Tag Archives: Marlowe Theatre

Out of this world: University singers perform with the Philharmonia at the Marlowe

Music truly was out of this world on Wednesday 8 November, when ten singers from the University performed alongside the Philharmonia Orchestra and Philharmonia Voices, in a sell-out performance of Holst’s The Planets Suite under the baton of John Wilson at the Marlowe.

Ten members of various University choirs, including several University Music Scholars, headed down the hill during the afternoon to rehearse with Aidan Oliver, founding director of Philharmonia Voices, before returning in the evening to lend their voices to the ethereal final movement which brings Holst’s famed orchestral work to a celestial conclusion.

Rehearsing at the Marlowe Studio with director of Philharmonia Voices, Aidan Oliver
Clockwise from top: Charlotte Webb, Alice Baker, Alice Scott, Alice Hargreaves, Fleur Sumption, Alice Shires, Ruth Webster, Lulu Hammond, Carmen Mackey, Helen Sotillo

First-year Law conversion student, Helen Sotillo, was among the singers who took part: this is her story (spoiler alert: contains references to fish and chips and Strictly Come Dancing…)


Soprano amongst the stars: Helen Sotillo

The highlight of Wednesday’s programme was Holst’s Planets Suite, the last movement of which, Neptune, features a choir of ethereal upper voices singing offstage. Considering the power and might of the earlier movements, particularly Mars and Jupiter, this very quiet, mystical ending to the performance is designed to leave the audience spellbound. Considering the complexity of the music and the logistical difficulties of singing out of direct sight of the conductor, (not to mention the world-class level of the performers on stage), we were all feeling the pressure to deliver.

Our numbers were helpfully swelled by female singers from Philharmonia Voices and a short but successful run-through with the chorus master left us feeling very excited for the evening’s concert.

As Sue very pertinently pointed out, the ‘glamourous life of a musician’ inevitably entails a certain amount of hanging around and the experience did not fail to deliver on that front. Of course, the perk of ‘hanging around’ a professional rehearsal is that you get a free preview of the Philharmonia in all their glory. Admittedly some of the time was spent in a fervent discussion about where John Wilson’s accent was actually from (guesses included Newcastle, Liverpool, Leeds and simply ‘up North’) but the privilege of seeing such a renowned orchestra up close was lost on no one!

After a sizable break which involved, among other things, pizza, fish and chips, and Strictly, we returned to the Marlowe. A spot more waiting around, (unfortunately backstage this time), and then it was time for us to take our places in the wings, although corridor might be a better description (the glamour!). The chorus master took his cue from the live tv monitor and then it was our moment to shine! The next few minutes passed very quickly and before we knew it we were slowly processing even further away from the stage allowing the music to slowly fade away. By the time the rapturous (I assume) applause began we were already ensconced back downstairs in the dressing rooms.

Despite our somewhat detached role, I think it’s safe to say we all thoroughly enjoyed our debut with the Philharmonia. Certainly, it was clear from the briefest of discussions with those lucky few who managed to grab one of the sold-out tickets that the performance was a triumph and it is satisfying to think we played some part in that. The experience of performing with such renowned musicians was out-of-this-world.

Helen Sotillo


Director of Music, Sue Wanless, said:‘It was such a privilege to be part of this concert and to see from ‘back-stage’ the extraordinary expertise and detail that these distinguished musicians bring to create the performance on the night.’ Congratulations to the ladies on their involvement in a terrific concert, and our thanks to the Philharmonia musicians for providing such an unearthly experience for our students…

In conversation: conductor Jaime Martín with Susan Wanless

The Director of Music will be on stage in the Marlowe Theatre this Saturday in a different guise, as she hosts an ‘In Conversation’ with the conductor of the Philharmonia, Jaime Martín, ahead of the orchestra’s concert.

Jaime Martín: image credit Alexander Lindström
Jaime Martín: image credit Alexander Lindström

The Philharmonia Orchestra is back at the Marlowe Theatre on Saturday for its second concert of the season, in Mozart’s Overture to La Clemenza di Tito, Brahms’ Violin Concerto and the titanic drama of Sibelius’ Fifth Symphony. Susan has been asked to host the pre-concert event, which starts at 6.15 in the Theatre auditorium, when she will be in conversation with the conductor to talk about his life and passion for music he will be conducting that night.

To hear him talk about his career and thoughts on the programme with the Director of Music, and then go to what promises to be a fantastic concert, find out more here.

Canterbury Festival starts this Saturday

The wonderfully eclectic mix of music, drama, dance, art, comedy, lectures and more that is the Canterbury Festival swings into acton this Saturday, offering two weeks of artistic celebration at the heart of the city and beyond.

Highlights of this year’s festival include:

Festival logoLocal star of the international piano world, Freddy Kempf, will be performing Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto, which (in my humble opinion) is an even greater work than its more celebrated cousin, the second piano concerto; accompanied by the St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra, the concert at the Marlowe Theatre opens this year’s festival this Saturday.

Contemporary music-lovers can look forward to the world première of When The Flame Dies by Ed Hughes at St Augustine Hall on Wednesday 17 October, in association with Sounds New.

Soloists from the Philharmonia bring Stravinsky’s spirited The Soldier’s Tale to St Gregory’s Centre on Sunday 21st October.

The legendary Van Morrison will be at the Marlowe on two nights, Tuesday 23rd / Wednesday 24th.

Stand-up comedy from Jo Caulfield, Sean Hughes and Mark Thomas will fill the Gulbenkian Theatre with laughter on various dates, whilst Marcus Brigstocke visits Shirley Hall at the King’s School.

Family events include the opening Festival Parade through the city streets this Saturday including carnival bands and a Chinese Dragon, and several family shows at the Gulbenkian each weekend.

Find out more on the festival website here.

Theatre of Dreams: the new Marlowe

Tuesday evening’s gala opening concert at the new Marlowe Theatre celebrated the completion of a two-year refurbishment of the theatre, at the heart of Canterbury city. The star-studded evening saw the theatre’s official opening by the Duke of Wessex, and a performance with the Philharmonia Orchestra under David Parry, together with illustrious bass, Sir John Tomlinson. It also saw the University’s Director of Music, Susan Wanless, in the audience: here’s her reaction to the new building.

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Image credit: BBC News

On Tuesday evening I went to the grand gala opening of the new Marlowe Theatre. I was bowled over by the building, both the foyer, bars and cafe, and the theatre itself, which is spectacular.

This is an amazingly exciting moment in the cultural life of Canterbury and The Philharmonia Orchestra has become the Marlowe’s Orchestra in Residence, with four concerts this coming season – so go and experience it for yourselves!

Read more about it on the theatre’s website.