Tag Archives: University of Kent

Kent-Calais Connections: exploring a musical entente cordiale

During last week’s heatwave, the Music department found itself walking the streets of Calais, exploring various cultural venues throughout the city as part of a planned collaborative partnership in the forthcoming academic year.

From its humble beginning as a fishermen’s village, recorded as early as the eighth century, Calais rose to become the Gateway to France. The cities of Calais and Canterbury are united by the former’s history as a trading-port with England, with Calais having been a part of the diocese of Canterbury following the seizure of the throne of France by Edward III in 1347. The damage suffered by Calais during the Second World War laid the way for major rebuilding projects, leading to the creation of several striking venues and a city endowed with exciting creative spaces. The shared history between Kent and Calais is something which the Music department and the Calais city council will be looking to explore and celebrate.

Following an approach earlier this year from the city council about a shared endeavour, we found ourselves boarding the Eurotunnel early on Wednesday morning, travelling to meet the representatives from Calais at the historic L’Église Notre-Dame de Calais, the first stop on our tour of the plethora of cultural venues threaded throughout the city.

After the city was retaken by the French from the English in 1558,  L’Église Notre-Dame became its most important church. A majestic altar-piece of marble and alabaster presides over a large church currently undergoing restoration, which began in 2009 and which are bringing the vanished magnificence to life once more. Once a year, the church is filled with over 4,000 candles for the Festival of Light, which attracts visitors from all over France.

Our next stop was La Halle, a flexible space on the Place d’Armes which can open its striking concertina-door, which occupies one entire side of the covered hall,  onto the plaza. The space hosts outdoor and indoor performances as well as festivals throughout the year.

Next on our cultural odyssey was the Museum of Lace and Fashion, housed inside an original lace factory from the nineteenth century, with vast echoing galleries and an auditorium.

The Forum Gambetta is a bright, modern venue that would be ideal for a bustling big band set; its jazz atmosphere has seen its stage graced by legendary French jazz violinist Didier Lockwood.

The next venue was, fittingly, L’Ecole Nationale de Musique de Calais, of which Lockwood is a former student commemorated in the Studio Didier Lockwood.

Our steps then led us to the Musee des Beaux-Arts, which houses artwork from the sixteenth century to the present day.

The tour came to a magnificent conclusion at the city’s town hall, built in 1885 but harking back to the sixteenth century. The gardens adorning the museum’s grounds include one of the fourteen bronze casts throughout the world of Rodin’s The Burghers of Calais from 1889, and commissioned to commemorate the six residents who were prepared to sacrifice themselves to save the city during the Hundred Years War.

The town hall itself includes beautiful rooms, a wonderful Grand Salon just crying out for a string orchestra to perform the music of Lully, imperious marbled corridors, and a belfry 75 metres high which affords panoramic views across the city; across the Channel, we could see the cliffs of Dover looking towards the bustling port.

With such rich history rubbing shoulders with modern venues, artistic exhibitions, festivals and all within walking distance of each other, Calais offers fertile ground for some exciting artistic collaborations – we’re looking forward to building and developing ideas in the new academic year.


Mille remerciements to Philippe and the team from Calais City Council for making us so welcome, and for sharing the city’s vibrant artistic possibilities with us – we are looking forward to taking the first steps in a musical entente cordiale celebrating both sides of La Manche!

Music and science come together: Between Worlds

Between Worlds is an exciting new inter-disciplinary project which brings together music, science, film, live media projection and performance in the form of a new piece for choir and ensemble by composer and performer, Anna Phoebe. Written for the University of Kent Chamber Choir and String Sinfonia, the piece is a direct, original musical response to spectacular visual imagery provided by research at the University’s School of Biosciences, and to the scientific environment in which is is conducted, drawing on hi-resolution spectroscopy, video evidence and even sampled sounds from the laboratory.

Anna Phoebe / AVA / Shot by Rob Blackham / www.blackhamimages.com

Composer and performer Anna Phoebe has toured extensively throughout the world, both as a solo artist and with bands including Roxy Music and Jethro Tull, from arenas across the USA to the Royal Albert Hall and Glastonbury, including supporting Bob Dylan at the Rock Legends Festival in Poland . Anna works with The Royal Ballet School as a composer and music advisor, and has worked on several music/dance projects with the students, as well as improvisation workshops

Bringing together a combination of disciplines, the mixture of live music, projections and performers forms a new, highly creative approach to engaging audiences with cutting-edge scientific research data; the project presents images and film generated by exploratory research at the sub-molecular level. Field recordings from the laboratories at the University are also incorporated into a mesmerising soundscape clothing the live musicians, forming an evocative sonic backdrop to stunning research imagery.

