The academic year has now come to a close, and last week’s Summer Music celebrations saw the year out in fine style.
Hot on the heels of the traditional battle-of-the-bands competition, Keynestock, the five days of events in Summer Music saw a host of musical activities, each one reflecting a different aspect of music-making at Kent and highlighting musicians from across the University community and beyond, each taking their moment to bid farewell to the end of another year.
The Music Scholars’ Lunchtime Recital on the first day saw flautist Kathryn Redgers playing Bach, harpist Emma Murton in some jazz, marimba-player Carina Evans in some shimmering percussion textures, and soprano Marina Ivanova in dazzling form with some scintillating top-notes and effervescent cascading semi-quavers in Vivaldi’s Nulla in mundo pax sincera, accompanied by the University Camerata.
Later in the evening, the University Big Band under Ian Swatman enthused the Gulbenkian audience in a vibrant programme, that also saw some robust playing from special guests the Simon Bates Quartet and superb singing from Music Scholar and Big Band vocalist, Ruby Mutlow. Traditionally, there’s a moment when Ian invites all those performing for the last time to take a bow: only two players rose to their feet, leading to the suggestion that, with the influx of new players again next year, it might have to be re-christened the University Very Big Band!
St Mildred’s Church in Canterbury city hosted the Chamber and Cecilian Choirs, who combined in a programme of works for solo and double choirs; the church was packed, and an enthusiastic audience treated to works by Schütz and Van Morrison from the massed combined ranks of singers; there was also Lauridsen, Victoria and Hassler from the Cecilian Choir in the first half, and Barnum, Brahms, Rachmaninov, Lassus and Billy Joel from the Chamber Choir in the second half. String players from the University Orchestra welcomed the audience with some pre-concert quartet music, while the irrepressible tenor section of the Chamber Choir burst into spontaneous barbershop singing during the post-concert refreshments.
Saturday saw the Music Theatre Society topping a highly successful year with There’s No Business Like Show Business! in the Gulbenkian Theatre, a showcase bursting with music from West End shows, Broadway musicals and popular music theatre favourites.
Sunday afternoon saw the culmination of the week and the musical year as a whole, in the annual Music Society Summer Concert, with valedictory performances from the Concert Band, Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Choir and the University Chorus. The Concert Band paid a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the fact that it was the last concert in Eliot Hall – next year, we move to our exciting new music building – with a rendition of The Great Escape, whilst the Orchestra paid its own tribute with the last section of Haydn’s Farewell Symphony, which sees members of the orchestra slowly leaving the stage, leaving only two violins remaining to bring the piece, and the afternoon’s concert, to a close.
The whole series of events across Summer Music really encapsulates what making music at the University is all about. Embracing students, staff, alumni, members of the local community, family and friends, all of whom combine to rehearse and perform on top of their course- or work commitments, the dynamic of music at Kent is all about the community experience. It’s a terrific opportunity for students to pursue their musical interests as an extra-curricular activity alongside their studies, and for staff to find opportunities to step away from the stresses of their professional duties and participate in creative projects throughout the year. Members of the local community also perform in Concert Band, Big Band, Chorus, Cecilian Choir and Orchestra, from all walks of life; from teachers and lawyers to doctors and dentists, all find a warm welcome and a musical outlet at the University.
The tears flowed on Sunday, as students who are graduating from the University this summer saw their last concert coming to a close. But there’s a healthy camaraderie fostered amongst the University’s musical community that often sees graduates returning as alumni, both to attend concerts and also to come back and perform.
With thanks to everyone who has participated in music at Kent throughout this academic year, and good luck and best wishes to all who are graduating. We look forward to catching up with you all again next year, when the Colyer-Fergusson centre for Music Performance will welcome the resumption of music-making in the autumn. Watch this space…
Members of the University Music Theatre Society, not content with resting on their laurels after a tremendously successful spring production of ‘Into the Woods’ at the Whitstable Playhouse, are back once again this term with two events, the first of which is next week, ‘The Last Five Years.’
Jason Robert Brown`s emotionally powerful and intimate musical is about two New Yorkers in their twenties who fall in and out of love over the course of five years. The narrative follows Jamie’s story chronologically from start to finish, while seeing Cathy’s in reverse order; the two characters meet only once during the course of the show – at their wedding.
Director Lucie Nash, who’s also starring as Cathy in the performance, is very excited at the prospect. “”It’s a must-see for lovers of contemporary music or theatre everywhere,’’ she enthuses, ‘’a beautifully written musical with an unusual dramatic twist.’’’ Anyone who saw the Society’s production of ‘Into the Woods’ (reviewed in a previous article here) will remember Lucie’s scene-stealing appearance as the Baker’s Wife in the highly accomplished production of Sondheim’s musical last term.
Alongside Lucie as Jamie is the excellent Richard Simpson, a former member of the University Chamber Choir last seen in tremendous form as the Baker in ‘Into the Woods’ last term, whilst the musical direction is once again in the assured hands of conductor Adam Abo Henriksen, who also oversaw the musical side of the Sondheim at the Whitstable Playhouse.
