringing the travelling dance-hall, the Spiegeltent, to the county cricket ground as well.
Highlights to watch out for this year include:
the new opera from composer Sally Beamish, Hagar in the Wilderness, from Nova Music Opera (recently premiered across the Severn at the Presteigne Festival) in a double-bill with Britten’s Curlew River;
pianist Yevgeny Sudbin in a programme including Debussy’s vibrant L’Isle Joyeuse and Scriabin’s Sonata no.5;
Second-year Matt Bamford reviews last week’s choral concert during Summer Music Week.
The Church of St Paul’s Without was the setting for Music for a Summer’s Evening, where the University of Kent Chamber and Cecilian Choirs, conducted by Dan Harding and Emma Murton, joined forces to provide an evening of fantastic entertainment.
With proceeds in aid of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) Forces Help, the audience quickly filled the church and eagerly awaited A Ceremony of Carols composed by Benjamin Britten. Whilst the audience entered, they were treated to a selection of pieces by a string quartet consisting of pieces from Queen to Vivaldi.
A Ceremony of Carols begins with a solemn plainchant before going into ‘Wolcum Yole!’ where Emma Murton began to accompany the Cecilian Choir on the harp. The audience were then treated to a solo by Hannah Johns which was very well executed. Another solo from Aisha Bové followed and the balance between Aisha and the supporting choir was perfect. Ann-Kathrin Kirschbaum and Montana Slattery both excelled in solos in ‘In Freezing Winter Night.’
My highlight from the work, however, was ‘Deo Gracias’ which was sung with enthusiasm and fantastic diction. It was very easy to understand the words of the 15th Century Text ‘Adam Lay Ybounden’. Carina Evans then cleverly accompanied the Cecilian choir in two modern pieces which were a real contrast to Britten work.
After the interval, the University of Kent Chamber Choir took to the stage and opened the second half of the concert with Dawn by Eric Barnum. This is a personal favourite of mine and it really created a very peaceful atmosphere. Tanzen und Springen then gave a fantastic contrast as it is a jolly madrigal by Hans Leo Hassler.
Credit is due to Emma Murton, who after playing the harp and singing in the Chamber Choir then conducted the choir in a brilliant rendition of A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square. It was brilliant to see the audience enjoying Nice Work If You Can Get It by Gershwin, I don’t think that there was a single foot that wasn’t tapping in the whole church!
The choir then sang Forgotten Children’s Songs composed by Dan Harding, a very clever set of pieces that was very well sung by the choir. I couldn’t help but think of Schumann’s Kinderszenen whilst listening to these pieces.
We were treated to an encore of My Spirit Sang All Day which was a fitting end to a very professional and enjoyable concert. Thanks must go to members of SSAFA who kindly provided the musicians with refreshments after the concert.
Overall, a very enjoyable evening which was well received by the audience.
Over on Storify, we’ve a look at the story behind yesterday’s lunchtime concert with the Cecilian Choir and guests, charting life with the Choir from its forming in October through to yesterday’s performance.
If you’ve ever wondered what composer Benjamin Britten might have been listening to, as he took his post-prandial ‘composing walks’ around Aldeburgh in the afternoon, now you can find out.
Famed wildlife sound-recordist Chris Watson has spent a year following in the composer’s footsteps, armed with a microphone – a clip of his findings is available to listen to, in his article inThe Guardian earlier this week.
From birdsong to pealing church-bells, it’s an evocative exploration of the soundworld surrounding Britten’s daily walks through the Suffolk countryside – and all from the comfort of your own armchair.