The research, led by Dr Chris Toseland, explores Gene Expression, and is used to combat diseases. Funded by Cancer Research UK, Chris’ research is the inspiration behind the 38-minute work for choir, solo violin, string ensemble, synthesiser and percussion. Chris received a BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry from the University of Wales – Aberystwyth in 2006 then commenced a PhD at the MRC National Institute for Medical Research – London. He received his PhD in 2010 from the University of London. His thesis focused upon the biochemical and biophysical characterisation of DNA helicases. At the end of his PhD, Chris was awarded an EMBO Long Term Fellowship to move to the Ludwig Maximilians Universität – Munich to work on single molecule studies with myosin motors. After 3 years he relocated to the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry with a research focus on genome organisation. Chris joined the School of Biosciences in 2015 as a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow. In the same year he was awarded a highly prestigious MRC Career Development Award to establish his research group.

The University Chamber Choir, directed by Deputy Director of Music, Dan Harding, has been working with Anna since January, and performed three a cappella choral movements from the piece as part of a recent concert the Choir gave in Wye, for which they were joined by Anna on solo violin.

The premiere of Between Worlds in its entirety, complete with live projections and electronic soundscapes, will be given on Friday 7th June 2019, in the spectacular surrounding of the University’s Colyer-Fergusson concert-hall, conducted by Dan Harding, as part of the Music department’s annual Summer Music Week festival.

For tickets and event details, click here.

Good musicians really do make good students!

Congratulations to everyone who graduated from the University in July, especially to the many musicians amongst the mortar-boards and gowns swirling around the Cathedral Precincts and celebrating their success. Included as part of the throng were the following:

Douglas Haycock, President of the Music Society 2017-18, Music Scholar reading Law
Lydia Cheng, Music Scholar reading Law
Benjamin Weiland, Music Performance Award holder reading Law
Alice Scott, Secretary of the Music Society, reading English and American Literature and Religious Studies
Imogen Willetts, Music Performance Award holder reading Classical and Archeological Studies and Drama

We wish them – and everyone else who graduated! – all the very best for the future.

Photos © Matt Wilson / University of Kent

Putting the ‘us’ in ‘music;’ local community and music-making at Kent

At the heart of the word ‘music’ lies the word ‘us.’ Whether it’s rehearsals or performances, music is a social activity; it involves people working together, rehearsing, delivering pieces and sharing their passion with listeners in live concerts.

Here at Kent, members of the local community are a crucial element in our music-making, both in terms of participating as well as being amongst the audiences. Members of the local area form part of the University Chorus, coming along to Colyer-Fergusson each week to rehearse in preparation for termly concerts; they play with the University Concert Band and the Symphony Orchestra, sitting alongside undergraduates, post-graduates and members of University staff. From the choral-risers to the orchestral chairs spread across the wooden floor, members of the public are very much a part of all the music-making that takes place throughout the year in Colyer-Fergusson Hall and Canterbury Cathedral.

Local community also forms the listenership at our concerts; the free series of Lunchtime Concerts that takes place across the year brings top-flight professional musicians to the campus for local audiences to enjoy. Our eclectic lunchtime series ranges from folk music from award-winning groups such as FARA to leading-edge musicians on the British jazz scene, players from the Philharmonia, and professional musicians based in Kent who work amongst London’s finest ensembles. And it’s not just our immediate neighbours and local residents who participate in music-making or come to concerts; people travel from Sandwich, Bridge, Faversham, Littlebourne and Folkestone, and can be found either on the choral-risers, in the string section, or amongst the audiences.

And it’s thanks to the local community that we are able to bring them to Kent. The Lunchtime Concert Series is in part supported by generous exit-donations made by audiences at the end of each concert, and we are hugely grateful for all the support that goes towards putting the concert series together each year, allowing us to bring first-class musicians to Canterbury. One of the essential elements behind the creation of the award-winning Colyer-Fergusson Building, when it opened its doors in December 2012, was the opportunities it afforded to enrich the lives not just of the University community, but for the local area too.

