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A year in the life: Music at Kent 2011-2012

A year in the life: Music at the University of Kent 2011-12 This has been a particularly exhilarating year for Music at the University; not only have we had a busy and vibrant musical calendar, but the construction of the new ColyerFergusson Music Building has been developing in exciting fashion. The year’s musical commitments began as Freshers’ Week was drawing to a close, with a small group of singers performing for Shepherd Neame at their annual Hop Blessing Ceremony at a church in Selling. The service is one of thanksgiving for the year’s hop harvest, and was followed by a traditional hop-picker’s lunch, at which the group also sang to entertain a delighted gathering. Scholars’ Festival Lunchtime Concert The annual lunchtime recital as part of the Canterbury Festival saw several Music Scholars performing to a packed Festival Club. There was a rare opportunity to hear not one, but two tubas, with third-year Architecture student Chris Gray, accompanied by his teacher, Steve Wassall; soprano and second-year Drama student Paris Noble swept on-stage to portray three different damsels in distress: in a variety of arias; second-year Historian, Kathryn Redgers, principal flautist with the Symphony Orchestra and section leader in Concert Band, then gave a dazzling reading of Chaminade’s Concertino, in an accomplished performance, showing great skill in matching the challenge of the piece’s virtuosic demands, including a finely-crafted cadenza. Final-year English Literature student Sarah Davies, also in Orchestra and Concert Band and Treasurer of the Music Society this year, gave a suitably poised performance of the second movement of Saint-Saëns’ neo-Classical ‘Sonata for Clarinet and Piano,’ followed by Gershwin’s jazzy Walkin’ the Dog, which had a swaggering, sassy swing. To end the concert, Paris was joined by soprano Marina Ivanova, in her second year and reading Economics, for two operatic duets, the lyrical ‘Flower Duet’ from Delibes’ Lakmé and the lulling barcarolle, ‘Belle Nuit’ from the Tales of Hoffmann by Offenbach. As always, our thanks to all the benefactors who support the Music Scholarship Schemes, and make opportunities like this possible. Lunchtime Concert Series This year, we celebrated a decade of musical partnership with Furley Page Solicitors, who have generously sponsored the Lunchtime Concert series for ten years; Senior Partner Peter Hawkes came to the opening concert, and was welcomed by some of this year’s musical students. As ever, our thanks to Furley Page for

their continued support of the Lunchtime Concert series, and for enabling us to bring an exciting and diverse range of performers to Canterbury. The concert series opened with trombone quartet, Bones Apart; acclaimed pianist Benjamin Frith brought Mussorgsky’s epic Pictures at an Exhibition in its original version for solo piano in November; the University Camerata with soprano soloist and Scholar, Paris Noble, and alumnus, baritone Piran Legg, gave a ‘Cold Concert,’ with the Cecilian Choir with the ‘Frost Scene’ from Purcell’s King Arthur and ‘Winter’ from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, with soloist Jeremy Ovenden. January saw the youthful St James Quintet in a lively programme of music for wind instruments, and the series came to an exotic conclusion in March with a visit from the Silk and Bamboo Ensemble treating the audience to a blend of traditional and modern Chinese music. Chorus and Symphony Orchestra The University Chorus and Symphony Orchestra joined forces for a rousing December concert, including Parry’s I Was Glad and a rare performance of Finzi’s For St Cecilia, and Mussorgksy’s Pictures at an Exhibition, this time in Ravel’s masterly orchestration. Haydn’s Creation filled the Nave of the Cathedral in the annual Colyer-Fergusson Concert in March, to which we welcomed back alumnus Andrew Macnair as soloist. The performance captured the drama of the storytelling, from the graphic opening of an ‘Earth without form and void’ to the creation of creeping worms, great whales and the host of other creatures which appear throughout the work. Chamber Choir and Cecilian Choir The Chamber Choir began its performing commitments this year with an Advent concert at St Damian and St Cosmus Church, Blean, followed swiftly by its participation in the University Carol Service. The annual concert in the Cathedral Crypt, this year entitled From Morn to Midnight, saw the Choir evoking the changing moods and colours of a single day in a programme ranging from Barnum’s evocative Dawn to Whitacre’s mesmerising Sleep. Second-year Drama student Steph Richardson made her conducting debut during the concert, as did Scholarship pianist and second-year student, Susan Li, in two pieces for solo piano We are, as always, grateful to David Humphreys, who generously sponsors the Crypt Concert, and enables the Choir to sing in such a wonderful venue.

