Another year of extra-curricular music-making has come to a close with this year’s Summer Music Week. Taking place across eight days, the series of concerts ranged from the evocative Crypt of Canterbury Cathedral to a sun-drenched trip to the seaside and Deal Bandstand, two Scholars’ Lunchtime Concerts, the ceremony for this year’s Music Prize Winners (about which more shortly…) and more, all coming to a rousing finale with the closing Saturday gala.
Here are some of the images capturing this year’s series of events; as always, our enormous thanks to everyone who took part – students and staff at a particularly busy time in the academic year, alumni, and members of the local community – in a splendid festival. There’s always a wonderful community feeling to the week, as musicians come together for the last time, some for the final performance before graduating. To those who are leaving: ave atque vale; to those who are returning in September, see you then!
Congratulations to all the members of the University Cecilian Choir and Consort on last Friday’s night’s premiere of the new commission piece by Russell Hepplewhite.
The combination of words, music and images brought the new setting of the Magnificat, in which the sacred text was interspersed by new poetry by Nancy Gaffield, to vivid life. The Choir and strings, comprising students and staff from across the University, came together in vibrant form to deliver an accomplished performance of a brand-new work, always a challenge and especially in front of a live audience including both composer and poet!
If you missed it, the piece will be performed again on Friday 9 June as part of this year’s Summer Music Week, our annual music festival bringing the musical year to a close.
As part of the continuing ten-year anniversary of Colyer-Fergusson, the Music department continues to explore new musical frontiers in commissioning a piece from composer Russell Hepplewhite; an innovative take on the Magnificat, written for the University Cecilian Choir and string orchestra.
Bringing the Song of Mary together with new poetry by Nancy Gaffield, Emeritus Professor in the School of Creative Writing, the choir has been working on the piece in rehearsals, and we were delighted to welcome the composer to the concert-hall this week as the choir worked together with Russell.
It’s always a nervous experience to rehearse a piece with the composer present, but there was a tremendous rapport between the choir of students and staff and Russell, as the group continued to develop the piece with direct Composer Input. Heroically, Russell volunteered to be the repetiteur for the rehearsal, and choir, composer and poet spent a lively session bringing the piece to life.
Before the rehearsal, Russell and Your Loyal Correspondent filmed a conversation about the commission, about the process of writing a piece that combines a well-known sacred text with contemporary poetry, and techniques of writing for voices and strings – the interview will appear soon!
Pictured are Russell and Nancy with the Cecilian Choir; the piece receives its premiere performance in Colyer-Fergusson on Friday 31 March; tickets here.
The University Cecilian Choir has been hard at work rehearsing a brand-new setting of the Magnificat, the Song of Mary, which the Music department commissioned as part of its year-long anniversary celebrations of the Colyer-Fergusson Building’s ten years. Last night, the Choir was delighted to welcome poet Nancy Gaffield to the rehearsal; Nancy has written four new poems which are interspersed with the text of the Magnificat, with music written by Russell Hepplewhite for mixed choir and string orchestra.
The new piece is an exciting blend of high energy, driving rhythms, lyrical melody and sumptuous harmonic colours, particularly in the sections setting Nancy’s poetry; each of the four poems is written in response to a famous piece of art representing stages in the life of Christ, including Michelangelo’s The Birth of Adam, Ghirandaio’s The Visitation, and Piero della Francesca’s The Baptism of Christ. Here, the music revels in the same richly-colourful textures as each of the paintings; last night was an opportunity for Nancy to talk with the choir about her poems, the relationship to the paintings, and to hear some of the piece coming to life in rehearsal.
The first performance takes place in Colyer-Fergusson Hall on Friday 31 March, with a second performance on Friday 9 June as part of this year’s Summer Music Week; details and tickets for the premiere performance online here. It should be quite something…
As part of the anniversary celebrations to mark the ten-year anniversary of the opening of the Colyer-Fergusson Building on the University of Kent’s Canterbury campus, we’re delighted to have commissioned a new piece by the composer Russell Hepplewhite.
The piece, written for mixed-voice choir and string orchestra, is a setting of the Magnificat interspersed with four new poems written by Nancy Gaffield in the School of Creative Writing. Each poem, inspired by an historic painting, responds to the canticle, the ‘Song of Mary,’ in which Mary rejoices that she will give birth to the Christ-child and the positive changes which will be wrought in the world.