The performances are on Wednesday 30th May, Thursday 31st May and Friday 1st June, all at 8pm, in Darwin Lecture Theatre 3, Darwin College, University of Kent, Canterbury.
Tickets are a mere £5, with all profits in support of the Dogs Trust; find out more on their Facebook page here.
There will be a final flourish from the entire Music Theatre Society on Saturday 9 June, when it returns to the Gulbenkian Theatre for ‘There’s No Business Like Show-Business!‘ as part of the University’s Summer Music celebrations (details online here), under the direction of Lisa Crowhurst. Catch them if you can!
The curtain has sadly fallen for the last time on this year’s production by the Music Theatre Society, and their assured performance of Sondheim’s Into the Woods that never puts a foot wrong. A strong cast and crew combined to give a professional production that at times transcended the auditorium and swept the audience beyond the theatre into the dark moral territory of Sondheim’s show in overwhelming fashion.
As Cinderella, Cheryl Ahmet demonstrated a refined, clear tone, and sang ‘No-one Is Alone’ in particular with a touching simplicity that was deeply moving.
Tenor Richard Simpson as the Baker projected great stage presence, and showed he had a clear insight into the musicality of his arias; he sang with considerable nuance to phrasing, and there’s a fine voice there as well. His delivery of ‘No More’ was full of subtlety and emotion, and held the attention of a rapt audience. Jenni Stewart played Little Red Riding Hood’s impudent childishness to perfection, and her face-muscles must have been working overtime as she portrayed the full range of impish expressions of the ever-snacking child.
The two princes were in very jolly form – the line ‘I was raised to be charming, not sincere’ was greeted with an appreciative and spontaneous round of applause.
Star of the show, however, has to have been scene-stealing Lucie Nash who, as the Baker’s Wife, was in inspired form as she painted the full spectrum of her character’s emotional range; moving from heart-rending desire for a child to puckish swagger and sultry seductress with the Prince, her comic timing in particular was immaculate, and the on-stage rapport with Richard Simpson as the Baker had a genuine warmth. Moving around the stage with an ease that radiated confidence, her ‘Moments in the Woods’ aria was especially beautifully crafted, and sensitive to the nuances in the score.
The orchestra and singers were held together well by the efficient direction of conductor Adam Abo Henriksen.
All in all, this is a triumphant achievement for director and this year’s society President, Lisa Crowhurst. The overall integrity of her sure-footed directorial vision was alive to the sophistication of both Sondheim’s music and text, and its clarity allowed a natural ebb and flow to the narrative drama in a manner which allowed the nuances of the players and the changing emotional and moral relationships between the characters to stand clear.
By the time you read this, the run will have come to its end and the woods will have been cleared; but the entire company can look back on three days of terrific accomplishment in the seaside playhouse. A triumphant achivement for the cast, crew and Society: bravo.
With Freshers’ Week in full swing, the campus is a-swarm with life, and yesterday’s Freshers’ Fayre saw all the student societes attempting to seduce new (and former) students into the myriad temptations on offer by each society as part of the University’s rich and dynamic campus life.
The Music Society and Music Theatre Societies spent the day promoting their respective groups to the thronging masses passing either through the Eliot marquee or the Jarman Piazza gazebo.
The Music Society has a brand-new look this year, trending rich purple colourways [is this a fashion column ?] and a new society logo. Pictured left standing their ground amidst the throng on the front-line: Ben Walker (Band Librarian), Chris Gray (President), Matt Bamford (Chorus Rep), Hannah Lilley (Chorus Librarian), Kathryn Redgers (Orchestra Libraria), Nicola Ingram (Secretary), Rachel Richardson (Chorus Librarian) and Adam Murgatroyd (Band Rep) loyally wearing the sandwich-board.
Well done to all of them, staunchly manning (and woman-ing!) the society stand throughout the day; thanks also to those who also helped but didn’t make it into the photograph!
See you all at the Music Social in Eliot Hall on Monday evening for some refreshments, the chance to network like-minded musicians and some live musical entertainment.
As a finale to the events at ArtsFest than run from today until Sunday, the Music Theatre Society present their end of year production, ‘Anything Goes’ at the Gulbenkian Theatre this Sunday at 7.45pm.
An action-packed musical spectacular will feature songs from the Society’s shows past and present, and a brand-new selection of shows from Broadway and the West End.
Popular favourites will includes songs from Les Miserables, Miss Saigon and others.
This talented bumch of singers, dancers, actors, musicians, designers,. directors et al are still reeling from the success of their run of ‘Carousel’ at the Whitstable Playhouse earlier this year, and look set to storm back to the Gulbenkian with a suitable lively finale to their hugely successful year.
Tickets are flying fast from the Gulbenkian booking office: get yours before Anything else has Gone!
Because it does. Doesn't it ? Blogging about extra-curricular musical life at the University of Kent.