Big Band Masterclass: Pete Churchill

On Thursday 27th November, Durham University Big Band welcomed Pete Churchill to the Music Department for an evening workshop (kindly supported by PwC). Pete is regarded as one of the finest jazz educators in the UK and is currently head of Jazz Composition at the Royal Academy of Music as well as being in high demand for large scale singing projects, especially with youth music organisations. It was, however, Pete’s expertise in the direction of Big Bands that DUBB were after. Pete has worked with the Kenny Wheeler Big Band on Kenny’s 80th birthday tour as well as on...

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Durham University Chamber Choir: Bach B Minor Mass

Durham University Chamber Choir were clearly not daunted by it in the slightest by the volume of this momentus work, and last night’s performance in the Great Hall of University College was notable for its accomplished solo and ensemble singing. The movements that particularly stood out for me in this performance were the broader, more expansive parts, where conductor Harry Castle gave the singers space to relish the richness of Bach’s choral writing – this came through best of all in the luscious suspensions of the Et expecto in the Credo where the choir piled up the tension before the wonderful release into the fast section that follows. The third section of the Kyrie was driven forwards by a thundering bass section, with long phrasing in all parts that filled the music with energy even at a relatively slow pace. The Gratias Agimus Tibi of the Gloria cooked with a slow, controlled simmering, which finally came to the boil when the same music returns at the very end of the Mass. The sopranos, clearly relishing the higher notes of modern pitch, added plenty of zing to the most brilliant parts of Bach’s exuberant lines and the basses glided through the notorious et iterum venturus est with impressive unanimity. It’s a mark of the quality of DUCC that eleven different singers took the solos, all of them excellently sung. I...

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DUCS, DUOS and DUCC: In The Light of Spring

On Saturday 7th March, Durham University Choral Society, Orchestral Society and Chamber Choir showcased the range and excellence of musical talent at Durham University with a concert entitled In The Light Of Spring. Nearly two hundred students were involved in this exciting collaboration between the three societies, with the performance of Lazarus Requiem by Durham alumnus and nationally recognised composer Patrick Hawes being the highlight of the evening. Supported by skilled soloists drawn from the alumni and student bodies, the concert also saw the societies perform Vivaldi’s Gloria. The Choral Society had been hard at work putting the finishing touches...

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Durham Opera Ensemble: The Marriage of Figaro

The Marriage of Figaro (1786) is arguably one of Mozart’s most universally acclaimed works – an opera buffa that fuses everything you want in a musical comedy: a suitable yet ridiculously conceived plot, an assortment of stereotypical characters, and a barrage of unfailing wit that will entertain the audience. I had high expectations for Durham Opera Ensemble’s (DOE) inaugural production in the Gala Theatre, and was not disappointed. Undoubtedly, this was one of the strongest and most talented principal casts I have seen in student theatre.  Harry Castle, Musical Director, displayed authoritative leadership in commanding a clearly talented orchestra that played extremely consistently for three hours. The orchestra and the singers and were largely together but a special mention deservedly goes to the oboes for some beautiful colour in their playing, and unquestionably to Will Ford for some superb harpsichord playing during the recitatives. Whilst an English libretto was used in favour of the traditional Italian, this helped create a more accessible and less elitist interpretation. When it came to the exposition of the principal cast, the male leads were suitably assertive. Figaro, played by Tom Rowarth, displayed a strong stage presence and delivered a consistent vibrato in managing all of Figaro’s baritone range with ease – particularly in his famous Act I Cavatina. Equally strong in character was the slick yet sleazy demeanour of Count Almaviva, played by...

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Durham University Orchestral Society: Concert

Fantastic dreams, restless dances, storms and disturbed sleep swirled together in Durham University Orchestral Society’s Epiphany term concert in a programme of vividly evocative music that used the entire rich palette available to the orchestral composer – plus a few extras.   Rossini’s overture Il Signor Bruschino provided a light introduction, a sparkly aperitif before the weightier, more interesting things that followed. The DUOS Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Oliver Zeffman bounced cheerily through it, and had plenty of fun with Rossini’s unorthodox percussion – violin bows tapped on the music stands.  One of Peter Maxwell Davies’s best known pieces is his An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise which ends gloriously with the arrival of a piper, but this isn’t the only piece he’s written for pipes. Kettletoft Inn, for Northumbrian pipes and a quintet of strings plus cor anglais was written in 2006 for Kathryn Tickell, and was being played for only the second time this evening but it deserves to be more widely heard, and hopefully the resurgence of interest in Northumbrian folk music that Tickell has started will mean that there will soon be more pipers around to play it. Soloist Alice Burn beautifully showcased the plaintive, lyrical qualities of the Northumbrian pipes, a much gentler instrument than its Scottish cousin. Kettletoft Inn swings between expansive evocations of the vast moorland skies and relaxed, impromptu dances. Maxwell Davies...

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Upcoming Events

Wed 12

Lunchtime Concert #10

12 December 1:15 pm - 2:00 pm
Durham
Wed 12

DUCB and DUBB: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

12 December 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm
Durham
United Kingdom
Thu 13

DUPO Chamber: Hats, Tangos and Shakespeare

13 December 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Durham
Fri 14

Choral Society: On Christmas Night

14 December 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Durham
Jan 28

Northern Lights & Full Score Gala Concert

28 January 2019 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm
Durham