Tag Archives: Orchestra

Scholars’ Spotlight: Florence Nightingale Obote

Continuing the series profiling University Music Performance Scholars and Music Award Holders at the University of Kent. This week, third-year Biosciences student and violinist, Florence Nightingale Obote reflects on a less than auspicious start to her violin-playing career…


I have been playing the violin for 15 years. I started at the age of seven and have no memory of my first ever violin lesson or the first time I held a violin underneath my chin. My violin teacher, however, remembers it fondly and never ceases to tell me. She’d always say to me, “I remember you when you walked through the door. Your shirt and trousers were way too big for you because you were so tiny, and the moment you held your violin under your chin: you had the biggest smile on your face.”

Even though I do not remember this, I remember my very first violin concert very well. I was playing the French folk song with three other violinists. We practised ample times for the concert, and all seemed fine. But the day of the concert was a whole other issue. So, we walked onto the stage, and bowed at the applause. Then our violin teacher counted us in. As soon as I heard four, I knew I had to start playing, but I didn’t. Instead I was stood there frozen with my bow on the violin while the others were playing the right notes in all the right places. I looked to my parents on the second row who were trying their best to not laugh which started to make me giggle. Then I distinctively remember dropping my bow, and in the process of picking it up I almost whacked one of the other players. After picking up my bow, I tried to find my place, but at that moment, I forgot how to read music, so I just started playing random notes hoping no one would notice. And after the concert, my violin teacher said to my parents at the that I had potential. So, the violin and I did not get off to a great start.

I did improve as the years went passed. Year 7 was when my violin journey started to accelerate. In secondary school, MHCHS, I played in all the possible orchestras I could join. This consisted of chamber orchestra, symphony orchestra, Vivaldi strings, string group, and so on. In year 9, MHCHS did a project with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and I was given the opportunity to play the Vivaldi concerto for four violins accompanied by them. A year later, I got the opportunity again to play the Corelli Christmas concerto accompanied by them again. Both were conducted by Benjamin Pope.

Image credit: DJ8Photo

Whilst doing all these things in school, I also joined music groups externally. I was part of the Finchley Music strings for a couple of years where I joined Jazz strings as well. I wasn’t very fond of it because I was of being classically trained on the violin, but like my 7-year-old self I decided to persevere with playing Jazz on the violin (it did not last very long). Towards the end of year 9, I played in the Barbican Youth Orchestra where we got to play a several orchestral works, including the famous Romeo and Juliet overture by Tchaikovsky, and works by Glinka and Mozart.

Going back to year 7, I joined a chamber group until year 12. I got to play in trios, quartets, sextets, septets, and octets. We played a plethora of music, with my favourites being: Death and the Maiden by Schubert,  Mendelssohn’s Octet, and Dvorak’s American quartet. We also entered music competitions and participated in music festivals. Because of this period in my life, I will always love playing chamber music more than anything else.

During my year-in-industry, I went to Thailand where I joined the Thammasat University Symphony Orchestra (TUSO). I got to meet so many lovely people and had the opportunity to play gigs around Thailand and travel with them to Laos to play at Laos university. The orchestra was quite different to orchestras previously I’ve played in, in the UK. They played more music that appealed to students to get more recognition and they also arranged music from famous TV dramas and K-pop songs. It was very relaxed, and I had a great time playing with them.

Image credit: Jib Racharin

I’m coming up to the end of my final year studying Bioscience at the University of Kent, and the music opportunities in the university has been incredible. I’ve played in the Symphony orchestra, String Sinfonia, and have played chamber music with several people. After Kent, I hope my music journey will continue.

 

Image credit: Molly Hollman

I’d like to give a special thanks to my father who is the reason why I started playing the violin.

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…

In pictures: Colyer-Fergusson Cathedral Concert

Congratulations to everyone involved in last Saturday’s annual Colyer-Fergusson Cathedral Concert; to all the performers in the University Chorus and Symphony Orchestra, the stewards, those working behind the scenes, conductor Susan Wanless and soprano soloist, Rachel Nicholls.

