It was marvellous to get back to music-making at the end of term, to bring musicians and audiences together for the annual musical farewell to the University’s academic year. Many thanks to the University photographer, Matt Wilson, for capturing the events throughout the course of the week.
We’ve reached the end of our first week of music-making – but a different way of making music in these different times. Since Monday, Chorus, Chamber Choir, Concert Band, Big Band and Orchestra have all be taking place online, and it’s been great to see people accessing the resources and taking part.
There’s a great sense that, wherever people are – in their rooms, in their homes around the local area – that we’re able to come together once more, in order to tackle repertoire, keep making music, and be working creatively.
Many thanks to the various tutors who have been leading these online rehearsals, filming their virtual rehearsals and still keeping everyone engaged, as we start to get the musical term underway.
Erasmus-student, cellist and singer, Laura Osswald, looks back on her time as part of extra-curricular music-making, and how she continues to be involved all the way from her home Germany during lockdown.
More than two months have passed since I have left the University of Kent. But the connection with the Music Department is still strong and will continue to be.
Looking back on my Erasmus semester in Canterbury, music and the amazing people I got to know through it were a huge part of what turned this time into a great, enriching experience. Music allowed me to develop friendships not just based on the common fate of going to the same lecture or living in the same flat, but based on the shared passion of making music, especially making music together with others.
Within the music department, I never felt like a stranger – instead, going into the Colyer-Fergusson building more and more felt like coming home.
Being part of the Symphony Orchestra, the Cecilian Choir and the String Sinfonia and several small groups, I was very involved in the Music Department from the start. In my blogpost from November, I could only look back on the first concerts, but many more have followed. Christmas time had started wonderfully with the Advent Breathing Space with the Cecilian Choir in the medieval St Michael’s Church in Hernhill. My first term then ended with the fantastic concert with the Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. 2020 continued to be full of various musical activities. For Alice in Wonderland, I got the chance of not only singing in a choir, but also dancing as a playing-card which I enjoyed very much!
With the amazing University Camerata, we had a nice family concert of Peter and the Wolf where I was leading the cello section – so exciting and a great experience! I also continued to make chamber music: I joined a string quartet that performed at the Law Ball and a piano trio. With the Symphony Orchestra and String Sinfonia, we worked hard on our repertoire for the concerts in the end of March and I loved our rehearsals – but unfortunately, Covid-19 came in the way. Particularly the cancellation of the Cathedral Concert was very sad for me as it would have offered the unique opportunity to play in the impressive Canterbury Cathedral – I even would have had a small solo in Duruflé’s Requiem. It would have been a great finale for my musical time in Kent.
But then, we found an alternative ending: a Facebook livestream concert with a piano quintet playing the beautiful music of Ólafur Arnalds. This was actually a dream of mine coming true, since I have loved his music for years and always wanted to play it myself – and now I could, together with four amazing musicians. I am very thankful that this happened, giving me a perfect ending to my Erasmus semester and bringing a bit of calm and peace into a troubled world.
When I think of all the music-making and concerts I have been part of, I am incredibly grateful that I had this opportunity and I am so happy I could experience all of this before the coronavirus started to change our lives so much. However, a positive side-effect is the emergence of the virtual music projects! Thanks to the great commitment of Dan Harding and the wonders of technology, I can continue playing with the people I love and miss. Of course, this is very different from making music together face-to-face and it can’t quite replace it, but nevertheless it is a beautiful opportunity to maintain my connection to Canterbury, the Music Department and joint music-making in general.
The music, the memories and the people will stay in my heart. Thank you for welcoming me in Canterbury with open arms, I hope I can come back one day.
Continuing the series profiling new Music Performance Scholars and Music Award Holders at the University of Kent. This week, second-year violinist reading Biomedical Science, Jennifer Pang.
When I was seven, my primary school offered all students a choice of 3 instruments; violin, flute, or guitar. I chose the violin by chance, not wanting to choose the guitar like everyone else. Coming from a non-musical family, it was a big surprise to my mum when I kept playing year after year and it became a huge part of my life.
At 7 years old, I took time out of my lunch to have 20 minute group lessons until the end of the year when everyone else had quit and I was getting ready to take my grade 1. The following year there was no one else at the same level in the school, and therefore they did not plan further violin lessons except for beginners. My mum contacted the school to emphasise that it was not a very positive message to a child who had shown commitment and was enjoying music so much. The school compromised, giving me regular 10-15 minute lessons until I left the school 3 years later, having achieved grade 3.
Moving up into secondary school I finally got private lessons, Mrs Rose taught me from 8 years old through to grade 8 at 17 years old. During this time, she had introduced me to the High Wycombe Music Centre (HWMC), where I created music with other young musicians for 10 years. At HWMC I took part in many ensembles, working my way up from the junior string groups to leading the Senior string group and Symphony Orchestra. Here, I found my love for music and ensemble playing; I got involved with as much music as I could, from touring Budapest and Reykjavik with the Buckinghamshire County Orchestra, playing with the English Schools Orchestra and performing wedding gigs with the Cedar String Quartet. I cannot express the gratitude I have for all the teachers and staff who have encouraged and shaped me as a musician and as a person.
When applying for universities I knew that I wanted music to continue to be a big part of my life alongside a Biomedical Science degree. I applied to the University of Kent because I saw that the music department creates music to a very high standard, has its own concert hall and music scholarships! Obtaining a Music Award has allowed me to continue developing as a musician and to produce so much incredible and diverse music. At Kent I am enjoying being part of the Symphony Orchestra and String Sinfonia; and also playing in chamber ensembles to gig at the Law Ball, perform in Calais and play Peter and The Wolf for a children’s concert.
