From the infinite mystery of the opening bars to the dramatically hushed close, Saturday’s performance of Verdi’s Requiem by the University Chorus and Symphony Orchestra for this year’s Colyer-Fergusson Cathedral Concert was full of high drama.
Standing in as a last-minute replacement for the billed soprano soloist, Rachel Nicholls took time out from her current ENO run of Die Meistersingers to step up alongside mezzo Carolyn Dobbins, tenor Gerard Schneider and bass Simon Thorpe, and together all four singers delivered Verdi’s demanding solo parts with consummate skill. Under the baton of Susan Wanless, the Chorus and Orchestra both rose to the occasion superbly. From the off-stage trumpets ranged high above in the organ-loft to the bass-drum positioned down the side-aisle, the combined forces filled the majestic Cathedral with Verdi’s profound meditation on death and redemption, rich in operatic detail crammed into oratorio form.
It’s a long day that starts at 9am with the heroic crew who pitched up on campus to load two vans with all the equipment to take down to the Cathedral, and ends with that same equipment delivered back to campus at 10.30pm, with rehearsal and performance in between. It was lovely to see many alumni come back to sing in the Chorus, with the concert a major highlight of the University’s 50th anniversary celebrations throughout this year.
(Much excitement was caused by the arrival of the 66-inch bass drum from Bell Percussion, which was mobbed by many people eager to be photographed with the monster-drum, you’d have thought it was a Hollywood Celebrity…)
Very many thanks to everyone involved; a triumphant conclusion to all the hard work put it by students, staff, alumni and members of the local community, who came together in the splendour of Canterbury Cathedral for a memorable performance.
A big week this week, as we continue our preparations ahead of the annual Colyer-Fergusson Cathedral Concert on Saturday, for which the combined might of the University Chorus and Symphony Orchestra will come together in Verdi’s Requiem.
Here’s the Chorus in fine form yesterday afternoon, rehearsing old-skool style in Grimond, where for many years the Chorus used to meet each Monday night. Although we don’t recall its ever having been quite so green before…
Yesterday’s all-day rehearsal is followed by rehearsals tonight, Thursday and on Saturday morning. It all culminates on Saturday evening; how much tremor there shall be…
The annual Colyer-Fergusson Cathedral Concert next week forms part of the University’s fiftieth-anniversary celebrations, and does so in grandiose fashion with Verdi’s epic Requiem on Saturday 14 March.
Conducted by the Director of Music, Susan Wanless, the Chorus and Symphony Orchestra will unite to set the Nave’s soaring, vaulted ceiling echoing, joined by four acclaimed soloists, together with The Verdi Drum of the South-East, in what promises to be a highlight of this year’s performing calendar.
Here is the University Chorus at a recent rehearsal, looking and sounding in fine form:
The Director of Music is very excited at the prospect: ”the concert will provide the perfect setting to capture the Requiem’s operatic power and drama and the event will showcase the University’s many talented musicians.” Darn right!
Join us (and the Verdi Drum) for high drama on March 14th – details and tickets here.
Next Saturday sees the annual Colyer-Fergusson Cathedral Concert, in which the University Chorus and Orchestra will come together to commemorate the start of the First World War in music by Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Bach and Fauré.
This Sunday is our all-day rehearsal in the hall, a first combined run-through; then it’s Monday – Thursday – Friday – Saturday over the course of next week, and then Sunday for everyone to recover…
The concert on the 15 March features Elgar’s Spirit of England, for which we’ll be joined by soprano Sally Silver, Fauré’s Cantique de Jean-Racine, Elgar’s arrangement of Bach’s Fantasia in C minor, and Vaughan Williams’ Symphony no.3.
Looking forward to Sunday’s Greater Coming Together; Ladies and Gentlemen of the Chorus and Symphony Orchestra, we’ll see you there!
A dizzying profusion of events is unleashed over the coming months, as you can now see from our online events calendar.
The free Lunchtime Concert series includes a visit from British saxophonist Martin Speake, who brings his trio as part of his current UK tour, and from acclaimed sitar-player, Jonathan Mayer. There’s the annual Colyer-Fergusson Cathedral Concert with the University Chorus and Orchestra, this year commemorating the First World War with music by Elgar and Vaughan Williams, and the Chamber Choir returns to the Cathedral Crypt to sing a programme including Palestrina, Brahms, Whitacre and Paul Patterson.
Conductor Ian Swatman leads the Concert and Big Bands at the end of February in Ravel and Earth, Wind and Fire, and later teams up with the Big Band from St Edmund’s School in a charity gig in aid of the Pilgrim’s Hospice. There’s music down the hill, too, as the Lost Consort explores the music of Hildegard von Bingen in the Roman Undercroft of St Thomas’ Hospital, and the Chamber & Cecilian Choirs at St Peter’s Methodist with music by Hassler, Maskats and Chilcott.
Visitors to the concert-hall include Rachel Podger, who brings a recital of works for solo baroque violin, and later in May there’s a recital from pianist Malcolm Binns.
Plenty to enjoy over the coming months; see the calendar online here, or download the brochure (PDF) here. Meanwhile, the Lunchtime Concert series begins on Weds February 12 with music for two-pianos and four-hands by Poulenc, Ravel and Gavin Bryars with pianists Matthew King and your loyal correspondent, who is now off to practice…
We’re delighted to announce that the Colyer-Fergusson Building was a winner at yesterday’s Wood Awards.
The building won the “Commercial and Public Access” category at the Wood Awards yesterday evening, for its deployment of wood in construction, particularly the use of Douglas Fir. As Tim Ronalds Architects, designers of the building, state:
The walls and ceiling are completely lined in Douglas Fir Plywood, supported on a steel frame, and braced with solid Douglas Fir rails which stiffen the linings to avoid any unwanted resonance at musical frequencies, and provide acoustic diffusion. The acoustics can be modulated to suit music-making of all kinds with curtains that transform the interior into a soft, fabric-lined space, and retract behind the timber wall linings when not in use.
The design provides an unusual degree of flexibility for a hall with world-class acoustics…The retractable seating is finished with Douglas Fir fascias, continuing the material and rhythm of the hall lining panels.
Read more about the building on the Wood Award website here.
I’ve spent a very productive and exciting afternoon in the new concert-hall, exploring some new ideas for next year.
Without giving too much away, Mark (our new technician) and I have been finding ways to re-imagine, or redefine, the hall for a particular concert I’m planning – this afternoon we mocked up the event, played with lighting and multi-media, and crafted a completely different space in the hall.
It feels almost as if we’re imposing, digitally, a new identity on the hall, re-purposing it both visually and acoustically using digital technology to make it feel very different to its customary incarnation. There’s some additional avenues to explore resulting from this afternoon’s efforts, which will enhance the effect further still.
We’re already very excited about the event – and the academic year hasn’t even begun! Watch this (re-imagined) space sometime in the spring…
Because it does. Doesn't it ? Blogging about extra-curricular musical life at the University of Kent.