Tag Archives: Cecilian Choir

Leaving your comfort zone: Corinna Jung on her musical year at Kent

Corinna Jung came to the University in September from Germany to study International Criminal Justice as a postgraduate. Here, she reflects on her musical time at Kent and the importance of music to her life alongside her legal studies.


When I was considering universities to apply for my postgraduate studies, not only was I trying to find one, which mirrors my academic interests best, but also it has been equally important for me to choose a place, where I can make music and play the violin in an orchestra again.

During the six years of my undergraduate degree in Germany, I was a member of the University Symphony Orchestra, and as I look back, many of my best memories of my study time in Germany have a musical background: I enjoyed making music with people, who share the same passion for music as I do and I met wonderful colleagues who have become my best friends over the years. In addition to that, I am sure I wouldn´t have managed to deal with all my exams and assignments without that kind of support and balance. Therefore, I was more than happy to realise that the University of Kent not only has a fantastic law school, but also a strong music department with plenty of opportunities for students to get involved in. Regardless of
whether you play the violin, the trumpet or sing – there are so many different student ensembles to join!

Corinna (fourth from left) with members of the String Sinfonia after performing Vivaldi’s ‘Gloria’

After last week’s wonderful Summer Music Week, I reflect upon
my time at Kent and can say: what an incredible year full of music it has been! When I joined the first rehearsal of the Symphony Orchestra in September, I was excited to see how they would rehearse and what kind of pieces would be played. The concert in December has been my first one with this orchestra and I enjoyed performing in the wonderful Colyer-Fergusson hall as well as playing a wide range of pieces, both with and without chorus.

Strings attached: Melody, Zaneta (leader), Corinna, Millie, Molly and Rosie after the Cathedral Concert

After the concert, the director of the String Sinfonia, Floriane Peycelon, asked me if I would like to join the Sinfonia from the next term on and all I can say is it turned out to be one of the greatest musical opportunities I have had so far! As a string ensemble, we have been involved in many different concerts over the year, including lunchtime concerts, the Dido and Aeneas performance in February in which we performed Purcell’s opera with the University Cecilian Choir, the premiere of Between Worlds with the amazingly talented violinist Anna Phoebe last week and – last but not least! – our ‘own’ Sinfonia concerts in which we played wonderful – and quite challenging – compositions for strings, such as Tchaikovsky’s Serenade and Britten’s Simple Symphony.

Bows at the end of the production of ‘Dido and Aeneas’ in Colyer-Fergusson Hall, Feb 2019.
The String Sinfonia rehearsing in Colyer-Fergusson Hall

‘Between Worlds’ by Anna Phoebe

One of the highlights of the academic year for me has definitely been the concert in Canterbury Cathedral in March and performing in this unique location was a special experience for me. Beyond that, the Summer Music Week, comprising of a series of concerts with different themes, from an easy-going summery concert with McMozart and ‘Dance of the Comedians’ to a more serious and formal Between Worlds concert. And finally, the Gala concert, featuring Symphony Orchestra and University of Kent Chorus and Chamber Choir. It was a fantastic way to end my musical year at Kent.

I would like to say a huge thank you to Susan Wanless, Daniel Harding and Flo Peycelon – you’ve always made me feel very welcome and appreciated as part of the ‘team’ and you put tremendous effort and energy in creating all these opportunities
for students who want to make music to a high standard and who want to find an important balance alongside their studies. The same applies to my Sinfonia colleagues; you have been so lovely and open-minded!

You can just glimpse Corinna in the crook of Anna’s arm…

Therefore I encourage every (overseas) student to get involved in the musical life at Kent, no matter how awkward it will be at the beginning to leave one´s own comfort zone. And even if it might just be for a year, make the most of your time here and do what you enjoy. I have had a wonderful year with the music department, and I am sure that whenever I will look back at my time in Canterbury, these happy memories will be a huge part of it.

A milestone for the University Cecilian Choir

Congratulations to all the students, staff and alumni who were a part of the University Cecilian Choir‘s service of Choral Evensong at Canterbury Cathedral yesterday.