Concert Band and Big Band The Concert and Big Bands returned to the Gulbenkian Theatre for their annual, riotous spring concert, conducted by Ian Swatman and featuring Ruby Mutlow on guest vocals. Entitled ‘Nice ‘n Easy, a lively and diverse programme ranged from music from Gladiator to classic swing tunes. They also teamed up with the St Edmund’s School Big Band for Big Band3 at the end of March, in an evening of music-making in aid of the Jacob Barnes Scholarship Trust. In what has now become an annual charity event, the evening raised £4,000. Brodsky Quartet The Brodsky Quartet travelled from Vienna to America in its visit to the Gulbenkian Theatre, with music by Wolf, Gershwin, Korngold and Beethoven; an eclectic programme saw a sunny rendition of Wolf’s Italian Serenade, Gershwin’s youthful Lullaby, and a chance to hear Korngold’s deft and lyrical Second String Quartet; the second half presented Beethoven’s great String Quartet no 15 in A minor, op.132. Blowing in the wind: the Sirocco Ensemble Making its debut concert in April at St Peter’s Methodist Church in a shared programme with the Chamber Choir was the latest addition to the University’s ensembles, the Sirocco Ensemble. Comprising talented wind players from amongst the staff and students, the group gave a tremendously accomplished performance of Gounod’s Petite Symphonie. Summer Music In June, Summer Music returned with five days of events reflecting different aspects of music-making at Kent, celebrating the conclusion of another successful musical year. The week opened with a Music Scholars’ Lunchtime Recital; flautist Kathryn Redgers played Bach, harpist Emma Murton in some jazz, marimba-player Carina Evans in some shimmering percussion textures, and soprano Marina Ivanova with some scintillating top-notes in Vivaldi’s Nulla in mundo pax sincera, accompanied by the University Camerata. Later in the evening, the University Big Band under Ian Swatman teamed up special guests the Simon Bates Quartet for a riotous concert, together with superb singing from Music Scholar and Big Band vocalist, Ruby Mutlow. Traditionally, there’s a moment when Ian invites all those performing for the last time to take a bow: only two players rose to their feet, leading to the suggestion

that, with the influx of new players again next year, it might have to be re-christened the University Very Big Band! The Cecilian Choir, formed from both staff and students of the University, combined with the Chamber Choir in a fund-raising concert for the roof of St Mildred’s Church in Canterbury. String players from the University Orchestra welcomed the audience with some pre-concert quartet music, while the irrepressible tenor section of the Chamber Choir burst into spontaneous barbershop singing during the post-concert refreshments. The Music Theatre Society topped a highly successful year on Saturday with There’s No Business Like Show Business! in the Gulbenkian Theatre, a showcase bursting with music from West End shows, Broadway musicals and popular music theatre favourites. The combined forces of the Concert Band, Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Choir and the University Chorus brought the week to a close in Sunday’s Music Society Summer Concert. This was our last ever concert in Eliot Hall - the Concert Band paid a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the fact with a rendition of The Great Escape, whilst the Orchestra paid its own tribute with the last section of Haydn’s ‘Farewell’ Symphony, with members of the orchestra gradually filing out, leaving only two violins to bring the piece, and the afternoon’s concert, to a close. As well as all the core events which take place each year, Music contributed to the life of both the University and the local community in some additional ways this year. Into the Woods: Music Theatre Society The Music Theatre Society visited Whitstable for their annual production, which this year saw an accomplished performance of Sondheim’s Into the Woods that never put a foot wrong. A strong cast and crew combined to give a professional production that at times transcended the auditorium and swept the audience beyond the theatre into the dark moral territory of Sondheim’s show. Singing for Children in Need and Carols Round the Tree Members of the University community and visitors teamed up yet again with the famous Yellow Bear for a rousing rendition of the ‘Hallelujah’ Chorus from Handel’s Messiah, complete with instrumental players. The event was generously hosted by the Gulbenkian Theatre, and was featured in BBC Kent’s televised round-up of events later that night.

