Tag Archives: cathedral

Heroic endeavours in annual Cathedral concert

Congratulations to all the performers involved in Saturday night’s annual Colyer-Fergusson Concert, which saw the Nave of Canterbury Cathedral resounding to the heroic strains of Beethoven, Haydn and the premiere of a new work by Matthew King.

The Chorus and Orchestra came together under the baton of Susan Wanless in Haydn’s dramatic ‘Nelson Mass,’ joined by several alumni, and the Orchestra (led by final-year Law student and Music Scholar, Lydia Cheng), delivered Beethoven’s mighty Eroica symphony with aplomb.

Composer Matthew King and family were present for the first performance of Matthew’s A Hero Passes, an orchestral tribute to his late father, James King OBE, with which the concert opened. Matthew attended rehearsals the night before and on the morning at the Cathedral.

Conductor Susan Wanless and composer Matthew King confer in rehearsal. Photo: Molly Hollman
Matthew King attending the rehearsal of his new commission. Photo: Molly Hollman
Composer Matthew King at the dress rehearsal for ‘A Hero Passes’ with conductor Susan Wanless. Photo: Molly Hollman
Chorus and Orchestra rehearsing Haydn in Canterbury Cathedral
Photo: Molly Hollman
The orchestra reheasing Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’
Composer Matthew King acknowledges the orchestra at the first performance of ‘A Hero Passes’
Music Scholar and final-year Law Student, Lydia Cheng, prepares to lead the orchestral concert for her final time
(Most of!) the violins of the orchestra after the performance
Matthew King and family attending the premiere of ‘A Hero Passes’ in Canterbury Cathedral

Thanks to all the behind-the-scenes crew as well, on what is a particularly long day; here’s Your Loyal Correspondent and the Music Administrator clearly early on the day…There are still plenty of events to come over the next few weeks: see what’s next here.

Dreams, dances and desire in annual Cathedral Concert

A packed Canterbury Cathedral was the backdrop to Saturday’s performance by the University Chorus and Symphony Orchestra of Berlioz’s epic Symphonie fantastique and Beethoven’s rousing Mass in C.

WP_20160305_001The long day began bright and early with the crew arriving at the concert-hall to load two vans with all the equipment needed, and unfolded across the day with the arrival of additional percussion in the form of two tuned bells and an additional timp, plus not one but two harpists.

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The Music Society Committee (and interlopers) overrun the soloists’ chairs…
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Chorus and Orchestra in rehearsal

Soloists Sally Silver and Kiri Parker were joined by University alumni Andrew Macnair and Piran Legg for the Beethoven, which in a hushed ‘Agnus Dei’ brought the concert to a close.

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The four soloists rehearsing Beethoven
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Not seeing double: a brace of harps
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Image: Molly Hollman
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Image: Molly Hollman
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Image: Molly Hollman
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Percussionist Cory Adams tuning up prior to the performance
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Orchestra and Chorus in position for the evening performance
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Orchestra tunes up prior to the Berlioz

The Orchestra and Chorus will be back in action next month on Sunday 3 April in a Sunday afternoon programme of music by Copland, Bernstein and Gershwin.

The Cathedral concert beckons

With just over twenty-four hours until the annual Colyer-Fergusson Cathedral concert, the University Symphony Orchestra and Chorus are busily rehearsing ahead of the performance.

Last night, both forces were at work on Beethoven’s Mass in C, whilst tonight the Orchestra puts the finishing touches to Berlioz’s epic Symphonie fantastique.

Chorus_Orchestra_March2016The annual concert in Canterbury Cathedral is one of the highlights of the University’s performing calendar; join us tomorrow night in a heady exploration of desire, dreams and death…

Revolution, dreams, dance and desire: annual Colyer-Fergusson concert next week

The mightiest orchestra the University Music department has ever assembled will gather next week, as the Chorus and Symphony Orchestra come together for a revolutionary tale of dreams, dances, hallucinations and desire in Canterbury Cathedral on Saturday 5 March.

Under the incisive baton of Susan Wanless, the Orchestra will perform one of the most exciting, revolutionary pieces in the repertoire, Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, a story of hopeless passion, unrequited love and hallucinogenic visions, with its famous ball scene, the March to the Scaffold and terrifying final bacchanalian revelry of sorcerers and witches. In the immortal words of conductor Leonard Bernstein – ‘Berlioz tells it like it is. You take a trip, you wind up screaming at your own funeral.’

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Photo: Emma M during a lenthy tacet section for the harp

The second half of the concert brings in the University Chorus for a performance of Beethoven’s Mass in C, with four outstanding soloists Sally Silver, Kiri Parker and University alumni Andrew Macnair and Piran Legg.

Susan  Wanless is particularly excited at the prospect of unleashing Berlioz’s masterpiece in the Cathedral in the annual Colyer-Fergusson concert, always one of the highlights of the University year. ‘To present such spectacular pieces, complete with off-stage instruments and massive orchestral forces, will be thrilling for both the performers and audience alike!’

