Tag Archives: Music Scholars

Summer Music Week: Day Three and Four

Two further music-filled days as part of this year’s Summer Music Week; on Monday, the University Rock Choir, directed by alumni Jonathan Grosberg, had an enthusiastic audience clapping along to songs such as Don’t Stop Believin’  and Roar; the choir’s debut brought a standing ovation in Colyer-Fergusson Hall.

And Tuesday saw the annual Music Scholars’ Lunchtime Recital, which began in unique fashion this year with first-year Biosciences student and highland bagpiper Eloise Jack – her skiriling pipes were heard outside the hall before she entered on the balcony to instant applause.

Final-year Computer Science student, Robert Loveless, dazzled in a rhythmically vivacious Bossa Merengova by Mike Mower.

Four final-year violinists then delivered a pitch-perfect performance of Telemann’s second Concerto for Four Violins; Zaneta Balsevic (reading Music Performance), Florence Nightingale Obote (Biosciences), Molly Richetta (Mathematics) and Melody Brooks (Psychology).

The programme took a folksy turn in the form of two saxophone duets from two first-year Music Scholars, David Curtiss (reading Physics) and Megan Daniels (Law), in melodies from Bulgaria and Spain.

The concert drew to a close with final-year sopranos Fleur Sumption (History of Art) and Helen Sotillo (LLB Law Senior Status) in a lyrical rendition of the ‘Barcarolle’ from The Tales of Hoffmann.

A highly responsive audience greeted all the performers at the end for a collective bow – our thanks to all the players. The concert was followed by the awarding of this year’s Music Prizes, about which more anon…

Image: Millie Falla

There was Of Course time for selfies afterwards…

Our music festival continues tonight with the annual roof-raising extravaganza that is the valedictory concert from the University Concert Band and Big Band under the baton of Ian Swatman. Still plenty more to come…

Main photos: © Matt Wilson

Summer Music Week details now online

We’re very pleased to reveal the full line-up of events for this year’s Summer Music Week live online this morning!

Launching on Friday 31 May with a sonorous concert by the Chamber Choir and Consort in Canterbury Cathedral Crypt, our musical farewell to the academic year unfolds over the next eight days to include a trip to the seaside with the University Big Band at Deal Bandstand, a recital by University Music Scholars, a Gala concert with the Concert and Big Bands, the String Sinfonia and Chamber Choir in the premiere of Between Worlds exploring music and science by Anna Phoebe, all culminating in the annual Music for a Summer’s Day with the Chorus and Orchestra bidding a tearful farewell to this year’s music-making.

See all that’s to come, grab your tickets and help us celebrate another musical year in the life of the University as it draws to a festive close. The brochure will be available shortly…

String Scholars have an eggcellent time at the Easter Orchestra week

Not content with busily rehearsing and performing during term-time, final-year Music Performance Scholars and string-players Žaneta Balsevic and Molly Richetta headed off to Shropshire last week to participate in an Easter Orchestra Week run by the Easter Orchestral Society at Ellesmere College. Here, Molly reports on a week of orchestral and chamber music rehearsals, concerts and chains…


During the Easter break, Žaneta and I attended an orchestral course in Shropshire called Easter Orchestra Week. It was a week of intense and challenging music making with a huge orchestra of like-minded music lovers.

The list of music for the week was extensive; there were four main works that were rehearsed each morning, and in each afternoon and evening rehearsal we would sight-read through one or two works. The four main works were performed in an informal concert on the last afternoon. These included From the House of the Dead suite from a ballet by Janáček, which uses chains in the percussion section to represent the chains of the prisoners where the work is set. The second was Symphony No. 3 by Arvo Pärt; between the second and third movements was a thunderous cadenza for the timpani (obviously milked to its fullest extent) which took the rest of the orchestra completely by surprise on the first play through. The third work was Concerto Festivo by Andrej Panufnik. This was challenging as the meter changed every couple of bars. I was talking to the musical director at breakfast one morning and he said that the composer was fascinated by trains, and while traveling would have ideas and write them down- but had forgotten exactly the time signature of the part he had written before, hence the constant changes from ¾ to 3/8!

The final work was the famous tone poem by Strauss, Till Eulenspiegel, the story of a practical joker and possibly the most technically difficult but rewarding of the four works. All four of these I grew to love as the week went on.