The early shift: Alice, Fleur, Tom, technician Marc and Estates member, Mark.
Members of the Music Society Committee confer during the morning set-up at the Cathedral
The view from the top tier of the soprano section of the University Chorus
Drummer boy: alumnus Cory, back to play percussion
The violin section, led by third-year Music Scholar, Zaneta Balsevic

Chorus and Orchestra in full swing
Soprano soloist Rachel Nicholls rehearsing Poulenc’s ‘Gloria’
The view from behind the Orchestra as it rehearses Mendelssohn’s ‘Italian’ Symphony
The orchestra being very attentive…
The lower strings of the Orchestra
Conductor Susan Wanless rehearsing Butterworth’s ‘A Shropshire Lad’
The evening stewards: Alex, Kiyan, Euan, Eloise and Tom
Some familiar faces back to take part: Alice H, Charlotte, Ben, Ruth, Alice B, Cory and Alice Sh!
A soprano selfie: but only if your name is Alice…
Chorus members Carmen, Maddie, Helen, Nicholas, Fleur (President of the Music Society), and Joseph
Strings attached: Melody, Zaneta (leader), Corinna, Millie, Molly and Rosie
Leader of the Symphony Orchestra, third-year Music Scholar Zaneta Balsevic
Chorus of approval

Scholar’s Spotlight: Megan Daniel

Continuing the series profiling new Music Performance Scholars and Award Holders. This week, first-year Law student,  flautist and saxophonist, Megan Daniel.


When I was 8 years old, I found my Auntie’s old flute in the attic and I was determined to be able to make a sound out of it. So, I began lessons and immediately discovered my passion for music. Soon after, I started piano and alto saxophone lessons and, 10 years later, I can say I have achieved grade 8 distinctions in both flute and jazz saxophone.

Throughout my school years, I was an enthusiastic music student, finding myself to be involved in almost every ensemble possible, such as concert bands, big bands and choirs. I was a member of my local student wind ensemble for 9 years and my county-wide ensemble in Hampshire for 5 years, taking on the responsibilities of principle saxophonist in each. In these ensembles, I was able to tour around Europe, playing in Berlin, Prague and the Black Forest, as well as many others! These were amazing opportunities which allowed me to visit places I may not otherwise have been able to see.

When I was 15, my school big band were lucky enough to be invited to play at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland – we played two shows to an audience of around 600 people, and it was the best experience of my life! Consequently, we were invited back again for two consecutive years. The same year, our big band and wind band won the regional Music for Youth competition and made it through to perform in the finals, held at Birmingham Symphony Hall, one of the country’s most incredible concert halls.

As I got older and joined college, more opportunities arose for me. I began to learn the clarinet, which allowed to me perform in pit bands for various musicals, such as‘Anything Goes and Guys and Dolls. I soon realised my immense love for playing in pit bands for musicals, because the vibe is really exciting and the music itself is so much fun to play! It was here that I truly began to appreciate the community that playing music allows you to be a part of.

Last year, I was a founding member of a student led wind ensemble which was assembled by a close friend of mine. What began as just a wind ensemble grew into an orchestra, big band and string ensemble that still put on concerts today, including a jazz evening this Easter! We play a mixed range of repertoire, from Holst’s First Suite in Eb to Malcom Arnold’s Four Scottish Dances.

In my final year of college, I played alongside the Scots Guard at Buckingham Palace with Hampshire County Youth Wind Ensemble, performing the Lord of the Rings symphony. To play amongst such talented musicians was amazing! Also, in April 2018, the same ensemble was invited to perform at the Royal Albert Hall and participate in the ‘Hampshire at the Hall’ event that had been organised by Hampshire Music Service. Our group played A Jazz Funeral by Christopher Coleman, which features two complicated alto saxophone solos which I was lucky enough to play. This was a truly nerve-wracking but extraordinary experience which I will never forget.


As a law student at Kent, I continue to enjoy music as an extra-curricular activity and as a way to relax after lectures and seminars. I am part of the University’s Concert Band, Big Band, Chorus, Cecilian Choir and Symphony Orchestra and Flute Choir.

I have also met many amazing people through music at Kent and am extremely grateful to be a recipient of the Music Performance Scholarship.


Read about other Music Scholars and Award Holders in the dedicated column here.

Old and New and the Carol Service: University music in action

Two events in three days with which to catch up, Loyal Readers!

Last Saturday brought the University Chorus and Symphony Orchestra together in a programme combining music from the past with reimaginings from a modern perspective: Vivaldi’s dramatic iMagnificat, two of Handel’s bombastic Coronation Anthems, Walton’s recasting of Bach in The Wise Virgins, Matthew King’s orchestral vision of Mozart’s piece for mechanical organ, and Respighi’s light-footed Ancient Airs and Dances Suite no.2.

