A lovely occasion this morning, which saw the dedication of the memorial bench to the late David Humphreys, a wonderful supporter of music-making at the University, and whose legacy continues to support the University Chamber Choir’s annual concert in the Crypt of Canterbury Cathedral.
The bench, which overlooks the historic Cathedral city from the hill between Eliot and Rutherford Colleges, commands perhaps the finest view of Canterbury, and was a favourite spot of David’s. Members of his family were present at the occasion, at which some of this year’s Chamber Choir sang Tallis’ If Ye Love Me, one of David’s favourite choral works.
Our continued thanks to David and his family for their terrific support, which provides a wonderful experience for members of the Choir each generation.
Congratulations to the University Chamber Choir, which on Tuesday sang Choral Evensong at Canterbury Cathedral.
The event was the first time in the history of the University that the Chamber Choir has taken part in the centuries-old tradition of choral evensong, and an auspicious occasion held in the very cradle of the Anglican church itself.
Directed by Deputy Director of Music, Dan Harding, the choir sang music by Stanford, Smith and Fauré, to a packed congregation, comprising regular attenders and parents, as well as overseas visitors, in the Cathedral Quire.
The Chamber Choir is back in action on Friday 1 June, and indeed back in the Cathedral, when it launches this year’s Summer Music Week festival with a performance in the Cathedral Crypt at 7.30pm; see all that’s coming up as part of the annual music festival celebrating the end of the University year here.
Many congratulations to the University Chamber Choir, which Friday performed at two very different events on the same day.
The lunchtime concert in Studio 3 Gallery saw the Choir fill the resonant space against the backdrop of the gallery’s latest exhibition, ‘The Ash Archive,’ to an audience that just kept on arriving – never have so many chairs been called for! Thanks to Rose Thompson, the gallery’s co-ordinator, for helping to bring the event together.
Later that evening, the Choir travelled out to the village of Hernhill, to sing at the church’s Breathing Space event, a sequence of music and silence by candlelight that afforded an hour-long period of tranquility, calm and reflection. Our thanks to Reverend Paulette Stubbings for making the Choir so welcome, we hope to return to St Michael’s in May – watch this space…
The Chamber Choir is back in action this Friday when it performs in the Eastern Crypt of Canterbury Cathedral, in a programme including Pergolesi’s vivid Stabat Mater.
There’s an opportunity to escape the hurly-burly of modern life into a sequence of music and silence on Friday 23 February, as the University Chamber Choir travels out to the village of Hernhill, near Faversham, as part of a series of Breathing Space events. Hosted by the church of St Michael’s, the hour-long event affords an opportunity to experience a rare moment of peace and tranquility in a candlelit, fifteenth-century church.
Breathing Space is a series of contemplative services during the dark hours of winter days, during which the church is mainly in darkness with some candlelight. The event at 7.30pm comprises a sequence of music, interwoven with periods of silence, performed by the Chamber Choir; there will be no words, no instructions, no expectations; attenders simply find a seat and enjoy the atmosphere and peace, and may leave whenever they wish – a short prayer is spoken at the close. It’s open to all – whether a regular churchgoer, someone who has never set foot in a church, of whatever faith (or none) as part of the church’s well-being programme.
The historic church of St Michael’s stands at the centre of the village of Hernhill; indeed, a church of some sort has stood on the site since the Saxons. The present building dates from the mid-fifteenth century, although some aspects of the church that was built in the twelfth century are still discernible. With a rood screen from the sixteen hundreds and a functioning bell-tower that still rings the changes at Sunday service, the church is a place that spans the centuries. It also has a connections to one of England’s darker moments; somewhere in the graveyard, in an unmarked grave, lie several of those who were killed in the Battle of Bossendon Wood in neighbouring Boughton, which in 1838 saw the last armed uprising on English soil…
The Chamber Choir, conducted by Your Loyal Correspondent and second-year assistant conductor, Matthew Cooke, will perform suitably meditative music by Tallis, Rachmaninov, Paul Mealor, Russell Hepplewhite, Sarah Rimkus and Will Todd. The event is free to attend; the church recommends bringing a torch in order to navigate entering the church for the event and at the close as it will be dark. Find the church online here.
Keep an eye out for future wellbeing musical events later this term, including music and birdsong in Studio 3 Gallery and a forest soundscape in the concert-hall…
I’m sitting in the café late on a dark winter afternoon, to talk with creative powerhouse, artist, actor and writer Adam De Ville about his Blue series, one of which is appearing on the cover of the programme for the concert in the Cathedral Crypt by the University Chamber Choir in March, for its performance of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater. The music is a masterpiece of the Baroque period, a dramatic and vivid setting of the thirteenth-century hymn to the Virgin Mary’s suffering during Christ’s crucifixion; Adam’s painting (itself called simply ‘Blue’) plays with ambiguity, with uncertainty, with questions of identity, the unknown figure’s possible story and the implication of her suffering.
Sitting there with a shock of silvery hair giving him a distinguished aspect, his gaze direct, there’s a contradiction almost between the committed energy he has for art, his fierce creativity, and the carefully-paced, gently articulated way he talks about it; it’s as though each sentence is carefully weighed, measured for its value in articulating ideas which are important to him. No words are wasted; you are left with the sense that these things have been a long time in consideration, yet they flow readily into our free-wheeling conversation, as the sky outside darkens and the coffee sits forgotten amongst the papers.