My favourite performance so far, has been playing and broadcasting the atmospheric music of Olafur Arnalds for an empty concert hall in a time of social distancing.
Continuing the series profiling this year’s new Music Performance Scholars and Award Holders. This week, first-year trumpeter reading Italian, Jonny Easton,
I began playing when I was very young, as both my father and grandfather are brass players. I started trumpet lessons in Year 2 and was in the school band by Year 3. At that point there were about 18 of us in it (with an extraordinarily heavy trumpet section… the word cacophonous springs to mind…) By the time I left the school in Year 13, however, the junior school band that I was helping run had about 45 kids in it, and the senior one also had around 40 players.
My school had an excellent music department, and I was hugely lucky to get the opportunity to perform with Black Dyke Mills Brass Band, the Royal Marines Band, The London Mozart Players (for a remembrance concert in which I provided a solo accompaniment to a massed choir; an incredible experience), London City Big Band, and Jason Robello and his Trio.
Although I predominantly play the Trumpet, I was the Soprano Cornet in my school brass band for the entirety of my time in secondary school and sixth form, which I enjoyed tremendously as the Soprano part tended to be a little more interesting than the solo cornet’s.
I have been extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to go on tour with my school brass band several times, to Paris, Italy, Austria, Barcelona and Prague, all of which were awesome trips (especially as I had a good group of friends there too!)
From the age of 11, I have spent many an hour each Christmas carolling with Salvation Army musicians, often playing leading parts but also at times playing second or third melodies.
Since finishing school, I kept up my playing, albeit to a lesser extent, while working at a Prep School in my gap year. I was helping out in ensemble rehearsals, providing a little extra tuition for a few of the boys before their music exams, and also standing in (very suddenly and without much notice!) to accompany their end of year shows. Admittedly, a lot of this job consisted of chasing down boys who had forgotten to come and see me when we’d agreed on a break time – they were always, however, exceedingly apologetic.
Since starting at the university, I’ve been involving myself in a number of groups: Symphony Orchestra; the Big Band; General Harding’s Tomfoolery (a 1940’s style swing band); the Concert Band; and at times dropping into a brass ensemble. Concert preparation was underway by Week Two, and before Christmas the Orchestra, Big Band and Tomfoolery group each had a concert – it was demonstrated to me quite how nice it is to perform in a space like the new(ish) concert hall.
Coming up before then end of this term is an Orchestral concert in the Cathedral (we’re playing Saint-Saens’ Organ Symphony and Durufle’s Requiem – both massive pieces which will be awesome to play in such a venue), a joint Big Band-Concert Band concert in the Colyer-Ferguson hall, and a Tomfoolery lunchtime concert – with dancers! I will also be playing in a chamber orchestra children’s concert of Peter and the Wolf; which I rather hope they’ll be resurrecting David Bowie to narrate…
With Welcome Week about to burst into vibrant activity here at the University, make sure you come along to Colyer-Fergusson on Wednesday 18 September to find out about getting involved in extra-curricular music, whatever you are studying.
Between 11am and 3pm, members of the music staff and the various Music Societies will be on hand to enthuse about the many opportunities to get involved in music as part of student life at Kent. Visitors can look round the award-winning Colyer-Ferguson concert hall, practice rooms and band room, as well as learn about the differing ways in which to become a part of music: whether it’s singing with Chorus, Chamber Choir, Cecilian Choir or the upper-voice choir, Minerva Voices; instrumentalists can join the Symphony Orchestra, Concert Band or Big Band, and there are other music societies active during the year including the Musical Theatre Society.
Plans for the Wednesday event include live music on the foyer-stage throughout the day, and there’s the possibility of a Scratch Orchestra play-through of popular film scores, and even choruses from Messiah.
We look forward to welcoming you through the doors of Colyer-Fergusson during Welcome Week, and especially next Wednesday – come and find out how to make rehearsing and performing a part of your university experience, whatever course you may be studying!
Congratulations to everyone involved in Saturday’s annual Music for a Summer’s Day Gala concert, the crowning event as part of Summer Music Week.
The University Chorus, Orchestra and Chamber Choir each gave a final, valedictory appearance in seasonal, summery music, whilst the members of the Limoncellos filled the foyer before the concert with stirring film tunes and pop music arrangements.
Final-year sopranos Helen Sotillo and Fleur Sumption brought a packed hall to tears with a rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone on the final occasion of their singing with the Music department in what has proved to be a memorable year for both ladies.
The incoming President of the Music Society, second-year Owen Kerry, provided some scene-stealing moments as he deftly wielded name-cards (and at one point a mobile phone for a couple of selfies…) as part of An Illustrated Guide to the History of the Symphony.
And final-year flautist Robert Loveless was handed the baton to conduct the traditional encore which brought the concert to a rousing conclusion.
Following the concert, audience, performers and guests spilled out into the marquee for the annual cream tea, for which the sun shone and blue skies bloomed overhead.
What becomes apparent at the end of the Gala concert is what a wonderful sense of community has been built up during the academic year by everyone involved in extra-curricular music-making at the University. It’s a real tribute to how committed everyone is, and how involved they have become, to see so many of those graduating so moved by the occasion of their final appearance; parents, friends and family all coming along to support throughout the series of events often remark on how much being a part of music at Kent has meant to the students involved throughout their time. There’s a lovely feeling of camaraderie throughout the entire week, as the various ensembles gather for a final musical hurrah before the academic year ends.
Our thanks to everyone who has been a part of the Music department across the year; undergraduate and post-graduate students, staff, members of the community and all the alumni who have returned at various points either to participate or to be part of the audience. To all those who are leaving this year: thanks for all your contribution – hail and farewell!
Because it does. Doesn't it ? Blogging about extra-curricular musical life at the University of Kent.