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Photo: Phoebe H when she should have been playing the clarinet…

The Orchestra has been hard at work industriously rehearsing for next week’s epic performance, and the concert promises to be an occasion not to be missed: tickets and details online here. Prepare to be led on a whirlwind of love, death and dance next week…

Making music at Kent: Svenja reflects

About to finish her MA in Comparative Literature, her second postgraduate degree, having finished a Master of Education (English and Maths) in Berlin last year, Svenja Glass looks back on her involvement in music at Kent.


I was here first in 2012/13 as an Erasmus student from Free University Berlin (just like Max Mergenbaum, funnily enough, only I came via the English Department!). At that time, I studied English and Maths in Berlin, but on coming to Kent I just attended seminars in English Literature (and German Translation and Danish …). Then I went back to Berlin to finish my M.Ed. and decided to come back to Canterbury because I had enjoyed my year at the University of Kent so much – especially the music-making.

On the occasion of the valedictory concert in June we were given tags to write down our best memory related to music at the University of Kent – 50th anniversary of the university, 50 memories. It goes without saying that it is impossible to choose just one single memory, but it certainly offered a welcome opportunity to re-live what made 2014/15 so special for me.

Svenja Glass
Svenja Glass

I sang in the University Chorus, and I enjoyed every single rehearsal (did you know that Popocatépetl is a volcano in Mexico? Say the name eight times as fast as you can!). To quote Sue: “an hour of singing will do you a world of good,” and this is absolutely true, particularly in the face of several essay deadlines approaching at once (Dies Irae!). Performing Verdi’s Requiem in the Cathedral with around 180 other singers and the University Symphony Orchestra was, of course, epic!

Moreover, I took the chance to go to a variety of concerts (I think I never went to so many concerts), especially exploring some more modern music, which I would not normally have dared to attend. Walton’s Façade, performed by the CantiaQuorum ensemble in November and featuring some Canterbury-VIPs as readers is just one fantastic example.

Naturally, the best concerts were the ones in which my friends performed. The high standard of music-making at the university is simply amazing. And talking about friends, I met a lot of wonderful people from all possible subject areas – economics, biomedical science, you name it, and we had a perfectly marvellous time playing the piano together , for instance, or singing Christmas carols on campus and in town. After all, the best thing about Music at the University of Kent is spending your free (or not-quite-so-free-but-rather-busy) time with a lovely bunch of people who share a great passion for music.

Music to the Max: exchange student Max Mergenbaum on music at Kent

Students from across the world come to the University of Kent, and this is certainly true of the thronging community which also takes part in the musical life of the University each year.

MergenbaumThis year, Max Mergenbaum came to Kent to study Politics and International Relations for two terms as an exchange student at the Freie Universität in Berlin. Max played bassoon in the Symphony Orchestra and the Wind Ensemble, and had this to say as he departed these shores to return to Germany.

“Playing in the University of Kent Orchestra was both an honour and a pleasure for me. As a visiting exchange student from Germany, I received a lot of support from the start. Being able to play Verdi’s Requiem in the Canterbury Cathedral was definitely one of the highlights of my year abroad which I will never forget. It was amazing to play together with so many talented young musicians. Following the motto of the music department ‘Whatever you do, do music’ I can only recommend every student coming to Kent to join this fantastic orchestra!”

Wind Ensemble plays in the foyer
Wind Ensemble plays in the foyer

We wish Max well.

Then Comes The Day: Chamber Choir Crypt Concert this Friday

There’s no respite in the calendar of performing commitments; fresh from Saturday’s epic Colyer-Fergusson Concert, the University Chamber Choir returns to the Cathedral Crypt this coming Friday for an evocative programme, Then Comes The Day.

The title of the concert is taken from a line in the Hymn to the Virgin, ‘Darkest night / Then comes the day,’ which features in the concert, representing the triumph of optimism over despair in a programme that commemorates European countries involved in the First World War. Your Loyal Correspondent will be joined in conducting duties by fourth-year Music Scholar Emma Murton to fill the ancient and echoing spaces of the Cathedral Crypt with what promises to be a vividly expressive sequence of music.

Chamber_Choir_2014web_squareFrom the Renaissance austerity of Tallis’ Nine Tunes for Archbishop Parker’s Psalter through to the contemporary colours of Jussi Chydenius, Friday’s concert travels through England, France, Germany, Italy and Finland, and will include Schutz’ glorious Jauchzet den Herren, earthy part-songs by Lassus, Stanford’s purple-hued The Blue Bird and works by Purcell, JC Bach and Elgar. Second-year Music Scholar Anne Engels will join the Choir, performing pieces for solo flute including Debussy’s lissom Syrinx.

The concert starts at 7.30pm; more details and tickets here.

To whet your appetites, here’s Stanford’s The Blue Bird, sung by the Choir of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.

Triumphant Verdi Requiem

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.

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The morning shift crew

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.

Rachel Nicholls, Carolyn Dobbins, Gerard Schneider, Simon Thorpe
Rachel Nicholls, Carolyn Dobbins, Gerard Schneider, Simon Thorpe

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.

Alumnus & percussionist, Carina Evans and tuba-player Chris Gray
Alumnus & percussionist, Carina Evans and tuba-player Chris Gray

(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.