Tag Archives: Chorus

Paws for thought: farewell to Croft

The University Chorus bade a fond farewell to a very special member at the rehearsal last night.

Alumna Lydall Bywater, a member of the soprano section in the University Chorus, has been accompanied to rehearsals and concert over the last five years by her guide dog, Croft. Croft is notorious for regularly falling asleep as the music begins – even when seated behind the orchestral percussion!

Croft has now reached retirement age, and last night was his final rehearsal. He has been a popular figure at rehearsals and performances keeping Lydall company; we all wish him a much-deserved and happy retirement!

Scholars’ Spotlight: Leon Schoonderwoerd

Continuing the series profiling University Music Performance Scholars and Performance Award students. This week, second-year Physics post-graduate and clarinettist, Leon Schoonderwoerd.


My name is Leon Schoonderwoerd, born and raised in the Netherlands. I am a second-year PhD student in Theoretical Physics, as well as a recipient of the University of Kent Music Performance Award.

My musical journey started with clarinet lessons at age 7, which I continued all through primary and secondary school. A few years later, I joined a local wind orchestra where I worked my way from third clarinet in the youth band to first clarinet in the main orchestra in a few years time. Meanwhile, I taught myself to play drums and played in a few small bands, unfortunately none of which made it very far.

After a trial lesson at the Amsterdam conservatoire, I decided to not enrol there but instead pursue a science degree. I studied at the University of Amsterdam for six years, obtaining first a BSc in Natural and Social Sciences, then an MSc in Theoretical Physics. During this time, my music-making was mostly on hold, with the exception of a band I started with a few friends during the master’s. We played a few gigs, but when our frontman moved to Germany to pursue a PhD, we decided to quit while ahead.

After finishing my Masters, I lived and worked in Amsterdam for another year, during which I joined a student orchestra. My background in classical music combined with my experience on the drums allowed my to fill their vacancy for a percussionist. When after one programme the opportunity arose to switch over to bass clarinet, I took it. This was a truly great year for me, playing pieces such as Ravel’s Piano Concerto, Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances and Janáček’s Sinfonietta. The year ended with a bang when we joined forces with a student orchestra to give a series of concerts in the Netherlands (ending in a sold-out Concertgebouw in Amsterdam) as well as a three-concert tour abroad in Freising, Germany and Bologna, Italy.

By this time, I had accepted a PhD position with Gunnar Möller at the University of Kent, so in the summer of 2017 I moved from Amsterdam to Canterbury in pursuit of science. Here, I joined the lively music programme, which awed me with its beautiful concert hall and proceeded to take over most of my free time. During my first year at Kent, I played bass clarinet and percussion in the University Symphony Orchestra and Concert Band, sang bass in the Chorus, joined the pit band for two musical theatre shows and started a woodwind quartet.

This year, I vowed to take any musical opportunity I possibly could, as a result of which I am playing clarinet in the Symphony Orchestra and Concert Band as well as in an array of chamber ensembles, bass clarinet in the Pops Orchestra, and the odd percussion part for different performances (I hear there are still some tickets for Dido and Aeneas…) [deftly plugged there, Leon: well done…ED]. Additionally, the Music Performance Award has allowed me to take lessons with the incredible Ian Swatman, also director of the University Concert and Big Bands and legendary Hull City supporter…)

Music at Kent thus provides me with ample opportunity to take my mind off physics. Many thanks to the Music Department and Music Society for making all this possible!


The Music Performance Award is open to returning students at Kent, and offers a year’s worth of instrumental / singing lessons in support of a holder’s contribution to the musical life of the University: read more here.

Old and New and the Carol Service: University music in action

Two events in three days with which to catch up, Loyal Readers!

Last Saturday brought the University Chorus and Symphony Orchestra together in a programme combining music from the past with reimaginings from a modern perspective: Vivaldi’s dramatic iMagnificat, two of Handel’s bombastic Coronation Anthems, Walton’s recasting of Bach in The Wise Virgins, Matthew King’s orchestral vision of Mozart’s piece for mechanical organ, and Respighi’s light-footed Ancient Airs and Dances Suite no.2.

The University Chorus and Orchestra in rehearsal during the afternoon

Director of Music Susan Wanless wielded the baton in front of the assembled masses to a packed house, and it was lovely to welcome back some familiar faces and musical alumni to take part in the performance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last night, it was the turn of the University Chamber Choir to participate in the Carol Service, an evocative event at Canterbury Cathedral bringing together members from across the University community in a programme of lessons and carols to explore the season of Advent.

Second-year Music Scholar, Hannah Ost (pictured here in rehearsal), launched the service in energetic fashion conducting Gaudete.

