Recent graduate from the School of Psychology and Music Award holder, soprano Felicity Bourdillon, President of the Music Society 2021-22,reflects on being involved in extra-curricular music as part of her experience at the University.
When I joined Kent, joining the Music Society, and getting involved with the music department was one of the best decisions I made.
Felicity (front row, middle) with the Chamber Choir performing in the Crypt of Canterbury Cathedral.
During my time at the university, I sang in multiple choirs and was able to experience many different opportunities by singing in a number of unique and historical venues; singing in Canterbury Cathedral is always such an amazing experience! The Colyer-Fergusson building is such a special place for many members of the Music Department as it is where we came together for our rehearsals, concerts and where we share many student memories.
Minerva Voices, the upper voices chamber choir, singing at the University Carol Service in Canterbury Cathedral
During my time in the music department, I gained so much confidence not only as a musician but as an individual. I was able to develop so many skills and found my singing abilities to improve greatly over the years I was at Kent as a result of the opportunities within the Music Department. This is due to being surrounded by so many other young musicians and the amazing music department staff that always encourage and support you to challenge yourself musically.
Filming a Scholars’ Spotlight in Colyer-Fergusson Hall during the pandemic
By being part of the music department and the Kent Music Society, I was able to meet so many lovely people; joining in first year as a fresher can be so daunting but the members of the music society were so welcoming. Meeting so many people who share the same passion and love for music making is such a lovely experience and working with them towards concerts is very rewarding. The music department is where I met many of my closest friends and to have all these shared music experiences, makes the friendships even stronger.
Felicity making her valedictory speech as the outgoing President of the Music Society at the Gala concert marking the end of Summer Music Week
Day Four of our Summer Music Week festival saw our upper-voices Chamber Choir, Minerva Voices, and Consort, together with Hindustani singer Ridima Sur, performing in the magnificent Eastern Crypt of Canterbury Cathedral.
Ahead of its performance in the Crypt of Canterbury Cathedral next month, our upper-voices chamber choir, Minerva Voices, will fill the resonant acoustic of Studio 3 Gallery on the University’s Canterbury campus with music ranging from across the centuries.
From Hildegard von Bingen, through works by Brahms, Gounod and Alvin Lucier to contemporary pieces by Russell Hepplewhite and Sarah Quartel, the half-hour programme will ring round the art gallery in an immersive sonic treat for the audience.
The performance is on Weds 1 June at 1.10pm in the gallery in the Jarman Building; join the choir for an evocative celebration of sacred and secular song.
It was marvellous to get back to music-making at the end of term, to bring musicians and audiences together for the annual musical farewell to the University’s academic year. Many thanks to the University photographer, Matt Wilson, for capturing the events throughout the course of the week.
We’ve reached the end of our first week of music-making – but a different way of making music in these different times. Since Monday, Chorus, Chamber Choir, Concert Band, Big Band and Orchestra have all be taking place online, and it’s been great to see people accessing the resources and taking part.
There’s a great sense that, wherever people are – in their rooms, in their homes around the local area – that we’re able to come together once more, in order to tackle repertoire, keep making music, and be working creatively.
Many thanks to the various tutors who have been leading these online rehearsals, filming their virtual rehearsals and still keeping everyone engaged, as we start to get the musical term underway.
Continuing the series profiling this year’s new Music Performance and Award Holder students at the University. This week, final-year soprano reading Drama and Theatre Studies, Sophia Lyons.
My role as a University of Kent Music Award Holder I owe to my parents, who tactfully introduced me to my first singing teacher aged 9. I had been adamant that I would ‘never sing in front of a stranger’, but as soon as my first lesson was over, I knew I would have a lifelong dedication to my voice. Once I had shed initial tears in my Grade 1 Trinity singing exam and achieved a Merit, I made a commitment to get to Grade 8, continue training my voice, and maybe even perform. I very much ‘caught the bug’. Once I had one exam under my belt, 11 year-old me grew the confidence to audition for Annie with a local amateur dramatic society, and was offered the main role. To this day, my Grandmother still talks about how shocked she was when she first heard me sing in the curly wig; “I had no idea you could even sing!”
After Annie, I transitioned into secondary school, and began undertaking a variety of vocal exploits. I started singing Soprano, and then Alto with my local church choir, which encouraged me to join the school chamber choir. I discovered I had a natural ear for picking up harmonies, without having the experience of reading music, which meant I often enjoyed singing the Alto harmony lines. I performed in all the school concerts, often solo’s from musicals such as Les Misérables, The Wizard of Oz, and Oliver, as well as solos in the local church around Christmas times. I also played principle roles in extracurricular shows, such as High Society, Bugsy Malone, and Little Shop of Horrors.
Alongside, I continued my classical training with Trinity, but as I grew into my teens, my tastes in music and my voice primarily began to change. As a result, I began tutoring young students in Acoustic popular performance, and experimented with modern folk music. Throughout sixth form, I was a part of Gareth Malone’s ‘Sing While You Work’ P&O Choir, and for a short while, attached to an entertainments company ‘Blue Lemon’ where I duetted with a male pianist and singer, singing at gigs locally.