Music-making for the local community, and including the local community; whether you’re interested in joining in or simply listening, music at the University couldn’t happen without you. Find out more about all that’s going on in our seasonal brochure here, or take a look online: we look forward to seeing you in Colyer-Fergusson soon!

Chamber Choir perform live on Radio 4’s Today Programme

Congratulations and thank you to the members of the University Chamber Choir, who rose to the occasion (and rose early, too…) to sing live on this morning’s Today programme on BBC Radio 4.

Image: Dan Worth / University of Kent

The programme was broadcast directly from the Gulbenkian, and the programme closed with the Choir performing Star of the East, a carol written by composer Russell Hepplewhite. A lovely opportunity to present a recent carol to a wide listenership; thanks to all the singers.

Waiting to go on-stage…
The Chamber Choir with Today presenter, Justin Webb

Here’s the moment shared by BBC Radio 4:

and the University’s clip:

Tomfoolery play for Sibson launch

Yesterday afternoon saw the launch of the Sibson Building, the University’s newest addition to the Canterbury campus, and the joint new home shared by Kent Business School and the School of Maths and Actuarial Sciences. The musicians of General Harding’s Tomfoolery were in action for the second time in less than a week, entertaining the guests at the reception held before the unveiling of the plaque formally to open the new facility.

A great afternoon for everyone involved; the players particularly enjoyed themselves, channeling their inner Blues Brothers whilst playing some vintage jazz for the assembled guests. Tomfoolery will be back in action on Monday 5 June in Five O’Clock Stomp in Colyer-Fergusson Hall as part of Summer Music Week; admission is free, details here.

Legal harmony: musical law students perform for opening of new Wigoder Building

We often have Music Scholarship students who are reading Law here at the University; yesterday two of them serenaded honoured guests at the lunch in Darwin college before the opening of the Wigoder Law Building in the afternoon.

Second-year violinst Lydia Cheng and cellist Faith Chan performed for the benefit of invited guests prior to the launch of the new building.

wigoder_launch_web

The Right Hon Charles Wigoder at the launch of the new building. Image: Kent Law Campaign
The Right Hon Charles Wigoder at the launch of the new building. Image: Kent Law Campaign

The new building, the new home for Kent Law Clinic at the University, was opened by.Baroness Hale, and the Hon Charles Wigoder also spoke at yesterday’s official opening.

The opening of the Wigoder Building. Image: Kent Law School
The opening of the Wigoder Building. Image: Kent Law School

Congratulations to everyone involved in the project; the building promises to be a wonderful enhancement to the University facilities and to Kent Law School.

Celebrating the life of David Humphreys

It was with sadness we heard the news over Christmas that David Humphreys had passed away at the age of ninety-three, and yesterday we attended David’s memorial service in Barham, a chance to reflect on a remarkable life and career lived to the full.

David was a terrific supporter of music at the University of Kent, having come to the University to read History after retiring from a career as a lawyer; choral singing was very much a part of David’s life, and he sang with the University Chorus as well as other choirs around Kent and in London. As a benefactor, his generous support gave countless students in the Chamber Choir the opportunity to perform in the historic and sonorous surroudings of Canterbury Cathedral Crypt each year, in a memorial concert for David’s wife, Julia. Always a vibrant presence, he would regularly find himself enthusiaistically drawn in to the group photographs taken at the end of each concert, which gave him the opportunity to meet the choir, to talk with them, something that David, always a ‘people-person,’ did with clear relish and much enjoyment. In 2012, the Crypt concert was a special celebration of David’s ninetieth birthday.

ROB_4889a
David with the Chamber Choir in 2012 on the occasion of his ninetieth birthday

This year’s Crypt concert falls on the occasion of what would have been David’s ninety-fourth birthday, and this year’s choir, Minerva Voices, will, fittingly, be giving a performance of Vivaldi’s joyous and celebratory Gloria, in a concert which will be dedicated to both David and to Julia. A tremendous character, an enthusiastic supporter of the musical life of the University, and a great friend; he will be much missed.

ROB_4882a
David Humphreys (1922-2015)