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.
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.
This year, the Music department is delighted to welcome Erasmus student, Laura Osswald, here for two terms as part of her studies in the School of Psychology. Here, Laura reflects on what music means for her and getting involved in the musical life of the University.
Music has always been a very important part of my life. I have been playing the recorder and the cello for 15 and 13 years respectively. In various orchestras and ensembles from Baroque to contemporary music, some of them international, I have experienced how music does not know any borders.
Making music together with others has always been a great pleasure for me – creating something amazing with people who share your passion is just wonderful. I started studying Psychology in Würzburg, Germany in April 2018 and since then I belong to the Academic Orchestra and a choir. I am very happy about that, not only because of the great music we make, but also because I have met so many nice people from different backgrounds, studying different subjects. Therefore, when I applied for Erasmus at the University of Kent, I was very glad to read about the Music Department with all its various possibilities.
During Welcome Week, I first got in touch with members of the Music Society and they were very friendly and welcoming from the start! In the following weeks, I joined the Symphony Orchestra and the Cecilian Choir, the String Sinfonia and the Pops Orchestra – I didn’t quite expect to be this involved with music at Kent, but I am more than happy about it and enjoy playing in these groups very much! In addition to the regular ensembles, there are some smaller formations for various occasions. Together with Jeni, a violist, I played a duet in the second Open Mic Night of the Music Society. Two weeks ago, I played in a concert in Calais with the University Camerata which was a great experience and I feel very honoured that I was selected for this ensemble.
The second concert in Kent for me was the Nostalgia Night with the Cecilian Choir.
I am very excited for our next performance, the meditative Advent Breathing Space with Christmas carols and antiphons in a candlelit medieval church this Friday.
Even though you cannot study music on the University’s Canterbury campus, the Music Department offers an amazing variety of opportunities for students who want to get involved. It feels like all the different musicians and ensembles are part of one big family. I am very grateful to be part of that family.
Corinna Jung came to the University in September from Germany to study International Criminal Justice as a postgraduate. Here, she reflects on her musical time at Kent and the importance of music to her life alongside her legal studies.
When I was considering universities to apply for my postgraduate studies, not only was I trying to find one, which mirrors my academic interests best, but also it has been equally important for me to choose a place, where I can make music and play the violin in an orchestra again.
During the six years of my undergraduate degree in Germany, I was a member of the University Symphony Orchestra, and as I look back, many of my best memories of my study time in Germany have a musical background: I enjoyed making music with people, who share the same passion for music as I do and I met wonderful colleagues who have become my best friends over the years. In addition to that, I am sure I wouldn´t have managed to deal with all my exams and assignments without that kind of support and balance. Therefore, I was more than happy to realise that the University of Kent not only has a fantastic law school, but also a strong music department with plenty of opportunities for students to get involved in. Regardless of
whether you play the violin, the trumpet or sing – there are so many different student ensembles to join!
After last week’s wonderful Summer Music Week, I reflect upon
my time at Kent and can say: what an incredible year full of music it has been! When I joined the first rehearsal of the Symphony Orchestra in September, I was excited to see how they would rehearse and what kind of pieces would be played. The concert in December has been my first one with this orchestra and I enjoyed performing in the wonderful Colyer-Fergusson hall as well as playing a wide range of pieces, both with and without chorus.
After the concert, the director of the String Sinfonia, Floriane Peycelon, asked me if I would like to join the Sinfonia from the next term on and all I can say is it turned out to be one of the greatest musical opportunities I have had so far! As a string ensemble, we have been involved in many different concerts over the year, including lunchtime concerts, the Dido and Aeneas performance in February in which we performed Purcell’s opera with the University Cecilian Choir, the premiere of Between Worlds with the amazingly talented violinist Anna Phoebe last week and – last but not least! – our ‘own’ Sinfonia concerts in which we played wonderful – and quite challenging – compositions for strings, such as Tchaikovsky’s Serenade and Britten’s Simple Symphony.
One of the highlights of the academic year for me has definitely been the concert in Canterbury Cathedral in March and performing in this unique location was a special experience for me. Beyond that, the Summer Music Week, comprising of a series of concerts with different themes, from an easy-going summery concert with McMozart and ‘Dance of the Comedians’ to a more serious and formal Between Worlds concert. And finally, the Gala concert, featuring Symphony Orchestra and University of Kent Chorus and Chamber Choir. It was a fantastic way to end my musical year at Kent.
I would like to say a huge thank you to Susan Wanless, Daniel Harding and Flo Peycelon – you’ve always made me feel very welcome and appreciated as part of the ‘team’ and you put tremendous effort and energy in creating all these opportunities
for students who want to make music to a high standard and who want to find an important balance alongside their studies. The same applies to my Sinfonia colleagues; you have been so lovely and open-minded!
Therefore I encourage every (overseas) student to get involved in the musical life at Kent, no matter how awkward it will be at the beginning to leave one´s own comfort zone. And even if it might just be for a year, make the most of your time here and do what you enjoy. I have had a wonderful year with the music department, and I am sure that whenever I will look back at my time in Canterbury, these happy memories will be a huge part of it.
Congratulations to all the performers involved in the mesmerising first performance of Between Worlds by composer / violinist Anna Phoebe, which took an entranced audience on a meditative odyssey on the penultimate day of Summer Music Week.
Drawing on research media from the School of Biosciences, Anna’s piece explores the intangible boundary between science and art in a collaborative piece for choir, strings, percussion, soloists and film-projections by artist Skyla Bridges. Conducted by Deputy Director of Music, Dan Harding, the University Chamber Choir and String Sinfonia, together with Anna herself on violin, pianist Jacob Downs, second-year postrgraduate Leon on percussion, and oboist Dan Lloyd (also Deputy Head of the School of Biosciences) unfurled Anna’s evocative piece against a tapestry of ambient electronic soundtracks and beneath Skyla Bridges’ wonderfully beautiful projections taken from research imagery by Dr Chris Toseland.
The first half of the concert saw a conducter-less (for the most part) String Sinfonia in music by Britten, Reger, Purcell and Arvo Pärt’s lachrymaic Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten, for which the strings were joined by conductor, Susan Wanless. Pärt’s haunting tribute to Britten closed the first half an set the atmosphere for the second.
Afterwards, performers, audience and guests mingled for a post-concert reception to celebrate the fruition of a project that has been in rehearsal since January. Read the programme from the event yourself here.
With the new term beginning earlier this week, rehearsals for Summer Music Week have begun in earnest, and the String Sinfonia and Chamber Choir have been once again getting to grips with Between Worlds, an exciting multi-media odyssey which comes to Colyer-Fergusson as the penultimate event in our week-long music festival.
Both choir and strings have been busy rehearsing Anna Phoebe’s new piece; earlier this week, Anna came in especially to work with the String Sinfonia,
The exciting aspect of new music is watching it slowly evolve, and there was time on Wednesday for Anna and percussionist Leon to develop ideas for the timpani part, which plays a crucial textural role at key moments in the piece.
The full performance beams in to Colyer-Fergusson on Friday 7 June at 7.30pm; find out more here…
Because it does. Doesn't it ? Blogging about extra-curricular musical life at the University of Kent.