With the current weather promising the arrival of summer, blue skies and summer sunshine this morning greets the arrival of our new Summer Music Week brochures, to much excitement here in Colyer-Fergusson.
Our annual festival bidding a fond musical farewell to another year of music-making at Kent takes place this year from Friday 1 to Saturday 9 June; as you see, there’s so much packed in to this year’s celebrations that we’ve had to expand it to Summer Music (Just Over A) Week.
This year, #summermusicweek kicks off the with the University Chamber Choir and Consort in the Crypt of Canterbury Cathedral on Friday 1 June in a concert including Pergolesi’s dramatic Stabat Mater; that weekend also sees the Big Band heading out for its customary trip to the seaside for a performance on the Deal Memorial Bandstand at 2.30pm on Sunday 3 June. There then ensues a week of musical mayhem, including a Music Scholars Lunchtime Recital, the String Sinfonia, the usual roof-raising gala for the Concert and Big Bands, the Cecilian Choir and Sinfonia performing in the spacious acoustic of St Mary of Charity in Faversham, and other chamber ensembles performing, all of which culminates in the traditional Saturday Gala concert featuring the Chorus, Orchestra and Chamber Choir followed by cream teas and tears of farewell.
Find out all that’s to come on the online What’s Onhere, or download the new brochure here. You can also follow the events and the build-up to Summer Music Week on @ukcsummermusic on Twitter; grab your straw boater and parasol, and join us in our last musical hurrah before the curtain falls on what has already been a terrific year of music-making.
There’s a feast of experimental sounds, live music, spoken word performances and more coming to Folkestone next weekend, as the seaside town presents a brand new two-day festival,Profound Sound, across a variety of venues.
Friday 12 February sees a collection of premieres from the Montrose Composers’ Club, led by local composer Anna Braithwaite, whilst Asda – yes, you read that correctly! – will play host to LIFTED, an installation for choir and beat-boxer by Emily Peasgood which premiered at the Turner Contemporary recently.
The festival also offers site-specific sound-installations, spoken word performances and live music; the Quarterhouse will also welcome a Panel Discussion addressing the future of DIY spaces and how they can foster new creative ideas. Folkestone will be buzzing. Probably quite literally.
It’s a bright, summer morning in the Gulbenkian café, and already it’s a thriving hubbub of activity, with children clacking their way through in dance-shoes, beribboned with medals, parents hurrying after them, and an assistant carrying what appears to be a bucket of pink and mauve decapitated toy flamingos. It’s all part of the Canterbury Dance Festival, which is in full swing in the theatre.
Through the ebb and flow of dancers and harassed-looking parents shimmers the Director of the Gulbenkian, Liz Moran, who’s come to talk about bOing!, its family festival which is back for the second year running. I begin by asking her how the festival has developed since last year.
‘’It’s developed dramatically since last year,’’ she enthuses, ‘’thanks to the additional funding from Arts Council England as a result of us becoming a National Portfolio Organisation. We have been able to bring to Kent some of the best international work created for young audiences from across Europe as well as a new commission in partnership with Conflux in Glasgow of a spectacular outdoor new outdoor show, Fragile.’’
Young people and families are at the heart both of the Gulbenkian itself and of bOing; how has she put a festival together to appeal to all ages ?
‘’The emphasis is on quality of work, and not just programming work for particular ages. We do include work that has considered the particular needs of babies or young people with PMLD but the majority of what is on offer will engage all ages. I believe the value of a festival such as this is that all ages can share incredible and inspiring work in a relaxed and fun environment.’’
I dare to suggest that one of the new works is something of a ‘Dances With JCBs;’ what exactly is Motionhouse ?
Her eyes light up immediately. ‘’Our commissioning of this new work is very exciting. I have worked with Motionhouse for many years and Kevin Finnan their Artistic Director was Choreographer and Movement Director for the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. We have commissioned this with the Merchant City Festival in Glasgow as part of their Conflux Festival. It opened last weekend and attracted thousands to see it. It is mega! 3 JCB’s which really do dance in the company of 21 stunning and very brave dancers. This will be the English premiere, and you won’t be able to see it anywhere else!’’
And it’s not just happening in Canterbury this year; bOing! is spreading its wings and going to Medway as well ?
‘’Yes! We are developing bOing! as a Kent festival and will develop more work in other areas of Kent besides Canterbury. The show we are taking to the streets of Chatham is by the UK’s leading Parkour company, Urban Playground. They will not only perform their show but will also work with teenagers to demonstrate how to do Parkour safely as many teenagers have been injured attempting Parkour. What is very exciting is that this has led to Medway Council building their own ‘Urban’ festival around this performance.’’