It was the first time the Cecilian Choir has sung at Canterbury Cathedral, and as seasoned choral evensong singers will know, it’s quite a discpline to learn; the pointing and flexibility of psalm-singing, the need for security in delivering the unaccompanied Responses, and the constant having-to-be-on-your-toes throughout the service so you are ready for what comes next, with the right music in the right order, able to pluck the note of your chord from the intoned sentence from the Precentor. Not withstanding the additional challenge of singing in split formation across an extremely wide aisle in the Cathedral Quire, in mixed-voice arrangement without the security of singing amongst others of your voice-part. And all in front of an expectant congregation, fitting your contribution flawlessly into the well-oiled machinery of the Liturgy…

In rehearsal: Cantoris…
…and in rehearsal: Decani

The Choir rose the occasion marvellously, particularly in Stanford’s Canticles in C and Elgar’s Ave Verum Corpus, a heady blend of lyricism and stirring ensemble singing.

It was lovely to welcome back some former members of the Choir and University alumni to take part; thanks too to organist Charles Francis, Organ Scholar and sixth-form pupil at St Edmund’s School, for playing for the service.

We are back at the Cathedral this Friday night, as the University Chamber Choir performs in the sonorous acoustics of the Cathedral Crypt to launch this year’s Summer Music Week...find out all that’s coming up 31 May – 8 June here.

The view of the Cathedral from the University campus

Image Gallery: Dido and Aeneas

Congratulations to all the performers involved in last Friday’s performance of Dido and Aeneas. Students and staff in the University Cecilian Choir and String Sinfonia were joined by some of the Music Performance Scholarship singers in a production of Purcell’s timeless story of love and loss, conducted by Your Loyal Correspondent.

Costumed courtiers promenading the foyer greeted audience members arriving for the performance, whilst a string trio performed trio sonatas on the foyer-stage. Below are some of the photos from the dress rehearsal that afternoon.

Special mention to postgraduate Law student and Music Scholar, Helen Sotillo, as the doomed Queen of Carthage, and third-year Scholar, Fleur Sumption, as Belinda, and second-year Drama student and Scholar, Carmen Mackey, as the evil Sorceress.

In rehearsal earlier that day
String trio and costumed Chorus set the scene prior to the performance
String selfie time: l-r viola player Adam Dooner, and violinists Jennifer Pang, Corinna Jung and Will Morgan

And here is the cast and performers taking their bows after the performance:


l-r: Helen Sotillo (Dido), Alice Shires (Spirit), Fleur Sumption (Belinda)

‘Remember me…’

Rehearsals are well underway for the performance of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas by the University Cecilian Choir, String Sinfonia and soloists in two weeks’ time; here are some shots from recent rehearsals, including Music Scholar, soprano Helen Sotillo, rehearsing Dido’s heart-breaking lament, the Cecilian Choir as palace courtiers in Act I, and some of the String Sinfonia rehearsing Act II.

The tragic story of the doomed love of the Queen of Carthage for the Trojan prince unfurls in Colyer-Fergusson Hall on Friday 1 February at 7pm; more details online here.

Scholar’s Spotlight: David Curtiss

Continuing the series profiling University Music Performance Scholarship students and Award Holders. This week, foundation-year physicist and reeds player, David Curtiss.


I started my music-making on the piano at age 7, something that I have tried to continue developing throughout my years of study. I then decided that I wanted to be part of my school orchestra and so chose to start the clarinet, leading me onto the local area wind ensemble and a host of fantastic opportunities that followed.
I started on third clarinet in the youth band, and after 4 years found myself principle in the main band. I was then offered the chance to play the tenor saxophone, I took it (because who doesn’t want to play the coolest instrument?). This then opened the door to join big bands and play in different ensembles.

Because I could now play multiple reed instruments, including the oboe, I was invited to play in the pit band for the school productions, such as The Sound of Music and We Will Rock You. It’s something I have thoroughly enjoyed and made sure to take part in every year. I also had a brief trip onto the stage for our production of West Side Story where I played the lead role of Tony, a fascinating experience which gave me a new respect and insight into musical theatre.

My next venture was into the baritone saxophone when I was asked if I’d like to give it a go and I haven’t looked back! It has given me the opportunity to play alongside the Scots Guard in their chapel next to Buckingham Palace and at The Royal Albert Hall as part of the Hampshire County Youth Wind Ensemble, as well as a host of other locations that I would never have thought possible.

I continued my musical education at college however switched courses to pursue a scientific route. Last year, a few friends and I had the idea of starting up an orchestra for fellow college students. This idea spread into a full orchestra, wind band and string orchestra resulting in a full concert last year in Winchester. This new musical venture also gave me the opportunity to do more conducting with the string orchestra when we performed Grieg’s Holberg Suite. We have also just planned a concert for Easter where we will be putting together a jazz band and some smaller ensembles which is very exciting!

