The University String Sinfonia celebrate music for string orchestra on Day Three of Summer Music Week, directed by Flo Peycelon. The programme included final-year Economics student Jenny Pang in Massenet’s Meditation and second-year Architecture student, Kammy Pike, in Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending, as well as the premiere of a work by Canterbury-based composer, Matthew Brown.
After a lengthy absence, it was good to be back in the richly-resonant acoustic of Studio 3 Gallery, the University’s art gallery, for a performance by the String Sinfonia yesterday.
The #EarBoxseries of events bringing music and visual art together returned with a programme relating to Le piazze [In}visibili, an exhibition of photographs documenting empty Italian piazzi during the first lockdown in 2020, when normally vibrant social spaces became suddenly silent.
The ensemble’s opening piece, the Chacony by Purcell, took on a greater emotional significance as it rang out against the backdrop of the images, Purcell’s aching dissonances assuming more of an impact. Vivaldi’s Spring picked up on the Italian connection, and in a wonderful moment of serendipity, birdsong in the spring afternoon outside the gallery could be heard in between the movements. Music Scholars Jeni Pang, Alice Nixon and Kammy Pike each took a movement.
Matt Brown’s Solitude at Dusk had one or two ravishing chords, and the performance ended with the weighty Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis, whose main melody (When rising from the bed of death) somehow again took on different overtones in light of the photographic evidence of the impact of the pandemic which surrounded the audience.
Congratulations to the students, and to its director, Floriane Peycelon. #Earbox will return to Studio 3 Gallery again in the future…
Images of empty Italian piazzi find echo in music for string orchestra, including John Woolrich’s Ulysses Wakes, as the #EarBox series bringing music and images together returns to Studio 3 Gallery with the University String Sinfonia on Weds 23 March at 1.10pm.
Woolrich’s piece is a transcription of Ulysses’ first aria in Monteverdi’s opera Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, first performed in 1640. Washed up on the coast of Ithaca, Ulysses wakes on the shores and asks ‘Am I sleeping or awake? / And what country surrounds me?’ as he fails at first to recognise his home. In Woolrich’s reimagining, Ulysses’ questioning aria is sung not by a voice, but by the darker-hued tones of a solo viola, played here by Music Performance Scholar, Kira Hilton.
The programme will also include Purcell’s Chacony and Vaughan Williams’ reflective Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis. as well as Vivaldi’s vivacious ‘Spring’ from The Four Seasons.
The concert is set against the backdrop of the gallery’s current exhibition Le Piazze [In]visibili – Invisible Squares, which was created during the early days of lockdown in Italy in 2020, and reflects the desolate emptiness of town squares which traditionally throng with residents and tourists, but which suddenly became empty like so many social spaces around the entire world.
After so long without them, it’s genuinely exciting to be back with musical events as the Christmas season starts to unfold.
The Cecilian Choir, comprising students, staff and alumni launched the Advent season with a sequence of plainsong and carols at St Michael’s Church, Hernhill, a meditative candlelit event interspersed with periods of silent reflection; there was a wonderfully atmospheric moment during one such moment, when the church clock struck on the hour at eight o’clock.
This year’s Chamber Choir, Minerva Voices, returned to the Cathedral on Monday 6 December, for the first time since December 2019, to sing for the University Carol Service; always a special event in the university calendar, drawing its community together in a modified, COVID-safe manner that was nonetheless a very welcome opportunity to come together at this time of the year. Congratulations to final-year Psychology student and Music Award Holder, Felicity Bourdillon (above, fifth from the right), whose solo verse to open ‘Once in royal David’s city’ lifted clear into the Cathedral Nave at the start of the service.
And last night, members of the String Sinfonia were in action in a fearless concert showcasing the versatility of music for string orchestra, including Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro and some light-footed folksong arrangements by John Rutter.
We’ve still a week of events to go before the term ends; but it’s great to be back.
It’s been a terrific afternoon here in Colyer-Fergusson Hall; following the Lunchtime Concert from members of the Glyndebourne Touring Orchestra / Pit Perfect Scheme, the players have been sitting alongside the students in the University String Sinfonia workshopping two pieces for string orchestra this afternoon.
The hall has been filled with the sound of music (!) by Kalinnikov and Elgar, and the student players have been working alongside the professional players, working on technical aspects of instrumental playing, working as ensemble musicians, and sharing the experience of playing music together, all under the expert enthusiasm of Flo Peycelon.
Thanks to Chris Stones, Head of Tour Development, to Jonathan Tunnell, Touring Orchestra Manager, and the players for a marvellous afternoon of collaborative music-making – a terrific opportunity for University music students to learn from the very best.
We’re heading off down the hill this evening, taking the student string-players to see the professionals in action again in tonight’s production of The Rake’s Progress, as the Glyndebourne tour takes up residence at the Marlowe Theatre…
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.
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.
Because it does. Doesn't it ? Blogging about extra-curricular musical life at the University of Kent.