The ever-inventive Aurora Orchestra will be on our doorstep at the end of this month, when they bring what promise to be magical performances to the Gulbenkian as part of the bOing! International Family Festival.
Two concerts, aimed respectively at children up to the age of four and children aged five and over, will bring to life Bach’s Goldberg Variations in a mixture of interactive activities for the whole family, including the opportunities to ”dance with raindrops, jump with sheep and make a magic potion.”
The early years concerts take place at various times on Saturday 29 and Sun 30 August (details here), whilst the Family Concert for ages 5 and above is on Saturday 29 August at 3.45pm (details here).
Come and immerse yourself and your family in what promises to be a fascinating and spell-binding exploration of one of Bach’s most enduringly popular works.
Full details about the bOing! festival online here.
Contemporary opera makes the first of several appearances at the Gulbenkian next month; before Tokaido Road comes on May 23, Jonathan Dove’s Swanhunter swoops into the theatre on May 1 and 2.
An Opera North production composed to a libretto by Alasdair Middleton, the opera draws on the Finnish folkore epic, the Kalevala, in which Lemminkäinen travel to the icy north to face the Devil’s Elk and the Swan on Death’s River.
Told using puppetry in collaboration with The Wrong Crowd, the opera (written in 2009 with young audiences in mind) is billed as being ‘as much for adults as it is for children.’ Dove is the accessible end of contemporary music, as his beguiling choral anthems and rumbustious The Passing of the Year attest, and his prolific output includes music written for community music-making as much as for professionals.
”We’re really thrilled to be bringing contemporary opera for family audiences to the Gulbenkian,” enthuses the theatre’s creative producer, Mairi Coyle. ”Both Opera North and the Wrong Crowd have impressive international reputations in the fields of music theatre and the fact that they’ve come together with a top British composer to create such an inventive fusion of opera, puppetry and live action is really exciting and we’re proud to be part of it.”
Performances at the Gulbenkian are Friday 1 May at 7.00pm, and Saturday 2 May at 2pm; tickets and details here, or flick through the interactive resource pack for teachers and families 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.
I’m reminded anew of this article in the Guardian some months ago about the impact culture and the arts are having in East Kent.
Writing last year, the Director of the Turner Contemporary Gallery, Victoria Pomeroy, states that
the arts are leading the way in raising the profile of the area as a desirable destination. From Whitstable to Folkestone, Canterbury to Dover, arts and culture are making a significant contribution to the tourism offer.
With the tourist industry bringing in ‘£3.2bn’ to the area annually, the partnership between the arts, heritage and the tourist industry is rejuvenating the county’s economic development, bringing visitors to historic and cultural attractions throughout the region.
Last year’s bid for East Kent as ‘City of Culture,’ drawn up by collaboration across venues and organisations across East Kent. may not have been successful, it’s true, but it does reflect a changing mentality across the county, triangulated in investment in iconic venues such as the recently-refurbished Marlowe Theatre and Beaney House of Art and Knowledge, the Turner Contemporary in Margate, and the University’s own award-winning Colyer-Fergusson Building. Since 2011, Revelation St Mary‘s has been developing an exciting series of events at the heart of Ashford town, and there are festivals such as the Canterbury Festival, Deal Festival, Lounge on the Farm, and Sounds New attracting major performers to the area; this year, in May, the new Whitstable Literary Festival will be launched.
There’s a sense that professionals across these industries locally are starting to forge working relationships, building on the sense nascent in the City of Culture bid that there is a vibrant county-wide cultural presence that can make a significant contribution towards supporting regional economic growth. We’ve certainly noticed an increased cultural vibrancy both here and next door in the Gulbenkian Theatre, with its developing partner-groups and youth theatre projects, and the number of local, regional and national performers coming into the music building; Kent really does have a lively artistic scene, one that engages the community across the age-range and brings them a high standard of artistic experience The recent high-speed rail link means Canterbury, Ashford and Margate are within easy reach of London, and are now more readily accessible. Notwithstanding the impact the Colyer-Fergusson building is having on the student experience and music-making provision on the campus, it’s exciting to see it forming a part of the cultural landscape developing across Kent.
When not involved in Chamber Choir, conducting Sing! or gigging with the University Big Bands and vocal trio ‘The Canterberries,’ third-year Drama student and Music Scholar Steph Richardson is also working on this year’s production of ‘Rent’ with the Music Theatre Society. In a break from her hectic schedule, I caught up with Steph and asked her what it’s all about…
DH: What’s your involvement with the show this year ? And what does that mean ?
SR: I’m vocal director, which means I teach the music and harmonies to the cast and cover the musical side of the show until the band comes in a few weeks before the show goes on stage (at which point Jake, our musical director, comes into the mix).