In the afternoons and evenings, we sight-read through many of the most famously difficult pieces in the orchestral repertoire, including the ballet Daphnis and Chloé by Ravel and Shostakovich’s Symphony 12. Most of these sessions I spent clinging on for dear life in the viola section and praying that I didn’t make my debut as a soloist in one of the rests. One of my favourite pieces of the week was Rodion Shchedrin’s Naughty Limericks; a piece full of humour. One moment of the piece required the player at the very back of the viola section to play the first violin tune in the wrong key as loudly as possible at one of the few quiet moments. The final evening before the performance brought some light relief with film music including ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ and ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’. In these sessions we also had the opportunity to sit in different seats and sections, so I was able to play violin as well as viola through the week, and people had the chance to play concertos or sing as soloists.

The conductors and the leader of the orchestra were incredible from start to finish in the week- being able to tackle such repertoire was an experience I will not forget, and they made even the most difficult pieces enjoyable and (almost) playable!

After lunch we had free time which some people used to play through chamber music. I had the chance to tick many pieces off my bucket list; I was able to play Mendelssohn octet, a Dvorak string quintet and the Smetana quartet (which may have the best opening tune for viola of any quartet I have heard) among others! It was wonderful to be around so many like-minded people who were capable of and exited to sit down and read through pieces. The location of the course was perfect- in a school in the middle of the beautiful Shropshire countryside, which others used the free time to explore.

Even though the music from the week was great, it was the people on the course which made it so much better. There was a wide range of ages and professions of people and getting a chance to speak with more experienced members of the orchestra was a real privilege. The atmosphere was so friendly; Žaneta and I went down to breakfast on the first morning and sat on a table of strangers-who all spoke to us as peers and friends. Every evening exhausted from the day of rehearsing we would head to the bar and get to know the other members over a few too many glasses of wine. I was lucky enough, as well as 5 others, to be given a scholarship. The others quickly became our close friends, and as always in the music world, we found out we had mutual friends.

It was a brilliant opportunity to experience music that as an amateur musician you would not get the chance to play anywhere else. I remember sitting in the first rehearsal and feeling amazed that so many people who do not work in music were meeting together to spend a week of their life playing music purely for the enjoyment, inspiration and challenge that comes from it. I feel that my sight-reading has definitely improved as a result of playing so many challenging works, as well as the ability to convincingly pretend that I know where I am. Many of the members had been going back every year for many years, and I hope to be able to go back again next year too!

Scholars’ Spotlight: Eloise Jack

Continuing the series profiling the year’s new crop of Music Performance Scholars and Music Award Holders. This week, first-year Bioscience student Eloise Jack pipes us all aboard…


I was encouraged to explore music from an early age and initially started playing the piano when I was six, as well as singing in a local choir. On changing schools, a year later, I was lucky enough to receive cello lessons, which got me interested in strings and I took up the violin soon after. There is a family connection here too, because my great, great grandfather made violins and I feel very privileged to own a violin that was made by him.

My family live in Salisbury, which offers fantastic opportunities for young musicians and as well as taking lessons, I was able to pursue my musical interests by joining Salisbury Area Young Musicians (SAYM). This organisation is run by dedicated volunteers and music teachers and holds weekly rehearsals offering the opportunity for young musicians of all abilities to play alongside others. Over the years I progressed and developed, participating in regular public performances with the orchestras and choirs, which included singing at the Royal Albert Hall in London. In addition to playing at SAYM, I also played the violin in my school orchestra, and sang in the school’s chamber and concert choirs.

My passion for bagpiping began when I was 12. On a family trip to Scotland to visit my grandparents, they took me to see the Royal Military Tattoo in Edinburgh. Pipe bands play a significant role in this event and when the massed bands paraded in front of Edinburgh Castle it was an amazing feeling and it was great to listen to the different bands playing together. It was a musical experience far removed from what I did with SAYM and I rather fancied having a go for myself.

On returning home and watching the repeat on television, I commented that I would like to learn to play the bagpipes, and in September 2012 my brother and I started lessons on the chanter. As soon as we had reached a level of basic proficiency, we were introduced to the bagpipes and joined the Southern Jacobites Pipe Band.

The Southern Jacobites is an active band and my first performance with them was in December 2013, at the Salisbury Christmas market. Since then, I have regularly taken part in band performances at carnivals, supporting parades and at private events. I have also been privileged enough to play with them at some unique events. In September 2014, the band performed with massed military musicians at the Tidworth Military Musical Pageant. In 2016 we supported the Treorchy Male Voice Choir and in 2017 we played alongside the National Symphonic Orchestra at the Great British Prom at Bowood House. Each performance was very different and gave me an opportunity to play tunes alongside other instruments that weren’t just pipes and drums.