David, third from left, with the Big Band sax section

My musical journey has continued to grow here at Kent where I am part of the Concert Band, Big Band, Pops Orchestra, General Harding’s Tomfoolery, Chorus and Cecilian Choir. One of my goals for my time here at Kent is to assemble a sax quartet. I have some pieces that I have arranged that I would love to be debuted by an ensemble such as this. I am amazingly grateful to be a recipient of the Music Scholarship, as it has allowed me to purchase some desperately needed upgrades for my instrument, and also to have the chance to be taught by the fantastic Peter Cook. I look forward to developing my playing and getting involved with everything that the brilliant Music Department here at the University has to offer…


Read more in the series here.

Court in the Act: rehearsing Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas

Rehearsals are underway for a performance in February of Purcell’s ground-breaking Dido and Aeneas by the University Cecilian Choir, String Sinfonia and soloists.

Driven by characterful choruses, the Chorus has a significant role to play throughout each of the acts. Whether courtiers to the Queen, a coven of witches or lusty and infidelious sailors, the Choir will have a major part to play in the gradual unfolding of the witches’ nefarious scheming to come between the Queen of Carthage and the Trojan prince…

The Choir has been working hard in rehearsals each week, and is here captured getting into character as palace courtiers for the start of Act I.

Soloists in the opera are drawn from the Choir, including third-year Music Scholar, Fleur Sumption and first-year Felicity Bourdillon, seen here in an earlier rehearsal for Acts I and II.

Banish sorrow, banish care…

Christmas is coming…

The University Cecilian Choir, String Sinfonia and soloists were busy rehearsing for the first in our series of Christmas concerts, which takes place on Friday 1 December. A feast of seasonal music and words reflecting the start of the Christmas period, A Christmas Corncuopia brings together carols, popular seasonal favourites and readings to create a magical atmosphere.

For the event, the Music Department will be joined by Will Wollen, (pictured right), Senior Lecturer in Drama and Theatre Studies, who brings life to characters including Scrooge, Adrian Mole, Elizabeth David grumbling about cooking at Christmastime, Nancy Mitford bewailing traditional customs which frighten the house-guests and evocative poems by Edward Thomas and Thomas Hardy.

The music includes Vivaldi’s ‘Winter’ from ‘The Four Seasons,’ featuring third-year Music Scholar, Lydia Cheng, (pictured below) as soloist, and carols with the Cecilian Choir including Warlock’s beautiful Bethlehem Down and the traditional Ukrainian Carol of the Bells.

Come and launch the department’s Christmas season this Friday evening, and enjoy a glass of Smoking Bishop punch afterwards (included in the ticket-price); further concerts including the Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments, the Chorus and Symphony Orchestra, a seasonal #EarBox in Studio 3 Gallery from the String Sinfonia, and the Big Band’s enduringly popular A Christmas Swingalong – details about all these online here. ‘Tis the season…

A letter from Vienna: Ben Weiland

Currently studying abroad for a year as part of his European Legal Studies with Kent Law School, and a member of the University Chorus and Cecilian Choir, singer Ben Weiland writes from Vienna…


Ben (centre, back) with the Cecilian Choir singing at Heart Kent Radio in 2016

Hello from Vienna! I just wanted to share what I’ve been up to and ask how everything is going with Kent music – I’m missing the Cecilian Choir! I saw that you did the Fauré Requiem recently – very jealous. What an absolutely marvellous work! I remember seeing the programme for the Colyer-Fergusson Cathedral as well which also looked marvellous – Tchaikovsky Symphony 6! I very much look forward to returning to it all in September!

Spending this year in Vienna has been (and will continue to be) an utter delight. It is a thriving city, full of life and excitement. The greatest beauty Vienna has to offer for me is its musical culture, which is unique and unparalleled. I didn’t fully comprehend until I arrived just how central Vienna has been to the history of music. It’s obviously famous for Mozart and Schubert, but Beethoven, Brahms and many other towering figures had lived and composed here. As a result, the current musical tradition is still very strong; you can’t walk around a corner without seeing the famous golden Musikverein poster advertising a concert, or a similar advertisement for an opera at the Staatsoper. Concert-going, I realised early on, is very much both a cultural and societal affair. It’s almost a customary tradition for the Viennese aristocracy to suit up and attend operas and concerts, as if it’s simply a matter of course. This isn’t to say it’s taken for granted, but this is just how life is – the people are surrounded by this supreme musical wealth. However, for someone outside of this aristocracy, the concerts are still very accessible. Ticket prices can be very reasonable depending on certain factors – very often I have decided to go to a concert on the day, which is made possible due to standing tickets (3-4 Euros for the opera; 5-6 Euros for the Musikverein). It cannot be stressed enough, the joy of knowing that every day there is a world-class concert that I could go to if I felt like it.