Photographs of the Blue series are spread between us across the table-top as we talk. It was painted eighteen months ago, with two distinct aspects – one reflecting Adam’s passion for history, with two works referencing the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, and the other his fascination with technology. ‘I love exploring technology; does it give us an identity ?’ he ponders. ‘I’m always thinking about how the elderly generation uses technology, and how young people engage with it; does it create gaps, or fill them ?’ He launches into a story about sitting in a restaurant recently, watching a young couple eating, talking with each other and at the same time conducting other conversations on their mobile phones; multi-tasking across different streams with complete ease. ‘I wonder how my own children will use technology in ten, twenty years’ time.’
‘A lot of my work is about looking back and imagining forwards, whilst also embracing the transitory nature of life. I paint to try and get home, to anchor myself in moments on paper.’ The striking sequence of images in the Blue series reflects his interest in the colours and tones buried within that single hue; it began during a three-week illness, during which he picked up a sketchbook and began to paint – but only in blue. I asked him about his focus on a single colour and what it meant. ‘I was thinking about age, about being at different stages of life; and, on some level, how we deal with ‘the blues,’ with depression.’ When painting, the images are usually done in a single sitting, although the preparation and thought-process preceding them takes considerably longer.
A recurrent theme in Adam’s work is the idea of belonging and loss. ‘I’m fascinated by the idea of coming home to a home that doesn’t really exist. Life is transitory; you set up a home, and an identity which disappears when you die.’ His paintings have titles like Memory of Bern or Plans for Birmingham, as though he’s trying to pin down on the paper something elusive, to capture that fleeting moment that exists either only in the memory or in a brief vision of what might be.
Adam’s musical interests include the hypnotic soundscapes of Arvo Pärt and Gavin Bryars; Pärt’s Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten formed the sonic backdrop whilst he was painting ‘Blue,’ and Bryars’ mesmerising The Sinking of the Titanic inspired ‘Preludes (where you go I go),’ a haunting sequence of images.
I ask him what he’s working on at the moment. ‘I’m exploding!’ he says, eyes alight with real relish; ‘long may it last!’ His newest images explore the urgent, street-art energies of graffiti; other paintings explore a more vibrant world of colours in various cityscapes – Paris, the Montmartre district, Birmingham’s brutalist architecture from the 70s; there are also paintings of Havana – all places connected with Adam’s life, fragments of his own history. Suddenly we’re transported from the darkness-bound neon glow of the café to Cuba, as he recounts a brilliant (and hilarious) story behind one of the Havana images, involving his acting in a commercial dressed as a pork-chop, a moment which sounds utterly surreal but which informs some of his most energetic painting.
For all his gently-weighted manner, it’s impossible not to be invigorated by Adam’s considerable enthusiasm for his subject, his looking at things from different angles, for making connections and exploring ideas. As we leave to go, each to his own home – after our conversation about identity, about belonging, I’m no longer quite sure what that may mean – a little of the neon glare seems to fade from the café as he ventures out into the dark; but it resides, fiercely, in the images still spread on the table in front of me.
Adam’s work is currently in exhibitions at Store Street Gallery, London, Lilford Gallery, Canterbury and Flux 2018 at the Chelsea College of Arts, London.
Blue will be exhibited in the Colyer-Fergusson Gallery from Friday 16 February to Friday 9 March, during normal opening hours: admission is free, and there is disabled access. The individual painting, ‘Blue,’ will be shown during the Chamber Choir’s Crypt Concert performance of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater on Friday 2 March.
Just in time for Epiphany, a film of the University Chamber Choir performing Star of the East by composer Russell Hepplewhite; the Choir sang the piece live on BBC Radio 4 last month, here’s the complete piece in a recording in made in Colyer-Fergusson Hall.
With grateful thanks to the composer and to Banks Music Publishing for permission to make the recording.
As usual, there’s a steady crescendo of events leading up to the end of the Christmas term; on Monday night, the University Chamber Choir performed amidst the candle-lit hush of Canterbury Cathedral as part of the University Carol Service.
Second-year Matthew Cooke made his conducting debut with In Dulci Jubilo, and other carols the Choir sang included Russell Hepplewhite’s Star of the East, fresh from having performed it live on BBC Radio 4 last week.
On Tuesday, the String Sinfonia gave a seasonal concert amidst the current exhibition in Studio 3 Gallery as part of the continuing #EarBox series, in a programme that included Corelli’s Christmas Concerto.
Final-year student Lydia Cheng was the featured soloist in a dynamic, energy-filled performance of ‘Winter’ from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.
And there’s no respite, as the Big Band prepares for its annual Christmas Swingalong in a few hours’ time, the final event in our Christmas hamper…
Congratulations and thank you to the members of the University Chamber Choir, who rose to the occasion (and rose early, too…) to sing live on this morning’s Today programme on BBC Radio 4.
The programme was broadcast directly from the Gulbenkian, and the programme closed with the Choir performing Star of the East, a carol written by composer Russell Hepplewhite. A lovely opportunity to present a recent carol to a wide listenership; thanks to all the singers.