Elsewhere, Your Loyal Correspondent directed the eighteen-piece choir in a lyrically colourful setting of Lullay My Liking by Will Inscoe, a sixth-form pupil at St Edmund’s School, and a deft Ding Dong! Merrily on High. Earlier on, second-year postgraduate Law student and Music Scholar, Helen Sotillo, ushered in the Christmas season with a clarion-clear solo verse of Once In Royal David’s City – as it lifted into the upper reaches of the Nave, the season unfurled above the heads of the assembled congregation, stood in  an expectant, candlelit hush.

Next up: tomorrow brings a Christmas lunchtime concert with the Flute Choir and Minerva Voices, and later the annual festive knees-up that is the Big Band’s Christmas Swingalong. Well, it IS the season…

University Chorus prepares to unleash Vivaldi in December concert

The University Chorus is busy rehearsing works by Vivaldi and Handel each Monday evening, in preparation for the  annual December concert.

As part of the programme, the Chorus will perform Vivaldi’s fiercely committed Magnificat, rich in dissonance and expressive chromaticism, as well as two of Handel’s Coronation Anthems, for which they will be joined by the Symphony Orchestra. Undergraduate and postgraduate students sit alongside University academic and administrative staff, senior management and members of the local community, all bringing Vivaldi’s dramatic work and Handel’s buoyant Zadok the Priest off the page

The group has been working hard throughout the term; there’s not long to go until the performance next week – come and hear the results for yourself on Saturday 8 December…

New season, new brochure: a look ahead

We’re delighted to reveal the new season of our What’s On is now launched online!

Ferio Saxophone Quartet (Image: James Mccormick)

Our customary Lunchtime Concert series this term brings the Ferio Saxophone Quartet, an exploration of the music to Hitchcock’s classic Vertigo and seasonal music from the CantiaQuorum ensemble; the University Chorus and Orchestra explore the ‘Old and New’ in a programme of seventeenth century music and modern realisations and responses to it; the University Musical Theatre Society performs its termly showcase including songs from Chicago, Hamilton and Dream Girls, and the term concludes in festive style with the traditional Christmas Swing-Along featuring the University Big Band.

Hansel and Gretel (Image: Still Moving Media with permission from Cheltenham Festival)

Together with the Canterbury Festival, we also bring a dark realisation of the story of Hansel and Gretel in a blend of chamber music, puppetry and animation, with music written by composer Matthew Kaner to words by Simon Armitage; the Festival also brings percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie and Trio HLK in November. Elsewhere, Aurora Orchestra brings Mozart, Mendelssohn and Jorg Widmann, and there’s a chance to hear Sir Thomas Allen. With visits too from local societies and orchestras, the new autumn season will see Colyer-Fergusson Hall filled with music old and new as we head towards the festive season.

See all that’s to come online here, or download the brochure (PDF) here; we look forward to welcoming you to Colyer-Fergusson over the coming months.

Heroic endeavours in annual Cathedral concert

Congratulations to all the performers involved in Saturday night’s annual Colyer-Fergusson Concert, which saw the Nave of Canterbury Cathedral resounding to the heroic strains of Beethoven, Haydn and the premiere of a new work by Matthew King.

The Chorus and Orchestra came together under the baton of Susan Wanless in Haydn’s dramatic ‘Nelson Mass,’ joined by several alumni, and the Orchestra (led by final-year Law student and Music Scholar, Lydia Cheng), delivered Beethoven’s mighty Eroica symphony with aplomb.

Composer Matthew King and family were present for the first performance of Matthew’s A Hero Passes, an orchestral tribute to his late father, James King OBE, with which the concert opened. Matthew attended rehearsals the night before and on the morning at the Cathedral.

Conductor Susan Wanless and composer Matthew King confer in rehearsal. Photo: Molly Hollman
Matthew King attending the rehearsal of his new commission. Photo: Molly Hollman
Composer Matthew King at the dress rehearsal for ‘A Hero Passes’ with conductor Susan Wanless. Photo: Molly Hollman
Chorus and Orchestra rehearsing Haydn in Canterbury Cathedral
Photo: Molly Hollman
The orchestra reheasing Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’
Composer Matthew King acknowledges the orchestra at the first performance of ‘A Hero Passes’
Music Scholar and final-year Law Student, Lydia Cheng, prepares to lead the orchestral concert for her final time
(Most of!) the violins of the orchestra after the performance
Matthew King and family attending the premiere of ‘A Hero Passes’ in Canterbury Cathedral

Thanks to all the behind-the-scenes crew as well, on what is a particularly long day; here’s Your Loyal Correspondent and the Music Administrator clearly early on the day…There are still plenty of events to come over the next few weeks: see what’s next here.

Chorus of approval

Passing through the University campus on a Monday night, you might just hear the voices of around a hundred and twenty people in full throttle in Italian, or French, or Latin; occasionally Finnish, Czech or German. Draw closer to the open doors of Colyer-Fergusson Hall, and you will spy the combined might of the University Chorus in its regular weekly rehearsal.