What, I ask, have been the challenges with putting together this year’s programme ?
‘’Lots and lots of different types of challenges ! Finding the right space for the enormous number of events we are offering is one but we have been fortunate to get so much support from across the University to meet this challenge. Also getting the balance between all of the free events and the wonderful international work that is ticketed.’’
And that’s part of the magic of this festival – its accessibility, and programme of events that are free to attend that runs alongside the ticketed performances. Keeping the balance between free and paid events is always going to be something of a financial challenge for a festival, but bOing! continues to make a significant proportion cash-free, encouraging families and audiences to try something new. And the range of events is appealing, too; whether it’s interactive theatre, immersive concerts from the brilliantly-inventive Aurora Orchestra, or innovative dance, the festival manages to bring new and exciting work to audiences of all ages.
And finally, I ask her, what’s bOing’s best-kept secret this year, if she can tell us ?
‘’Ah, well,’’ comes the reply, ‘’there are so many to discover…you have to come to find out – but the most wonderful one involves the show on the front cover of the bOing! brochure…’’
And with that, our time is up and Liz shimmies off through the café through the thronging dance festival attendees, back off to mastermind more creative ideas for the future of the Gulbenkian. The bOing! International Family Festival 2015 takes place on Sat 29 and Sun 30 August; find out what’s in store here or download the brochure for yourself here.
Excitement courses through the corridors of the Gulbenkian Theatre at the moment, in anticipation of the bOing! festival happening at the end of the month. I tripped down the corridor to talk with the dizzying whirlwind of creativity that is the Director of the Gulbenkian, Liz Moran, to find out what’s in store.
Tell me about the festival.
bOing! is a new international festival for children to share with their families. This year, it’s over a weekend and over the next few years it will grow to be an even bigger event.
Family events lie close to the heart of Gulbenkian programming; why is that ?
I believe there is an imbalance in the quality and investment in work for younger audiences in the UK and I believe that is unfair. Children and young people should be considered as audiences now, not as future audiences with access to inspiring, imaginative work.
There don’t seem to be many other events, particularly locally, quite like it; what’s unique about bOing ?
I think what’s unique about bOing! is that although we are targeting younger audiences, the programme is not all ‘children’s’ work. I think it important children and their parents share seeing amazing artists together, so we have included a range of work and workshops that can be shared and enjoyed by all ages We are also taking bOing! off campus with a fantastic dance piece to be performed in the playground on the sea front in Herne Bay; that will become an important part of bOing! In the future, taking it all over Kent in unexpected places !
Children and young people should be considered as audiences now, not as future audiences, with access to inspiring, imaginative work
What were the challenges of programming the festival ?
A new festival is a challenge in persuading world-class companies to come and present their work. Having companies such as TPO from Italy who are coming with Bleu! is a major coup; they’re in demand all over the world, and that is exactly the kind of inspirational, awe-inspiring work we want to share with our audiences. Money and resources are always an issue; big ambitions often need major investment, but we have been fortunate this year to have secure additional financial support from Arts Council England and Kent County Council.
Family Concert: A Wonderland is an interesting project; tell me more…
A Wonderland is a family concert put together by cellist, singer and producer Matthew Sharp; it forms the centrepiece of the opening day. Everyone who comes to the concert will be invited to stay at the end and learn a new piece of music that they themselves will perform later in the day. The choir is for all ages, not just children, and the idea is to give families the opportunity to sing and perform together in a magical musical wonderland that Matthew is creating.
Is there anything that you are looking forward to especially ?
I can honestly say there is no one thing; all of the companies and artists involved are inspirational
And you’ve made the festival appealing and family-friendly in terms of cost, too.
Yes. Many of the events are free (details here) but I would urge people to book now for the paid events which have been priced very low, between £4 and £5 for the festival; it’s a unique opportunity to see international work such as Bleu! and award-winning Paperbelle, but please book as soon as possible to avoid disappointment on the day!
Thanks to Liz for her time. bOing! takes place Saturday 30th – Sunday 31st August; more information about the festival here, and see full listings here.
Last week saw the (delayed) première of Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels; Drama graduate and former member of Chamber Choir, Steve Graney, was in the audience…
BBC Concert Orchestra, Southbank Sinfonia, London Voices Conductor: Jurjen Hempel, Soprano: Claron McFadden Royal Festival Hall, Tuesday 29th October, 2013
“Touring can make you crazy, Ladies and Gentlemen.”