The University Brass Ensemble provided some suitably festive cheer in December as the term ended with the customary ‘Carols Round The Tree,’ together with the Chamber Choir and Sing!, complete with mulled wine and roast chestnuts from Kent Hospitality. All Change: the Music Society Committee The newly-elected members of the Music Society Committee were ushered in at the end of the Spring term, with a trio of new executives in Kathryn Redgers (President), Hannah Lilley (Secretary) and Aisha Bové (Treasurer). Our thanks to the previous team of Chris Gray, Nicola Ingram and Sarah Davies for their commitment this year.

Prize-winning musical students At a ceremony in June, five outstanding students were awarded prizes, in recognition of their significant contributions to the year’s musical calendar at the University of Kent. This year’s Canterbury Festival Music Prize, awarded to a final-year student who has made an outstanding contribution to music at the University, was given to Chris Gray (Architecture); President of the Music Society this year, Chris has also played tuba with the University Orchestra, Concert Band and Brass Ensemble, and has also previously sung with the Chamber Choir and Chorus. The Colyer-Fergusson Music Prize is given to a student who has made a major contribution to organising music at the University; the recipient this year was Masters student Adam Abo Henriksen, in particular for his role as musical director of the Musical Theatre Society’s production of Into the Woods. The University Music Prize, for a student who has a made a major contribution to music during the year year, was presented to second-year Economics student, Marina Ivanova; Marina is a member of the Chorus, Chamber Choir and Cecilian Choir, and along with her other performances this year she also stood in for the soprano soloist in rehearsals for Haydn’s Creation with the University Orchestra in the spring. The Awards Committee made two additional awards; the first, in recognition of his musical development at Kent, to second-year trumpeter Ben Lodge, who has been principal trumpet with the Orchestra, and played with the Concert Band and Big Band and the Brass Ensemble, for his exemplary approach and commitment to music at the University, and for a memorable opening to Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition in the December orchestral concert. The second award, to a student who has made a significant impact on music-making in their first year, was awarded to saxophonist Tim Pickering (Forensic Chemistry); Tim has been quickly become a key member of the Big Band and Concert Band, and also participated in Jazz @ 5, as well as in Whitefriars with the ‘Big Brand New’ as part of the Sounds New Festival in Canterbury in May. Director of Music, Susan Wanless, said ‘’As ever, I am so impressed at the talent and commitment of these students who do all their music-making out of hours, alongside studying for their degrees. It is wonderful to see them develop during their time at Kent,

and all the skills and confidence they gain will equip them for the highly competitive job market when they leave. Thanks to the continued generosity of the Canterbury Festival and our other supporters, we can highlight their achievements and give them the recognition they so richly deserve.’’ The Colyer-Fergusson Building Excitement continues to grow as the new music building nears completion on the Canterbury campus. Senior University figures, guests, supporters, members of the architectural and construction firms, and friends gathered in March for the traditional ‘topping-out’ ceremony, a major landmark in the project, and to witness the symbolic turning of the final nut in the roof’s construction. To an heraldic fanfare from the University Brass Ensemble, the party looked on as Chairman of the Colyer-Fergusson Charitable Trust, Jonathan Monckton, wielded the spanner and officially closed the construction of the roof. A tour of the construction site also gave the assembled visitors the chance to see the shape of the emerging building, the concert-hall, foyer, and practice rooms. With the opening now only a few weeks away, the hoarding around the construction site has recently been removed, revealing the exterior for the first time. This £8m building has been funded entirely from donations: a bequest from Kent philanthropist Sir James Colyer-Fergusson and a further grant from the Charitable Trust that bears his name, together with matched funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England and donations from over 200 individuals.

Exterior of the new building (above) looking towards the entrance and social space; left, audience-seating is installed in the concert-hall.

A wonderful facility for the University and local community, the building promises to lend a unique and vibrant aspect to the student experience at Kent, and be an exciting space for staff, students, visitors and performers in the region. The Music Department would like to extend its thanks to everyone who has supported, and been a part of, another terrific year of music-making at the University of Kent. We look forward to welcoming you through the doors of our magnificent new building, for what promises to be a very exciting moment in the history of music at the University.

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A Year in the Life: Music at Kent 2011-12  

A review of a year in the musical life of the University of Kent in 2011-12.

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