Image: Molly Hollmann

Drawn from students, staff, alumni and members of the local community, the University Chorus comes together each Monday night to prepare repertoire for its termly performances, two of which take place in the concert-hall, and the third in the sonorous surroundings of Canterbury Cathedral each spring, to which alumni regularly return to take part. Accompanied by the Symphony Orchestra, the Chorus regularly grapples with popular titans from the choral canon – the Mozart or Verdi Requiem, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis – as well as more unusual works, which have recently included Szymanowski’s Stabat Mater and Rutter’s When Icicles Hang.

Image: Robert Berry

Each June, the Chorus strikes a more informal note with choral medleys and stirring opera-pops for the annual Gala concert during Summer Music Week which closes the academic year, and can be found adroitly becoming a battalion of chimney-sweeps in Mary Poppins, or (in the nicest possible way, of course) dishevelled London urchins in My Fair Lady. Dinner jackets are swapped for bold striped blazers and straw boaters; in a recent American-themed spring concert, the Chorus adorned themselves with stars-and-stripes to imitate farm-yard livestock in Copland’s Old American Songs. It’s not all meditations on Death and mass settings, you know…

As many find, making music – and singing in particular – is a wonderful antidote to the stresses and strains of working life, and Chorus provides a welcome respite from the pressures of dissertation-thrashing in the Templeman Library or grappling with your inbox as a senior member of staff. Staff from both academic and support services can be found alongside postgraduates and undergraduates, senior administrators alongside alumni, members of Registry reaching for those top notes along with local residents. When you’re singing in Polish, or Finnish, all social distinctions are cast aside as you grapple with linguistic challenges and try to keep one eye on the vocal score and one on the Director of Music. But with a strong international flavour to the University community, there’s usually a native-speaker sitting in the choral risers who can advise on tricky pronunciation!

The University Chorus started life as a fifty-strong group which rehearsed in the Senate Building, before taking up residence in the cavernous confines of Eliot College Hall, with its Monday nights in the nowhere-to-hide lack of acoustics in Grimond LT-1; nowadays, it sits in Colyer-Fergusson Hall and watches as the acoustic curtain shifts and flows according to need. Later in the year, it sits on the vertiginously-steep choral risers in the nave of the Cathedral and wonders how it can make its way safely down to the flagstone floor again… The life of a University Chorus member is never dull.

Scholars’ Spotlight: Fleur Sumption

Continuing the series profiling Music Scholarship students at the University of Kent. This week, first year Art History student, Fleur Sumption.


Ever since I can remember, it seems that constantly being surrounded by music of some kind has had a massive impact on my life. Whether it was my Grandad taking me to various symphonies or being sat as a baby on the lap of the drummer in my Mum’s Jazz Band that she ran. Initially, I was encouraged to learn the piano, and for a child who could rarely sit still, when I got to about 8 years old it was decided that I’d rather take up the alto sax and have singing lessons instead.

fleur-s-newMy introduction to the world of the Theatre started at age 10, when I was picked for the children’s choir in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat at the Adelphi Theatre in the West End. Having been “bitten by the performing bug”, this marked the start of many musical possibilities. I then went on to participate in Bill Kenwright’s touring production of Joseph in the following year, and appeared on Children in Need as part of the Joseph Cast. In 2012, my passion for singing increased when I was in the English National Opera cast of Carmen at the London Coliseum and was swiftly followed by recording Andrew Lloyd Webber’s children’s recording of Cats with The Really Useful Company.

Closer to home, I frequently participated in Music Festivals in Essex, winning classes across the seven years when I competed. In 2015 this lead me to be named Havering Young Musician of the Year, through the annual competition ran by the Rotary. I have also previously been awarded the Jacamar Shield for outstanding performance, having reached the Regional Finals of the Rotary competition. At home, I am a member of Firebirds, a local theatre group, being Cast as Martha in our production of the Secret Garden in 2014, and the Baker’s Wife in our 2016 production of Into the Woods– the latter of the two won many local awards, including “Best Performance by a person aged 18 and under” for my portrayal of the Baker’s Wife.

At my Secondary School and Sixth Form, The Coopers’ Company and Coborn School, I was able to complete my ABRSM Grade 8 for Singing, and also my Music Theatre Diploma. Throughout my years there, I have been fully involved in the music scene, being able to perform with the Symphonic Wind Band at the Mansion House for the new Lord Mayor each year, having travelled to Birmingham for the Music for Youth Finals, and played and sang around Italy in our bi-annual music trip. In my last year at Sixth Form, I was invited to perform at prestigious company events and gigs, including a wedding at the top of the Gherkin in London!

At University, I have been lucky enough to gain a place in the University Chamber Choir (pictured above) which is a huge privilege when you see the other musical talent in the University. Also taking part in Chorus and the Cecilian Choir, my musical diary is always bursting with events and rehearsals. I really love that there are so many wonderful musical opportunities here, and I am extremely excited to see how my musical journey will progress at the University of Kent.