That said, it is the traditional aspects of pipe music that has provided perhaps my most memorable experiences.

The ’Big Bang and Blow’ is an event that takes place in London, in support of the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal. Pipers and drummers from all over the country converge on London and perform together at various locations throughout the day. I have participated in this event twice, the second time travelling up after lectures here at the University.

In a similar vein, but on a larger scale, in 2018 I travelled to Amiens in France to commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War. Pipe Bands from all over Europe attended the weekend, but I was one of many who attended as an individual and joined an international band, ‘The Lone Pipers’, which is formed of pipers and drummers from all around the world. This was a completely new experience for me, as there was no common language spoken and the only way to communicate was through the power of music. To be able to visit the grave of a relative killed at the Battle of the Somme before performing, as well as visiting the graves of many others gave the performance a more meaningful feeling and playing alongside all the other bands in front of Amiens Cathedral is a memory I will never forget.

As well as performing as part of a band, I regularly perform both as a duet with my brother Hamish and as a soloist at weddings, parties, Burns’ Suppers and village fetes. Perhaps my most prestigious engagement as a soloist, was playing at Devizes Castle for the 50th Birthday of the vice-president of HSBC America, which was attended by guests from as far afield as Australia.

As well as playing traditional tunes, in my spare time I like to experiment playing styles of music that are not normally associated with the bagpipes. My inspiration for this came after seeing the ‘Red Hot Chilli Pipers’, a bagpipe rock band that plays contemporary pop and rock tunes, blending together pipes, drums, percussion and electric guitars. I have performed a rendition of ‘We Will Rock You’ at an Explorer Scout music festival and I am now learning some tunes by Queen.

Since joining the University of Kent as a Bioscientist undergraduate student, I have performed outside the Gulbenkian for Burns’ Night (pictured, right) and I have joined the Glenduart Pipes and Drums, a competition pipe-band based in Folkestone. This is another new experience, as this band plays in a different style to the marching performances that I am used to doing with The Southern Jacobites.
I am very grateful to be a recipient of the Music Scholarship, as it has allowed me to purchase a new bag for my bagpipes and has covered the travel and membership that I pay to practice with the Glenduart Pipes and Drum Band. I hope to continue to showcase my performance as a soloist whilst here at the University of Kent, but also in the future play alongside some of the other musicians who are here at the University.

Image gallery: Olafur Arnalds concert

Thanks to photographer Molly Hollman, not only for these atmospheric photos of the performers in last Friday’s Lunchtime Concert, but also for her spectacular landscape photography which featured in the performance.

A string quartet of third-year students Florence Obote, Melody Brooks, Molly Richetta (all of whom are University Music scholars or Award holders) and cellist Ken Macdonald, together with Your Loyal Correspondent at the piano, unfurled the meditative music of Icelandic composer, Olafur Arnalds, into a darkened concert-hall, against a backdrop of Molly’s photographs capturing the natural landscapes from around the country.

A rapt audience was kept spellbound during the entire performance; thanks to all the performers.

Scholar’s Spotlight: Ramnath Venkat Bhagavath

Continuing the series profiling University Music Performance Scholars; this week, Masters student in Actuarial Science, Ramnath Venkat Bhagavath.


Having been born into a family of musicians, I started my vocal training in South Indian Classical music (Carnatic music) at a very young age.  I still remember my childhood days when my grandmother would wake me up at 5 am in the morning and make me practice for 2 hours, every single day. Being an accomplished Veena artiste, she was a perfectionist in every sense. I gave my first public performance at the age of 13 and since then, I have been regularly giving vocal concerts.

After completing my schooling in India, I did my undergraduate studies in Toronto, Canada, and immediately followed that with a Masters at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. I relocated back to India in 2012 after my studies and worked there for five years before I decided to come to University of Kent to do my second masters. I was actively pursuing and performing music throughout, alongside studies and work. I was fortunate to perform on many prestigious stages in India and abroad.

When I first came to University of Kent, I was a little worried whether I would have the opportunity to pursue music along with my masters. I was even apprehensive when I applied for the University Music Performance scholarship as I wasn’t sure whether Indian classical music would be encouraged. All this changed when I had my audition for the scholarship. Both Susan (the Director of University Music) and Daniel (the Deputy Director of University Music) were extremely welcoming and encouraging of Indian classical music. When I got to know that I was selected for the scholarship, I was very thrilled and delighted beyond words.