Recently named one of the Evening Standard’s 1000 Most Influential People in London, Russell Hepplewhite has won critical acclaim for his ground-breaking operas for children including Shackleton’s Cat, Silver Electra and Laika the Spacedog, written for English Touring Opera. His music appears on CD releases for labels including Regent Records and has been featured on BBC Television and Radio, as well as being performed at venues including the Royal Albert Hall, the Wigmore Hall, the Library Theatre Luton, the Purcell Room and the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Most recently, his collaboration with the poet Michael Rosen, a set of children’s songs entitled Everything, is included in the Friday Afternoons song bank project, inspired by Britten’s song-cycle of the same name.
Nancy Gaffield is Reader Emeritus in Creative Writing at the University of Kent and an award-winning poet with six poetry publications. Her first collection of poetry, Tokaido Road (CB editions 2011) was nominated for the Forward Best First Collection Prize and was awarded the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize that year. Other poetry publications include Continental Drift (Shearsman 2014), Meridian (Longbarrow 2019) and Wealden (Longbarrow 2021), which is a collaboration with the musical group The Drift. She was commissioned to write a libretto for the opera, Tokaido Road: A Journey after Hiroshige, composed by Nicola LeFanu. It premiered at the Cheltenham Music Festival in 2014 and subsequently toured nationally. She regularly gives workshops, lectures and readings, including festival appearances such as the Aldeburgh and Ledbury Poetry Festivals, the Canterbury Festival, and the Words and Music Festival, Rolvenden, Kent.
Russell’s music is richly colourful, highly expressive and also immediately accessible, and it’s very exciting to have commissioned a brand new work to mark the opening of Colyer-Fergusson, the building which forms the centrepiece for extra-curricular music at Kent. By bringing Russell’s translucent musical language together with Nancy’s brilliantly evocative poetry, it will be a fantastic opportunity for students and staff at the University to give the premiere as part of the year-long anniversary celebrations, and a unique take on a traditional moment in the liturgy.
The new setting will be premiered in Colyer-Fergusson Hall by the University of Kent Cecilian Choir and String Sinfonia on Friday 31 March 2023, with a further performance later in June as part of the department’s summer music festival.
Students, staff and alumni of the University sang at Canterbury Cathedral yesterday, taking part in the centuries-old tradition of Choral Evensong in the heart of the city as the University Cecilian Choir; as well as welcoming an in-person congregation, the event was also livestreamed.
Congratulations to everyone who took part, including visiting organist, John Wyatt, who played for the service, and to the Cathedral for welcoming the Choir. It’s a wonderful opportunity to sing in that richly-resonant acoustic as part of a lineage of worship across the centuries, and the performers enjoyed the service immensely.
The service remains online to watch on the Cathedral’s YouTube channel below.
The University Cecilian Choir is preparing to take part in the centuries-old tradition of Choral Evensong next month, when it will sing the service at Canterbury Cathedral on Tuesday 15 February at 5.30pm.
Comprising students, staff and alumni, the choir will also be welcoming back a handful of former students from near and far to sing; as well as an in-person congregation, the service will also be livestreamed on the Cathedral’s YouTube channel for those who would like to watch online.
Amongst the repertoire will be the lovely anthem, Peace I Leave With You, by the American composer, Amy Beach. Join the Choir live or online in a few weeks’ time, as they sing evensong at the heart of the cathedral city in what promises to be a lovely occasion with singers past and present.
After so long without them, it’s genuinely exciting to be back with musical events as the Christmas season starts to unfold.
The Cecilian Choir, comprising students, staff and alumni launched the Advent season with a sequence of plainsong and carols at St Michael’s Church, Hernhill, a meditative candlelit event interspersed with periods of silent reflection; there was a wonderfully atmospheric moment during one such moment, when the church clock struck on the hour at eight o’clock.
This year’s Chamber Choir, Minerva Voices, returned to the Cathedral on Monday 6 December, for the first time since December 2019, to sing for the University Carol Service; always a special event in the university calendar, drawing its community together in a modified, COVID-safe manner that was nonetheless a very welcome opportunity to come together at this time of the year. Congratulations to final-year Psychology student and Music Award Holder, Felicity Bourdillon (above, fifth from the right), whose solo verse to open ‘Once in royal David’s city’ lifted clear into the Cathedral Nave at the start of the service.
And last night, members of the String Sinfonia were in action in a fearless concert showcasing the versatility of music for string orchestra, including Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro and some light-footed folksong arrangements by John Rutter.
We’ve still a week of events to go before the term ends; but it’s great to be back.
Because it does. Doesn't it ? Blogging about extra-curricular musical life at the University of Kent.