Tag Archives: cathedral

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.

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.

Quantus tremor est futurus: getting ready for Saturday

A big week this week, as we continue our preparations ahead of the annual Colyer-Fergusson Cathedral Concert on Saturday, for which the combined might of the University Chorus and Symphony Orchestra will come together in Verdi’s Requiem.

Here’s the Chorus in fine form yesterday afternoon, rehearsing old-skool style in Grimond, where for many years the Chorus used to meet each Monday night. Although we don’t recall its ever having been quite so green before…

Dies irae: Chorus rehearsing in Grimond
Dies irae: Chorus rehearsing in Grimond

Yesterday’s all-day rehearsal is followed by rehearsals tonight, Thursday and on Saturday morning. It all culminates on Saturday evening; how much tremor there shall be…


Preparing for the Cathedral Concert next week

Next Saturday sees the annual Colyer-Fergusson Cathedral Concert, in which the University Chorus and Orchestra will come together to commemorate the start of the First World War in music by Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Bach and Fauré.

This Sunday is our all-day rehearsal in the hall, a first combined run-through; then it’s Monday – Thursday – Friday – Saturday over the course of next week, and then Sunday for everyone to recover…

In rehearsalThe concert on the 15 March features Elgar’s Spirit of England, for which we’ll be joined by soprano Sally Silver, Fauré’s Cantique de Jean-Racine, Elgar’s arrangement of Bach’s Fantasia in C minor, and Vaughan Williams’ Symphony no.3.

Looking forward to Sunday’s Greater Coming Together; Ladies and Gentlemen of the Chorus and Symphony Orchestra, we’ll see you there!


This year’s love: new brochure now online

A dizzying profusion of events is unleashed over the coming months, as you can now see from our online events calendar.

CF_Cathedral_2014The free Lunchtime Concert series includes a visit from British saxophonist Martin Speake, who brings his trio as part of his current UK tour, and from acclaimed sitar-player, Jonathan Mayer. There’s the annual Colyer-Fergusson Cathedral Concert with the University Chorus and Orchestra, this year commemorating the First World War with music by Elgar and Vaughan Williams, and the Chamber Choir returns to the Cathedral Crypt to sing a programme including Palestrina, Brahms, Whitacre and Paul Patterson.

Conductor Ian Swatman leads the Concert and Big Bands at the end of February in Ravel and Earth, Wind and Fire, and later teams up with the Big Band from St Edmund’s School in a charity gig in aid of the Pilgrim’s Hospice. There’s music down the hill, too, as the Lost Consort explores the music of Hildegard von Bingen in the Roman Undercroft of St Thomas’ Hospital, and the Chamber & Cecilian Choirs at St Peter’s Methodist with music by Hassler, Maskats and Chilcott.

bigband_ruby_dec2013Visitors to the concert-hall include Rachel Podger, who brings a recital of works for solo baroque violin, and later in May there’s a recital from pianist Malcolm Binns.

Plenty to enjoy over the coming months; see the calendar online here, or download the brochure (PDF) here. Meanwhile, the Lunchtime Concert series begins on Weds February 12 with music for two-pianos and four-hands by Poulenc, Ravel and Gavin Bryars with pianists Matthew King and your loyal correspondent, who is now off to practice…

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Sponsors of the Lunchtime Concert series

Haydn’s Creation: reflections of an American violinist

Masters student and violinist Jon-Mark Grussenmeyer reviews the  recent Cathedral concert.


On the fiddle: Jon-Mark Grussenmeyer

After rehearsing with Sue into the late hours of countless Thursdays, performance day was finally upon us.  It promised to be a busy day, not least because my family had flown in from New Jersey to watch the concert.

My father kindly offered to drive me from my flat to the pre-concert rehearsal, at which we were supposed to arrive by 10:45.  He promptly made a wrong turn at one of the roundabouts, though thankfully he was, at least, still driving on the wrong—I mean left—side of the road.  By the time we pulled into town, I was nearly late.  Knowing the English fondness for punctuality, and fearing being skewed by Sue’s angry baton, I sprinted into the Cathedral only to find that half of the orchestra had yet to arrive!

As a postgraduate student of Mediaeval Studies, I am often in the Cathedral, usually examining tombs and other objects related to long-dead people, but filling such a building with beautiful music was completely new to me.  To sit and play in the vast nave, the gothic vaulting soaring far above our heads, sunlight piercing the leaded windows in dusty golden shafts, was, for me, an unforgettable experience.

After practicing for a while, we were allowed a brief respite, during which my stand partner and I rushed to purchase the coffee and muffins that would keep us alive for the rest of the afternoon.  Of course, as we ate, poor Miriam was then subjected to a mini-lecture on the finer points of the Great Cloister’s architecture, which was only halted when we heard the rest of the orchestra tuning inside.

The second half of the rehearsal went quite well for the orchestra.  Several times, the combination of such beautiful harmonies and stunning setting was so powerful that it brought tears to my eyes.  Then, the beautiful shafts of sunlight began to shift until they shone directly in my face whenever I attempted to look up at Sue, so teary eyes necessarily remained an integral part of the rehearsal.

Rehearsal at an end, I ate a late lunch and wandered around town with my family.  As evening wore on, we repaired back to my parents’ room in the Falstaff Hotel, where I changed into my dinner jacket and then walked back to the Cathedral, violin in hand.  The only mishap en route was a ‘gentleman’ who attempted to lay hands on my dinner jacket whilst babbling something unintelligible, though I rid myself of him with a fierce look and a few well-chosen words.

We set up our instruments in the shadowy Cathedral Crypt, one of my favourite places in all of Canterbury, and waited for the concert to begin.  As 7:30 rolled around, the chorus marched out to take their places on the enormous risers that seemed to reach as high as the quire’s rood screen, and we took our seats and tuned our instruments.  I was stunned by the number of people filling the Nave, including the Lord Mayor, who was sitting across from me in the front row with his impressive chain of office.  We certainly ought to have chains of office in the States.  Finally, Sue, Jeremy, and the soloists emerged to thunderous applause, and the concert took off in the whirlwind of Haydn’s interpretation of Chaos.  I am glad that I had time to appreciate my surroundings whilst playing during the rehearsal, for I had little time to notice anything but the notes, the baton, and Jeremy’s bow as I shifted into my intense concert mode.  As I am on the front edge of the orchestra, I found it amply necessary to concentrate; in the complete view of the audience, I have to at least appear to know what I’m doing.

As with any performance I have ever completed, orchestral or theatrical, the concert seemed to fly by at breakneck speed, and suddenly, after weeks and weeks of tiring rehearsals, the orchestra and chorus were belting out the last magnificent strains of the Creation.  As the echoes of our final chord lingered among the high-flung columns and the audience filled the nave with applause, I gazed up at that splendid Cathedral and at my fellow musicians, trying to etch the moment into my memory.  Though I shall take many amazing memories back with me to New Jersey when my time here is over, the memory of this concert numbers among the very best.