In the case of Frank Zappa, touring can make you so crazy that you write a musical film in which you are played by Ringo Starr, Ringo’s chauffeur plays your ex-bassist and your former-saxophonist plays a Newt Rancher who falls in love with an Industrial Vacuum Cleaner.
Welcome to 200 Motels, a ‘surrealistic documentary’ of life on the road for Zappa and his band The Mothers of Invention; a musical satire of the tensions, groupies, chemical experimentations and absurdities that come with a rock & roll tour.
The orchestral concert version, forty-two years after its performance at the Royal Albert Hall was cancelled on grounds of obscenity, was finally unveiled to the UK in the Southbank’s ‘The Rest is Noise’ festival of twentieth-century music. It was a joyous spectacle (witnessing the London Voices wave light-up, rubber – how can I put this? – ‘recreational aids’ during a suite entitled ‘Penis Dimension’ is surely a once-in-a-lifetime experience). It also cemented Zappa’s status as a key twentieth-century composer.
Zappa’s versatility spans achingly beautiful string lines, challenging free jazz-reminiscent choral arrangements and even a majestic Bolero. The influence of Frank’s idols Stravinsky and Varèse is evident in the piece’s suspenseful harmonic dissonance and polyrhythmic, percussive atonality, but this in no way detracts from his individuality and unique approach to composition; I for one would pay good money just to glimpse a score that orders the horn players to jump on the spot.
The onstage rock band played second fiddle to the orchestra on this ‘Strictly Genteel’ classical occasion, although guitarist Leo Abrahams did treat us to a few tasty electric licks and there were some impressive Don Preston-style synth-keyboard skills to be heard.
Vocals and dialogue from the film also featured. These were stronger in some areas than others. Ian Shaw and Brendan Reilly, while vocally solid, didn’t recapture the raucous showmanship of Mothers frontmen and former-Turtles Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan. However, Tony Guilfoyle, in FZ wig and moustache, brought Zappa’s surreal, self-parodying sense of humour to the fore magnificently. His accompaniment of the ‘I Have Seen the Pleated Gazelle’ segment (concerning the Girl-Newt Rancher-Industrial Vacuum Cleaner love triangle) with its composer’s justification that this was “a love story people could relate to” was dry, bizarre and hilarious.
I have nothing but admiration for soprano Claron McFadden’s breath-taking melodic and lyrical clarity. Any trained soprano who can sing, unfazed, lines like “If there’s one thing I really get off on it’s a nun suit painted on some old boxes” has my undying respect.
As the packed Royal Festival Hall leapt into standing ovation, we half-hoped our cries of “More!” might prompt an encore of ‘Peaches En Regalia’ or similar. But we were content with Jurjen Hempel lifting the mammoth conductor’s score triumphantly aloft, finally performed in full.
Would Frank’s words have been words of pride? “About f***ing time” might be nearer the mark.
Who knows. He was Only In It For The Money anyway.
The written and spoken word is celebrated next week, as Canterbury comes alive to the Wise Words festival.
Back for a second year, running from Thursday 12 – Sunday 15 September, the festival sees poets such as Sir Andrew Motion reading from his new collection, The Customs House; the Bard of Barnsley and presenter of Radio 3’s The Verb, Ian McMillan, will be here next Friday, in collaboration with composer Luke Carver Goss.
Three of the University of Kent’s poets from the School of Creative Writing will also be participating; award-winning poet Nancy Gaffield will be leading a workshop on poetry and the journey, in the wake of her prize-winning collection Tokaido Road, and Dorothy Lehane and Patricia Debney will also be featuring in the festival.
Canterbury Laureate Dan Simpson will be presenting a crowd-sourced poem celebrating the city, and there’s also an array of events for families and children, many of which are free to attend. Poets and story-tellers will be popping up in surprising locations around Canterbury, including in a yurt in the Franciscan Gardens; or take a punt on the river to explore myths, legends and fairy-tales in the company of Emily Parrish. Join poet John Siddiquefree each morning at Browns Coffeehouse for his daily journal-writing session; the Three Cities Garden will be full of mystery, wonder and story-telling; or re-discover the lost art of exploration with explorer, navigator and broadcaster Tristan Gooley.
Find out more about next week online here; promising to be a festival that “re-awakens wonder and encourages curiosity,” you won’t be disappointed.