An action-packed finale to the term; a festive sprinkling of seasonal Baroque music and carols from the Flute Choir and the upper-voice chamber choir, Minerva Voices, followed by the annual roof-raising Christmas Swingalong with the University Big Band, conducted by Ian Swatman, featuring singers Elle Soo and Fleur Sumption.
The final musical hurrah of the term has seen members of Minerva Voices performing at the ancient Pilgrims’ Hospital in Canterbury earlier today, as part of the Medieval and Early Modern Studies Festival curtain-raising Illuminating the Past: Gothic Colour day.
The Choir assembled in the priory garden this morning for the first of two sets; the latter saw them sing in the resonant acoustic of the refectory, bringing the historic stones to life in a variety of choral works, from medieval plainsong to Alvin Lucier’s Unamuno.
Led by Your Loyal Correspondent, together with assistant conductor, third-year Joe Prescott making his final appearance, it was standing-room only beneath the minstrel’s gallery.
A huge thank you to everyone involved in the choir for their commitment over the course of this year, and to the MEMSFest team for having us.
The final two days of Summer Music Week witnessed a tremendous flurry of musical activity both in Colyer-Fergusson and beyond, as the week-long music festival celebrating the end of the University year brought staff, students, guests, alumni and members of the local community together.
An intense forty-eight hours of rehearsing and performing began on Friday at lunchtime, with members of the Musical Theatre Society performing on the foyer-stage.
Later the same day, the Cecilian Choir, Sinfonia and soloists filled the church of St Michael and All Angels at Harbledown with a feast of Baroque music, featuring choral works by Vivaldi, Handel and Lully, and instrumental concerti featuring oboists Jonathan Butten and Dan Lloyd from the School of Biosciences, violinists Lydia Cheng (Law) and Claudia Hill (Politics and International Relations), and arias from Charlotte Webb and Ruth Webster (Biosciences – again!). A sultry encore from the Sinfonia took a packed and delighted audience to Argentina for a scintillating rendition of Piazzolla’s Libertango to conclude. And as if they hadn’t done enough playing, members of the Sinfonia provided a little light music during the post-performance reception…
With the end in sight, rehearsals continued first thing on Saturday morning as the Chorus, Symphony Orchestra and Minerva Voices prepared for the final event of the week, the annual Music for a Summer’s Day. Arriving audience-members were treated to a performance by the unstoppably energetic String Sinfonia on the foyer-stage prior to the afternoon gala concert.
The combined forces brought a programme including a zestful medley from My Fair Lady, besuited butlers bearing drinks during music from Downton Abbey, rousing music by Elgar, a Norwegian ballad, final-year Harriet Gunstone as guest soloist in the Champagne Polka, all culminating in a rousing rendition of ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ (including an encore conducted by third-year Cory Adams making a rare sortie from the percussion section to the front of the orchestra), and the shedding of a few tears as we all realised that this was, for those who are graduating, their final performance at the University.
The reception afterwards saw performers, audience, family and friends mingling in the marquee, as well as the presentation of the Music Society Awards – a spirited tongue-in-cheek affair with prizes for ‘Most Likely To Be Seen On A Night Out’ and ‘Best Dressed’ among the commendations – and the raiding of sumptuous racks of cakes and scones, as the week drew to a close, whilst Minerva Voices and a jazz group provided some spontaneous musical entertainment.
Summer Music Week higlights all that making music at the University embraces: students making extra-curricular music and friends during the year; students, staff, alumni and the local community coming together on a weekly basis to work together towards termly public performances; the recognition that music-making holds a valuable place in University life in terms of making friends, developing performing and organisational skills, bringing the community together to work towards a public-facing event that represents the University in ambassadorial fashion. Where else might you find a senior Registrar, the director of the Development Office, the head of the International Office, a first-year from Blackpool reading Drama, a second-year from Malaysia reading Law, violinists from Toronto and Zimbabwe, a Senior Lecturer in Linguistics, and local residents combining to let their hair down ?! It’s a terrific whirlygig, a snapshot of all the creativity that thrives both on- and off-campus throughout the course of the year, but it’s also a sad time, as we bid farewell to many who have become a vital part both of the Music department and the wider University during their time at Kent.
To all the leavers, we wish you the very best for the future in Life After Kent; to all those returning (or indeed joining!) us in September; rest assured, we’re now planning for another vibrant, action-packed, stressfull (!), creative, and ultimately rewarding year. To those moving on: we’ll miss you.
The annual musical celebration of the end of the academic year at the University of Kent, Summer Music Week, is set to burst into life next month.
Featuring many of the University’s ensembles, the week-long festival opens at the seaside on Sunday 5 June with the University Big Band, conducted by Ian Swatman, visiting Deal Bandstand. Events throughout the week include a recital by University Music Scholars, a Wednesday evening gala concert with both the Concert and Big Bands, a feast of Baroque music with the Cecilian Choir and Sinfonia at St Michael’s Church, Harbledown,plus various other lunchtime events, all culminating in the traditional Music for a Summmer’s Day on Saturday 11 June with the Chorus, Orchestra and Minerva Voices, followed by cream teas.
The full line-up of events is now live on our website here, and you can follow all the events on the Summer Music Week Twitter feed here: printed brochures are also available in Colyer-Fergusson and the Gulbenkian. Join us as we bid an action-packed musical adieu to another year at Kent!
The University’s Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies MEMS Festival takes place next month, a two-day event highlighting new research, round-table discussions, exhibitions, talks and performances celebrating developments in the field.
A special preview day on Thursday 16 June at Eastbridge Hospital, Illuminating the Past, will explore the making and meaning of Gothic colour, as part of which Minerva Voices will be singing in the ancient Pilgrim’s Hospital during a day of interactive workshops and talks.
Ahead of the day, Your Loyal Correspondent reflects on the idea of colour in music, and reflects on the immediacy of performing ancient music in historic spaces, where song meets stone, over on the event webpage here.
The Choir will sing music from the period, including a skirling Kyrie by Hildegard von Bingen. Find out more about the festival here.
Next week, Minerva Voices presents a summer evening performance set amidst the historic grounds of Canterbury’s eleventh-century castle, on Tuesday 24 May.
The castle is amongst Britain’s most ancient, begun around 1070 to replace a motte-and-bailey construction built as one of several fortifications protecting the Roman road from Dover to London. The keep and surrounding walls are all that remain, and the site surfaces like a blunt reminder of Canterbury’s military history.
As the sun sets, the ancient flint and sandstone walls of the surviving keep will ring to the upper-voice chamber choir’s colourful programme, which includes medieval plainsong, a contemporary Norwegian folksong, Veljo Tormis’ filigree Spring Sketches, Bob Chilcott’s scintillating Song of the Stars, and pieces by Mozart, Holst and Gounod. The concert will conclude with a dramatic Norwegian telling of the Song of Roland, for which the choir will be joined by percussionist Cory Adams.
Admission is free; the concert starts at 7.30pm, and is with the kind permission of Canterbury City Council. Please note that there is no seating at the site, so you might like to bring a blanket or folding-chair; the performance will last approximately fifty minutes. Join Minerva Voices as the sun sets over the historic site for a musical odyssey across the centuries.
Because it does. Doesn't it ? Blogging about extra-curricular musical life at the University of Kent.