The University Chorus and Orchestra in rehearsal during the afternoon

Director of Music Susan Wanless wielded the baton in front of the assembled masses to a packed house, and it was lovely to welcome back some familiar faces and musical alumni to take part in the performance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last night, it was the turn of the University Chamber Choir to participate in the Carol Service, an evocative event at Canterbury Cathedral bringing together members from across the University community in a programme of lessons and carols to explore the season of Advent.

Second-year Music Scholar, Hannah Ost (pictured here in rehearsal), launched the service in energetic fashion conducting Gaudete.

Elsewhere, Your Loyal Correspondent directed the eighteen-piece choir in a lyrically colourful setting of Lullay My Liking by Will Inscoe, a sixth-form pupil at St Edmund’s School, and a deft Ding Dong! Merrily on High. Earlier on, second-year postgraduate Law student and Music Scholar, Helen Sotillo, ushered in the Christmas season with a clarion-clear solo verse of Once In Royal David’s City – as it lifted into the upper reaches of the Nave, the season unfurled above the heads of the assembled congregation, stood in  an expectant, candlelit hush.

Next up: tomorrow brings a Christmas lunchtime concert with the Flute Choir and Minerva Voices, and later the annual festive knees-up that is the Big Band’s Christmas Swingalong. Well, it IS the season…

New season, new brochure: a look ahead

We’re delighted to reveal the new season of our What’s On is now launched online!

Ferio Saxophone Quartet (Image: James Mccormick)

Our customary Lunchtime Concert series this term brings the Ferio Saxophone Quartet, an exploration of the music to Hitchcock’s classic Vertigo and seasonal music from the CantiaQuorum ensemble; the University Chorus and Orchestra explore the ‘Old and New’ in a programme of seventeenth century music and modern realisations and responses to it; the University Musical Theatre Society performs its termly showcase including songs from Chicago, Hamilton and Dream Girls, and the term concludes in festive style with the traditional Christmas Swing-Along featuring the University Big Band.

Hansel and Gretel (Image: Still Moving Media with permission from Cheltenham Festival)

Together with the Canterbury Festival, we also bring a dark realisation of the story of Hansel and Gretel in a blend of chamber music, puppetry and animation, with music written by composer Matthew Kaner to words by Simon Armitage; the Festival also brings percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie and Trio HLK in November. Elsewhere, Aurora Orchestra brings Mozart, Mendelssohn and Jorg Widmann, and there’s a chance to hear Sir Thomas Allen. With visits too from local societies and orchestras, the new autumn season will see Colyer-Fergusson Hall filled with music old and new as we head towards the festive season.

See all that’s to come online here, or download the brochure (PDF) here; we look forward to welcoming you to Colyer-Fergusson over the coming months.

Heroic endeavours in annual Cathedral concert

Congratulations to all the performers involved in Saturday night’s annual Colyer-Fergusson Concert, which saw the Nave of Canterbury Cathedral resounding to the heroic strains of Beethoven, Haydn and the premiere of a new work by Matthew King.

The Chorus and Orchestra came together under the baton of Susan Wanless in Haydn’s dramatic ‘Nelson Mass,’ joined by several alumni, and the Orchestra (led by final-year Law student and Music Scholar, Lydia Cheng), delivered Beethoven’s mighty Eroica symphony with aplomb.

Composer Matthew King and family were present for the first performance of Matthew’s A Hero Passes, an orchestral tribute to his late father, James King OBE, with which the concert opened. Matthew attended rehearsals the night before and on the morning at the Cathedral.

Conductor Susan Wanless and composer Matthew King confer in rehearsal. Photo: Molly Hollman
Matthew King attending the rehearsal of his new commission. Photo: Molly Hollman
Composer Matthew King at the dress rehearsal for ‘A Hero Passes’ with conductor Susan Wanless. Photo: Molly Hollman
Chorus and Orchestra rehearsing Haydn in Canterbury Cathedral
Photo: Molly Hollman
The orchestra reheasing Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’
Composer Matthew King acknowledges the orchestra at the first performance of ‘A Hero Passes’
Music Scholar and final-year Law Student, Lydia Cheng, prepares to lead the orchestral concert for her final time
(Most of!) the violins of the orchestra after the performance
Matthew King and family attending the premiere of ‘A Hero Passes’ in Canterbury Cathedral

Thanks to all the behind-the-scenes crew as well, on what is a particularly long day; here’s Your Loyal Correspondent and the Music Administrator clearly early on the day…There are still plenty of events to come over the next few weeks: see what’s next here.

