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”.
Continuing the series profiling this year’s new University Music Performanc Scholars and Award Holders. This week, first-year Biomedical student and soprano, Ellie Gould.
I began taking piano lessons when I was five years old and soon after, my teacher noticed I had good pitch, so offered to give me a few singing lessons to see if I enjoyed them (which I did!) 13 years later, I am still thoroughly enjoying both piano and singing, having reached up to Grade 8 standard on piano and achieving Distinction in both my Grade 8 exam and diploma in singing.
During primary school, my love for all things music grew even more, as my biggest excitement was the weekly music lessons, both in and out of school. I soon discovered my love of performing through taking part in the yearly Rotary Young Musician of the Year Competition and being involved in Stagecoach for eight years, which enabled me to take part in many productions; to name a few: Aida, Macbeth, Bugsy Malone and a Michael Jackson inspired ‘Thriller’ flash mob!
I would say that my musical journey really started to take off once high school began. It was towards the end of the summer holidays before the beginning of Year 7 that my Dad fortunately saw an advertisement in the newspaper regarding music scholarships at Harrogate Ladies’ College. As soon as I joined I fully immersed myself in all the musical opportunities that was on offer. I immediately joined Gallery Choir, which consisted of students from Year 6 to Year 9 and involved regularly performing at school events and singing works such as The Peacemakers by Jenkins in the Royal Hall, Harrogate. In order to improve my solo singing, I entered myself in both singing and piano at the annual Harrogate Music Festival.
At the start of Year 9, I was accepted into my school’s prestigious Chapel Choir. The highlight of Chapel Choir for me were the biennial choir trips, including Barcelona where we sang in La Sagrada Familia and Venice where we sang Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater in St. Mark’s Basilica. Other moments I will never forget were singing live on TV in the semi-finals of BBC Songs of Praise Competition (mainly because we were all dressed in bright fuchsia pink shirts!), singing in the Royal Festival Hall in London for the Barnardo’s Choir of the Year Competition, Choral Evensongs in York Minster and Durham Cathedral, performing Britten’s challenging War Requiem in Ripon Cathedral and participating in the production of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas.
In rehearsals and certain performances, we sat in choir stalls in our school Chapel and after each year when students left, you would slowly make your way up the row to the front. It was so lovely because as I progressed further up the row, I was given more opportunities to develop my solo singing within the choir and undertake more responsibilities. This culminated in eventually me becoming Row Leader and during Year 13, I was chosen to be Head of Chapel Choir, which was and still is a position which meant so much to me. Having been a part of the choir going on five years at that point, it was such a lovely role to have to bring my time at Harrogate Ladies’ College to an end. Within this role my confidence in my own music ability grew massively. I was tasked with leading the choir during services, performances, keeping the beat during the unaccompanied morning Amen’s in Chapel (a much harder task than it originally seemed!) and regularly singing solos.
During my time so far as a Biomedical Science student at the University of Kent, all of the extra-curricular music activities has been a lovely way for me to relax away from my studies. I have been extremely lucky and grateful to be a part of the University Chorus, Chamber Choir, Cecilian Choir and a recipient of the Music Performance Scholarship. The Chamber Choir sang at the Cathedral for the Carol Service in December, and I’m currently singing the role of the Queen of Hearts for a production of Alice in Wonderland, and looking forward to singing in Canterbury Cathedral with the Chorus, Chamber Choir and at Choral Evensong with the Cecilian Choir later in the year.
With Welcome Week about to burst into vibrant activity here at the University, make sure you come along to Colyer-Fergusson on Wednesday 18 September to find out about getting involved in extra-curricular music, whatever you are studying.
Between 11am and 3pm, members of the music staff and the various Music Societies will be on hand to enthuse about the many opportunities to get involved in music as part of student life at Kent. Visitors can look round the award-winning Colyer-Ferguson concert hall, practice rooms and band room, as well as learn about the differing ways in which to become a part of music: whether it’s singing with Chorus, Chamber Choir, Cecilian Choir or the upper-voice choir, Minerva Voices; instrumentalists can join the Symphony Orchestra, Concert Band or Big Band, and there are other music societies active during the year including the Musical Theatre Society.
Plans for the Wednesday event include live music on the foyer-stage throughout the day, and there’s the possibility of a Scratch Orchestra play-through of popular film scores, and even choruses from Messiah.
We look forward to welcoming you through the doors of Colyer-Fergusson during Welcome Week, and especially next Wednesday – come and find out how to make rehearsing and performing a part of your university experience, whatever course you may be studying!
Congratulations to everyone involved in Saturday’s annual Music for a Summer’s Day Gala concert, the crowning event as part of Summer Music Week.
The University Chorus, Orchestra and Chamber Choir each gave a final, valedictory appearance in seasonal, summery music, whilst the members of the Limoncellos filled the foyer before the concert with stirring film tunes and pop music arrangements.
Final-year sopranos Helen Sotillo and Fleur Sumption brought a packed hall to tears with a rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone on the final occasion of their singing with the Music department in what has proved to be a memorable year for both ladies.
The incoming President of the Music Society, second-year Owen Kerry, provided some scene-stealing moments as he deftly wielded name-cards (and at one point a mobile phone for a couple of selfies…) as part of An Illustrated Guide to the History of the Symphony.
And final-year flautist Robert Loveless was handed the baton to conduct the traditional encore which brought the concert to a rousing conclusion.
Following the concert, audience, performers and guests spilled out into the marquee for the annual cream tea, for which the sun shone and blue skies bloomed overhead.
What becomes apparent at the end of the Gala concert is what a wonderful sense of community has been built up during the academic year by everyone involved in extra-curricular music-making at the University. It’s a real tribute to how committed everyone is, and how involved they have become, to see so many of those graduating so moved by the occasion of their final appearance; parents, friends and family all coming along to support throughout the series of events often remark on how much being a part of music at Kent has meant to the students involved throughout their time. There’s a lovely feeling of camaraderie throughout the entire week, as the various ensembles gather for a final musical hurrah before the academic year ends.
Our thanks to everyone who has been a part of the Music department across the year; undergraduate and post-graduate students, staff, members of the community and all the alumni who have returned at various points either to participate or to be part of the audience. To all those who are leaving this year: thanks for all your contribution – hail and farewell!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
We’re very pleased to reveal the full line-up of events for this year’sSummer Music Week live online this morning!
Launching on Friday 31 May with a sonorous concert by the Chamber Choir and Consort in Canterbury Cathedral Crypt, our musical farewell to the academic year unfolds over the next eight days to include a trip to the seaside with the University Big Band at Deal Bandstand, a recital by University Music Scholars, a Gala concert with the Concert and Big Bands, the String Sinfonia and Chamber Choir in the premiere of Between Worlds exploring music and science by Anna Phoebe, all culminating in the annual Music for a Summer’s Day with the Chorus and Orchestra bidding a tearful farewell to this year’s music-making.
See all that’s to come, grab your tickets and help us celebrate another musical year in the life of the University as it draws to a festive close. The brochure will be available shortly…
Congratulations to everyone involved in last Saturday’s annual Colyer-Fergusson Cathedral Concert; to all the performers in the University Chorus and Symphony Orchestra, the stewards, those working behind the scenes, conductor Susan Wanless and soprano soloist, Rachel Nicholls.
Because it does. Doesn't it ? Blogging about extra-curricular musical life at the University of Kent.