I then began working part time as a bespoke wedding singer, crafting setlists made from the Bride and Groom’s favourite songs, (having sung several brides down the aisle, I learnt the real pressure that comes with creating the perfect atmosphere with one’s voice!) When reaching my final year at school, I achieved Distinction at Grade 8, and my teacher noted my voice had range and potential to suit a variety of styles, but for me, classical music stood firmly in the forefront, as it was challenging and therefore most rewarding.
Leaving school, I moved to the University of Warwick to study English and Theatre Studies, and decided to audition for their music bursary. Instead, I was offered the Alto Scholarship, and as a result joined the Warwick Chamber Choir, all-female choir Gaudeamus, and started training with a teacher who toured with the English National Opera. In my first year, I was working with extremely difficult classical music, such as Mozart, Bach, and Purcell, which, whilst initially intimidating, I began to conquer. Singing in three choirs meant my sight reading improved extremely quickly, and by the end of my first year, I found I could read at the same level as those who played instruments. I took part in pieces such as Mozart’s Requiem, Verdi’s Requiem, Belshazzar’s Feast, Durufle’s Requiem, and Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater. I was often selected to sing solo, the most challenging being ‘Pie Jesu’ from Durufle’s Requiem in The Stratford Chapel. I was given the opportunity to travel to Nice with the chamber choir, and was lead Alto in a singing project to connect French and Chinese music together in a “Transcultural Cantata”. I worked steadily with my singing teacher to increase my vocal range to three octaves, and began to branch out into a more mezzo-soprano range. At the end of my first year, I entered the Leamington Festival, and placed 2nd in the under 25’s and 1st in the Novice category. I joined the Musical Theatre society, MTW and the Opera society. I played ensemble and solo roles in Die Fledermaus and student written opera, Jurassic Park, and then took on the principle role as Joanne in the musical Rent, performed at the Warwick Arts Centre in 2018.
I then took a gap year and transitioned into second year at the University of Kent. Whilst on my gap year, I found myself yearning to perform again, and by summer 2019, I revisited the amateur dramatics society whom I had performed with 10 years ago. I was in Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, playing the top soprano part Johanna. Taking on this challenge meant my voice grew to a top Soprano range. Sondheim’s music I found bridged the gap between musical theatre and classical styles, reigniting my love for both.
Therefore, upon entering my third year studying Drama and Theatre at the University of Kent, I took the plunge and nervously auditioned for a Music Performance Award. I was desperate to get singing and performing again, and the music department at Kent has given me endless opportunities to do so, a highlight being singing the solo opening verse of Once in royal David’s city to begin the annual University Carol Service back in December in Canterbury Cathedral! I am currently singing with the University Chorus, Chamber Choir, and Cecilian Choir. I am working with an incredible singing teacher, and have plenty of concerts coming up this year, leading up to my graduation in July.
Music at Kent has also influenced my degree. As part of a module, I was involved in a project with children at St Nicholas School, Canterbury, facilitating music and drama workshops for children who were at risk of being excluded from the Arts due to having a range of complex needs. I used my knowledge of vocal exercises to create ambience and sensory environments with the children, leading up to an Applied Theatre performance on the main stage at the Gulbenkian.
This combination of Drama and Music has also transferred into my role as Alice in the production of the ‘Musical Dream Play’ Alice in Wonderland, by the Music Department. Drawing on both of these skills has meant my time at Kent has been thoroughly musically fulfilling, full of challenges, which has helped improve my vocal and musical knowledge in the most exciting way. I have a lot of people to thank for seeing potential in that shy 9 year-old, and will be eternally grateful for every opportunity I have been given, especially at the University of Kent.
You can listen to Sophia talking about her experience of being in Alice in Wonderland in a broadcast on BBC Radio Kent‘s The Dominic King Show online here, starting at 27′ 52”.
Congratulations to all the performers involved in two concerts over the weekend, a busy time for the Music department which saw two contrasting events taking place both on and off-campus.
The University Chamber Choir and Consort travelled to the twelfth-century church of All Saints, Graveney, on Friday afternoon, heading out across the marshes near Faversham to rehearse and perform a vibrant programme, including the European premiere of Vow by American composer, Jocelyn Hagen; the choir and strings came together in several works, including the fiercely dramatic setting of the Stabat Mater by Rheinberger. The concert raised over £600 towards the church’s much-needed campaign to continue as a part of the Graveney community; our thanks to all the team at the church for making us so welcome.
Second-year assistant conductor, David Curtiss, led the Choir in part of the programme including a moving setting of The Road Home by Stephen Paulus.
And on Sunday, members of the University Camerata teamed up with Senior Lecturer in Drama, Will Wollen, to perform Prokofiev’s popular Peter and the Wolf once more, in what looks set to become an annual tradition. We welcomed back some familiar faces as alumni musicians joined the ensemble of students and staff for a rousing family concert.
And it doesn’t stop there: in two weeks’ time, we have two events again – Music Performance Scholars in a Lunchtime Concert on Weds 18 March, and the hugely-popular roof-raising gig from the University Concert and Big Bands on Friday 20 March. Make sure you’re keeping up…!
Because it does. Doesn't it ? Blogging about extra-curricular musical life at the University of Kent.