Tag Archives: Christmas

Christmas is coming…

The University Cecilian Choir, String Sinfonia and soloists were busy rehearsing for the first in our series of Christmas concerts, which takes place on Friday 1 December. A feast of seasonal music and words reflecting the start of the Christmas period, A Christmas Corncuopia brings together carols, popular seasonal favourites and readings to create a magical atmosphere.

For the event, the Music Department will be joined by Will Wollen, (pictured right), Senior Lecturer in Drama and Theatre Studies, who brings life to characters including Scrooge, Adrian Mole, Elizabeth David grumbling about cooking at Christmastime, Nancy Mitford bewailing traditional customs which frighten the house-guests and evocative poems by Edward Thomas and Thomas Hardy.

The music includes Vivaldi’s ‘Winter’ from ‘The Four Seasons,’ featuring third-year Music Scholar, Lydia Cheng, (pictured below) as soloist, and carols with the Cecilian Choir including Warlock’s beautiful Bethlehem Down and the traditional Ukrainian Carol of the Bells.

Come and launch the department’s Christmas season this Friday evening, and enjoy a glass of Smoking Bishop punch afterwards (included in the ticket-price); further concerts including the Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments, the Chorus and Symphony Orchestra, a seasonal #EarBox in Studio 3 Gallery from the String Sinfonia, and the Big Band’s enduringly popular A Christmas Swingalong – details about all these online here. ‘Tis the season…

Final week of seasonal music-making

It’s been a busy week here in the Music department, with the final musical events bringing the term to a rousing seasonal finale.

On Tuesday, the Chamber Choir, conducted by Your Loyal Correspondent,  performed as part of the University Carol Service in Canterbury Cathedral – always a magical occasion, which starts with the entire Cathedral being plunged into darkness, and the notes of the choir’s first carol rising to the dark recesses of vaulted roof above a sea of candles. Second-year Doug Haycock made his conducting debut with Tavener’s The Lamb, opening the service in evocative fashion.

img_1138fullsizerenderWednesday afternoon saw General Harding’s Tomfoolery, the vintage dance-band, taking to the foyer-stage in a spirited selection of swing classics, for which they were joined by The Minervettes; trombonist and singer, post-grad Rob Cliff was a smooth host, and both band and singers were in fine form in pieces including American PatrolPuttin’ On The Ritz and Sleigh Ride.

The final event in this term’s musical calendar was yesterday evening’s ebullient Christmas Swingalong with the Big Band, directed by Ian Swatman, which saw first-years Dottie Grenville and Alicia O’Malley making their singing debut with the band. Feisty incarnations of familiar pieces including A Chilli Pepper Christmas, audience carols with the brass ensemble and the traditional, inimitable rendition of Santa, Baby by our very own Sophie Meikle culminated in a sing-along I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day, before audience and performers alike spilled out into the foyer for mulled wine and mince pies.

img_1145 img_1149It’s been a terrific term, full of music-making; thanks to both everyone who has performed throughout the term, as well as to those who have been amongst the audiences. We’ll be back in the New Year with full details of our spring / summer season; from all the Music team here, we wish you all a happy and peaceful Christmas!

Christmas music-making

It’s been a busy few days here in the Music department, a sure sign that the Christmas period is well and truly here.

Last weekend, the Chorus and Symphony Orchestra came together in a seasonal performance of Vaughan Williams’ The First Nowell, brimful of carols familiar and unfamiliar; Shostakovich’s wry Symphony no.9 stepped out in sprightly form in the first half, and the Chorus also turned their hand to international linguistics with the choral interlude in Finlandia. There was a suitably seasonal conviviality to the hubbub backstage, including the taking of many selfies and a competition to see who could fit the largest number of performers into their selfie, a feat won hands-down by clarinettist Rianna Carr, whose prize-winning photo can be seen online somewhere on Twitter…

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WP_20151212_003 Members of the Orchestra backstage
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No strings attached…

And last night, Minerva Voices, the new upper-voices choir, filled the Nave of Canterbury Cathedral as part of the annual University Carol Service, including a soaring rendition of the opening verse of Once in Royal David’s City from second-year BioSciences student and Music Scholar, Charlotte Webb.

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Minerva Voices with assistant conductor, Joe Prescott
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Sweet singing in the Choir…

It doesn’t stop there; tomorrow sees a festive ‘Watch This Space’ on the foyer-stage, and later the Big Band gets its Christmas swing on with its now traditional Christmas Swingalong. ‘Tis the season to be really rather jolly indeed!

Hail and farewell, Sir David Willcocks

Sad to note today the passing of Sir David Willcocks, former Director of Music at King’s College, Cambridge and the Royal College of Music, conductor of the Bach Choir, organist, conductor, composer and best-known as editor, along with John Rutter, of the popular anthology, Carols for Choirs.

Carols_for_ChoirsIt’s no understatement to say that Carols for Choirs has become as much a part of tradition at Christmas as the decorated tree and tinsel; for many, Christmas simply isn’t Christmas without that opening solo verse of Once in Royal David’s City lifting clear into the vaulted roof, the wonderful intimacy of his arrangements of Away in a Manger and Silent Night, or robust settings of The Twelve Days of Christmas or I Saw Three Ships. The first volume in the series was published in the 1960s, and the 100 Carols for Choirs  published in 1987 is the go-to carol collection for most choirs. A chorister’s Christmas begins around mid-autumn with that first cracking open of the anthology; the collection ranges from arrangements of popular carols together with lesser-known pieces, and has become the staple of choirs the world over, both amateur and professional. And if you’ve learned a carol descant, chances are it’s one from the book. Arguments about whether, between them, Willcocks and Rutter combined to save the tradition of choral Christmas carol-singing will no doubt continue, but it’s certainly fair to say that they provided an accessible, richly-rewarding and enduringly popular collection that has contributed much to keeping carol-singing alive and in rude health well into the twenty-first century.

WillcocksHail and farewell, Sir David, who leaves behind an enduring legacy at the heart of music-making at Christmas.

Wednesday: a festive musical finale to the term

The Colyer-Fergusson building rang to some festive music-making throughout yesterday afternoon, as various musical ensembles took it in turns to bid a festive farewell to the term.

The foyer-stage hosted a seasonal ‘Watch This Space,’ in which the Flute Group made its debut in carols and the ‘Dance of the Swans’ from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake (well, you can’t have Christmas without Tchaikovsky, can you ?!); members of the Cecilian and Chamber Choirs sang a collection of carols; and the Trumpet Trio brought the lunchtime event to a jolly conclusion with popular tunes including All I Want For Christmas (Is You).

Later in the afternoon, it was the turn of the Big Band, directed by the irrepressible Ian Swatman, to treat a packed concert-hall to its now-customary seasonal Swing-along, featuring a guest appearance from our very own Sophie in a sassy rendition of Santa Baby and White Christmas, whilst the Brass Group led some communal carol-singing in robust fashion. The Big Band’s selection-box included a deft rendition of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, a solo spot for baritone sax-player Adam Rose to open a bold arrangement of God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen and a lively Jingle Bells.

After the gig, audience and performers spilled out into the foyer for mulled wine and mince pies. A terrific day, concluding a very busy musical term; thanks to everyone who took part yesterday – it’s a wonderful testament to the ethos of music on the Canterbury campus, so many students, staff and members of the local community coming together in various groups to enjoy collective music-making.

We’ll be back in the New Year with details of events throughout the spring and summer; it promises to be an exciting six months ahead, judging by the draft of the forthcoming brochure; see you in January, and from all the music team – a very Merry Christmas!