DH: What are the challenges of working on this show ?
SR: As it’s sung-through, there is so much music to get into your head before blocking and staging can even happen. Although the score is brilliant, it is only brilliant because of Jonathan Larson’s ruthless changes of time signatures, rhythms and keys, which keep the cast on their toes. Saying that, a week before the tech run, these difficulties are being ironed out nicely and the cast are on top form!
DH: What have you most enjoyed working on ?
SR: Specifically, although Seasons of Love is the most well-known song, La Vie Boheme has been the most fun to work on. Everyone is so enthusiastic and they really bring the stage to life! I love working with the creative team too. Alick is a great director and works really well with the team. He knows exactly what he wants from the show, which is fantastic, and it looks like the cast, crew and band are going to do him justice.
DH: And you’re in the Gulbenkian Theatre this year, for the first time ?
SR: That’s right: and we’re very happy about it! It gives all Kent Uni students the chance to experience this lively musical as it’s right on their doorstep this year. The Whistable Playhouse is a great space, but it’s nice to bring it onto campus.
DH: Can you give us a hint as to what we’re in for on the night ?
SR: n the night, though you should be prepared for your heartstrings to be tugged a little, you’re alo in for an evening of rockin music, super acting, and a witty and very raunchy look at bohemian life in the 1990s.
The production runs next week, from Wednesday to Friday. at the Gulbenkian Theatre: details and tickets online here.
This Sunday, the Gulbenkian Theatre is hosting a charity music concert, including performers from the University, and the first live performance of a new composition by the University of Kent’s Professor Elizabeth Mansfield.
The event, beginning at 3pm, will includes pieces by Chopin, Brahms, Ravel, Debussy, Liszt and that King of the Argentine Tango, Piazzolla.
Details of the concert, and a link to purchase tickets are online here, or tickets can be reserved by phone through the Gulbenkian Box Office: 01227 769 075.
There’s also a Facebook event here, and you can read more about it in the University’s press release here.
The events starts at 3pm, with proceeds in aid of Pilgrim’s Hospice and the NSPCC. Come and be entertained, here a première, all in support of two very worthy causes.
As part of Summer Music this term, several of the University’s Music Scholars will be starring in a lunchtime concert on Wednesday 6 June at 1.10pm.
Flautist with the University Orchestra and second-year Historian, Kathryn Redgers, will perform Bach’s Flute Sonata in G minor BWV 1020 accompanied by yours truly on the harpsichord.
Second-year soprano Marina Ivanova will sing Vivaldi’s sublime cantata, Nulla in mundo pax sincera, accompanied by the University Camerata. Marina is a member of the University Chamber Choir and Chorus, and both Marina and Kathryn have previously performed in the Scholars’ Recital as part of the Canterbury Festival each year in October. In her spare time, Marina reads Economics and Spanish!
Making their solo performing debuts at the concert will be first-year harpist, Emma Murton, and first-year percussionist, Carina Evans on marimba, in solo instrumental works.
The University Big Band, conducted by Ian Swatman, will be joined by some very special guests when it returns to the Gulbenkian Theatre for its Gala evening on Wednesday 6 June, at 7.30pm.
Appearing alongside the Big Band is British saxophonist Simon Bates, pianist Paul ‘Harry’ Harris, bassist with Jools Holland’s Rhythm & Blues Orchestra, Dave Swift and Mike Osborn (drums) in a rousing finale to the University’s musical year.
Conductor of the Big Band, Ian Swatman, is particularly excited about this year’s extravaganza. ‘’Simon Bates is regarded as one of the country’s finest saxophonists, and to have him appear with his own quartet is tremendous. All the players in their own right have illustrious careers; Dave Swift is in the middle of Jools Holland’s UK tour with the Jools Holland Rhythm & Blues Orchestra, and is fitting this date in especially amidst his tight schedule. Drummer Mike Osborn has become a regular and spectacular guest with the University Concert and Big Bands, and the combination of all these musicians, together with our own very talented singer Ruby Mutlow and all the University band musicians, is a very exciting prospect!’’
The event is part of the University’s Summer Music, a five-day festival of events both on campus and in Canterbury to celebrate the end of another year of music-making and the end of the academic year. The festival also includes the Music Scholars in a lunchtime concert at the Gulbenkian, the Sirocco Ensemble and Brass Group in a Lunchtime at the Labyrinth, Chamber and Cecilian Choirs at St Mildred’s Church, and the annual Music Society Sunday concert: including cream teas!
Details about all the events, as well as tickets for the Big Band Gala, online here.