Marvellous acts of quiet heroism: new orchestral commission to be unveiled this Saturday

The University Symphony Orchestra is industriously rehearsing ahead of this Saturday’s annual Colyer-Fergusson concert in Canterbury Cathedral, and this year unveils a commission by the University Music department from Kent-based composer and Professor of Composition at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Matthew King.

The orchestra in rehearsal with conductor, Susan Wanless

Matthew’s piece will share the Nave with two musical titans; Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony and Haydn’s ‘Nelson Mass;’ I caught up with Matthew ahead of this Saturday’s premiere to ask him about the work and the concepts behind it.


How does your piece relate to (or take on!) the two titans on the programme: Beethoven and Haydn?

I didn’t really want to ‘take them on’. Obviously Beethoven’s Eroica is this massive event at the dawn of Romanticism (a bit like Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring at the start of Modernism) and Haydn’s Nelson Mass is one of a set of pieces which he wrote at the end of his life – it’s only called ‘Nelson Mass’ because Horatio Nelson happened to attend an early performance – but I believe Haydn’s original title was ‘Mass for Troubled Times’ which I have to admit still seems a very relevant title! In any case, both of the ‘titan’ works you mention have an essentially public quality, whereas my piece is very different… and much more intimate in character. Two things connect my piece to Beethoven though: one is the ‘heroic’ key of E flat major (also the key of ‘Nimrod’ in Elgar’s Enigma Variations) and the other is the prominent use of three french horns.

Yours is a highly personal response to the commission request: did this make it easier or harder to write ?

James King OBE

Well easier, in the sense that it was really the only way that I could respond to the idea of ‘heroism’ at the time. But it was written as a tribute to my Dad, who died in March 2017, and that made the process of composing it quite raw emotionally. When you are a small child you tend to view your parents in a heroic way, and in fact Dad had some of the right attributes: he was very tall and good-looking and also very kind. As you get older you realise your parents are human beings with their own foibles, but in Dad’s case his essential kindness always shone through. He ran a special school and, when he died, there were many lovely tributes written about him by young people he’d helped over the years. I guess I wanted my piece to be a kind of pre-verbal tribute, at some kind of deep emotional level. I don’t mean it’s a great emotional splurge – simply that it tries to get to grips with mourning and loss and reflection in quite a measured way.

‘Hero’ can be a very tricky term: how did you deal with it ? I’m thinking it can easily date, or the sense that one man’s hero is often another’s villain…

Yes. I suppose the old idea of heroism as associated with political power, or military strength or whatever, is rather problematic nowadays. I guess there’s a vestige of that old notion of ‘hero’ in the way we view someone like Winston Churchill, or public figures like Martin Luther King or Emmeline Pankhurst: people who prevailed against evil and injustice on a huge scale. I’m also interested in ‘quiet heroism’ – the many unnoticed acts of kindness and generosity that go on all the time. Even in the recent snowy weather there were all sorts of reports of really marvellous acts of quiet heroism from people who certainly didn’t stop to think whether they were being heroic or not. In fact perhaps one definition of heroism might be ‘selfless acts of generosity undertaken by people who have no idea that what they are being is heroic!’

Matthew King

Did the fact that it’s being performed in the Cathedral have any influence or effect on the piece ?

Yes, actually it did. I’ve written for that space a few times. Back in the 1990s I wrote a very big community opera called Jonah which was staged in the Nave, and I learned quite a lot of things from that experience! It’s an awe inspiring building of course, and it has a really huge acoustic which can be difficult to handle, especially in music that has rapid harmonic change. I keep the harmonic pace of my music quite slow, and I tried to create orchestral effects that would blend well with the resonance of the building. I also make use of the space by locating the principal trumpet player up in the organ loft so that his solos come down from on high!

Who are your musical heroes ?

Well they tend to be whoever I’m listening to at the time so it changes from week to week really: recently I’ve been watching some of the great Hitchcock movies with my family and finding renewed admiration for Bernard Herrmann, I’ve been reading all of Jane Austen’s novels and have really been blown away by her marvellous talent. I’ve been listening to Duke Ellington’s Far East Suite and loving it’s raw energy. My daughters like Beyoncé’s Lemonade and I think it’s exciting when (and this is quite rare) musical talent and commercial success are completely compatible!

A friend introduced me last week to the controversial American cultural commentator, Camille Paglia, and I thought she was interesting. I’ve been playing some extraordinary meditative music by Federico Mompou, the Catalan composer on the piano.

Next month it will be a different list!


Matthew’s A Hero Passes will be given its premiere on Saturday 10 March in Canterbury Cathedral by the University Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Susan Wanless; details here.