From a personal standpoint, I was very keen to go to the Musikverein, as this was the home of my father when he studied and played the violin here (before becoming a composer) in his early 20s. He had a month playing in the Vienna Philharmonic, so it was a must for me to attend a concert as soon as possible. I also had to refresh my memory of the great building, as I came here when I was little to attend the concert of my father’s piano trio, performed by the Altenberg Trio. I am reminded of a photo of me standing on the Brahmsaal stage, with the performers at the end of the concert, and naturally it was a very surreal experience for me to be there once again, around 14-15 years later. I have managed to go and hear the superb Altenberg Trio perform twice since being here and it is quite something, hearing wonderful pieces being performed with such a pure beauty. I still get a fuzzy feeling whenever I walk into the Grossersaal (or ‘Golden Hall’), even though by now I must have gone in over twenty times! Its nickname of the ‘Golden Hall’ is very apt, the clue is in the name – there is gold everywhere.

Alongside concert life, I have also been taking part in a lot of singing. Initially, it was just with the University Choir. We had a wonderful first semester, singing Frank Martin’s Mass with the Symphony Choir, and a range of baroque pieces (Palestrina, Byrd) with the Chamber Choir. The highlight, however, has to be the Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony that we performed with the University Orchestra at the Musikverein in September. This was an extraordinary experience! As if I hadn’t been reminded enough, standing on the stage of the Golden Hall it hit me that this is the home of the ground-breaking, incredible piece of music. It was first performed in 1824 here in Vienna, along with so many of Beethoven’s other works. Like with any really great music, regardless of other factors such as the history, it’s very hard to put into words the feelings, emotions and significance of experiencing it – all I can say is that it was a very special evening for everyone involved, something I will remember forever.

Ben (right) with the Cecilian Choir in 2016

Singing in the Symphony choir continues this semester, but the most exciting development since being in Vienna was being invited to sing in a professional choir – the Philharmonia Chor Wien – in productions of Verdi’s opera Rigoletto in an Austrian festival in the summer. Needless to say I was absolutely thrilled by the opportunity, and after already having a week’s rehearsals I am in awe of what the summer promises. The Philharmonia Chor Wien perform regularly at the Salzburg festival and the Baden-Baden festival, and receive engagements from major institutions and orchestras, such as the Berlin Philharmonic and Vienna Philharmonic. I was aware of this before attending my first rehearsal, and indeed I was expecting a high standard, but was still nonetheless taken-aback by the quality of the choir’s sound. As the choir specialises more in operatic music, the sound is different to what I’m used to with more traditional, church choral music. It is different but in a very positive sense; in many ways richer and grander. The eminent chorus master and founder of the choir has very kindly been giving me some lessons, teaching me a real grounding in what is required of an operatic voice. Certainly, my voice has come on a lot in such a short space of time.

This exploration into operatic music has opened my eyes to an area I never had much experience with previously. My musical upbringing has always been with choral, chamber and orchestral music – a wide spectrum but one that can only offer insight to a certain extent into opera. My initial impressions are there is definitely a specific charm to opera that isn’t found in, for example, orchestral music. I am still trying to decide whether I am left overall satisfied to the same degree as with orchestral and choral music, but certainly in the Rigoletto there is a type of excitement and drama to the music that I haven’t come across before. This is ignoring the fact that acting is required in opera as well (something I’m looking forward to engaging in, albeit slightly nervously). Definitely this is one of the many aspects of life here that I wish to try and understand far more by time I leave in the summer, and what better place to learn than to be able to go to one of (if not the) greatest opera institutions in the world – the Wiener Staatsoper – every day if I wanted to!

I could write a small book on the musical life of Vienna, and undoubtedly there is much that I have left out of this short piece. There is so much more to be learnt and experienced throughout this semester, and to enjoy in the summer the numerous Musical festivals Austria puts on show. After my stay here I will have to sit down and try to write out everything that I have seen and experienced – a difficult task! The irony is that I’m actually here to be studying Law, which has been also very stimulating and of course I have been immersing myself in my studies, but music is my love and passion. When an opportunity to be in a place like this comes around, it has to be grabbed with both hands!

I just really wanted to share the experiences I have been having, say hello, and express my looking forward to returning to the University next year. I trust everyone is well at Kent and wish everyone the best for the rest of the year!