When I first stepped into the Colyer-Fergusson hall, I was amazed at the splendor, grandeur and acoustics of the hall. I was lucky to have couple of my skype music classes with my Guru in India, right in that hall. I also had access to practice rooms with just an email notice. I was able to actively pursue music while at Kent.

Ramnath and musicians performing in Colyer-Fergusson Hall, May 2018

When I was given the opportunity to do a lunchtime concert at Colyer Fergusson, I was inexplicably happy. After all, to perform in such a hall will be every musician’s dream! My performance was well attended and appreciated by everyone. I had excellent musicians from London accompanying me on the Violin, Mridangam and Ghatam for the lunchtime concert. If not for this concert opportunity, I would not have had the chance to know these musicians. We already have plans to collaborate again in future.

Furthermore, I also had the privilege to perform during the Scholars lunchtime concert, where I performed along with other music scholars. I also worked with the University wellbeing department to conduct workshops on Raga singing, as a part of their wellness week program. I sincerely express my gratitude to everyone at the Music department for giving me wonderful opportunities to showcase South Indian Classical music. University of Kent has truly given me beautiful musical memories that will be etched in my heart forever!


Read more profiles of University Music Scholars here.

Cat and Mouse: imagining Debussy’s Serenade of the Doll

It’s amazing what strange but illuminating thought-processes occur when you’re rehearsing…

The Scholars’ Lunchtime Concert in March will be commemorating the centenary of the death of Debussy in a programme of chamber works combined with images from the Impressionist era; one of the works is ‘Serenade of the Doll,’ from Children’s Corner, a suite of piano pieces dedicated to Debussy’s then three-year-old daughter, Claude-Emma (known as Chou-Chou), in an arrangement for violin and piano.

Lydia Cheng

‘Serenade of the Doll’ is a surprisingly moving jewel-like miniature, using the pentatonic scale to evoke the porcelain doll in a sprightly triple-metre. Working in rehearsal with third-year Music Scholar and violinist, Lydia Cheng, we were looking at ways to bring the contrasts to the fore, to explore the lilting waltz-like feel and the delicate staccato passages that give the piece its character. The contrasting textures follow each other quite quickly, and we were examining how much depth of tone was suited to the central section.

At one point, we’d been talking about the way the melodic line seems to nudge itself along, followed by a rising minor third and a sudden octave leap; it’s skittish, ungainly, as though something in the child’s nursery has fallen over.’It’s like a cartoon,’ Lydia observed at one point, ‘you know, where the characters tip-toe down a staircase. It’s a bit like Tom and Jerry!’

So, with this in mind, we played through the entire piece again – and suddenly, it came to life. We realised that the music isn’t always about a rose-tinted recollection of childhood, of a panoply of perfect toys tidily on display in a nursery; sometimes, it can be about the trips and tumbles too, the knocks and tiny accidents, the cheerful blunders that are a part of finding your feet as a toddler. This is reflected both rhythmically as well as in the harmonic language, as it trips lightly from parallel ninths through chromaticism and touches of whole-tonality; it’s finding its own harmonic feet too.

Here’s Debussy himself playing on a piano-roll:

I don’t think anyone has channeled Tom and Jerry in performing Debussy before, but it certainly works. Come along to the performance on Weds 28 March to hear it for yourself…

Alumna stars in Magic Flute

Former Music Scholarship student and singer, Marina Ivanova, recently appeared in the role of Papagena with Opera South East. As a Music Scholar, she sang in Chorus, Chamber Choir, and numerous Scholar recitals, including a masterclass with Dame Anne Evans; she was also a Music Prize-Winner in 2014. Here, she reflects on music-making and her recent role.


Soprano Marina Ivanova singing in Colyer-Fergusson Hall in 2013

I read European Economics and French at Kent, and graduated in 2014. I had an amazing time as a Music Scholar at Kent between 2010 and 2014. One of my most memorable and exciting experiences was the Scenes from Mozart concert during Summer Music Week, and singing Vivaldi and Mozart in lunchtime recitals by University Music Scholars.

Opera South East’s Magic Flute in rehearsal

Since graduating, I have been actively seeking for new opportunities as a shorus member or a principal in opera productions. In 2016 I made my operatic debut at Brent Opera, in London, as the Singer in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut. Since February 2017, I have been working with Opera South East in a production of The Magic Flute and I was delighted to appear as Papagena in the two performances last weekend! These were in the White Rock Theatre, in Hastings.

Marina (right) as Papagena with Opera South East

My intention is to develop further my operatic training and to continue working on new and exciting opera productions.

Rehearsal photos courtesy of Mark Duncan.