In the final film of the short series featuring Kent and Medway Medical School’s first Music Performance Scholarship student, Michael Lam, the Canadian first-year student plays the Musette in D from the Anna Magdalena Notebook.
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.
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.
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.
First-year students from the School of Architecture have been visiting Colyer-Fergusson this week, in particular to sketch the concert-hall; here are a few of their responses to our award-winning space.
Last Wednesday proved another milestone in the life of the Colyer-Fergusson building, when the first CD to be recorded in the Hall arrived on our desks.
In August 2014, the internationally-renowned harpsichordist and conductor (and Honorary Graduate of the University of Kent) Trevor Pinnock spent two days recording works by Cabazon, Byrd, John Bull, Sweelinck, JS Bach, Frescobaldi, Handel and Scarlatti. It was wonderful to hear such amazing music drifting over the Hall relay into our offices and we were even invited to sit in on some of the takes. The extraordinary acoustics of the Hall proved so sympathetic that Trevor and the recording team actually finished a day early.
Trevor has very kindly acknowledged the Colyer-Fergusson Hall and the University Music department team in the CD leaflet; the disc, Trevor Pinnock – Journey; Two Hundred Years of Harpsichord Music is available on the Linn label here.
See the concert-hall differently; Masters student Kiki Lin makes marvellous things happen virtually in the Colyer-Fergusson Building
My name is Yingqi Lin, a Digital Visual Effects MSc student in 2014, and I’ve just finished my year.
This showreel is the best work of mine when studying in Kent this year. I chose the concert-hall and staircase because I love the warm orange lighting in the music building and the wooden texture is perfectly meet what I need for the flower-growing scene.
A long time ago I wished I could do the plant growing, and the staircase was just the right place and when I saw flowers growing, it did give me a vibrant feeling!
I love vfx, and love this university. Thanks for everything and everyone that I met in the UK this year.
Because it does. Doesn't it ? Blogging about extra-curricular musical life at the University of Kent.