International Women’s Day Concert

  Tuesday 8th March was International Women’s Day, a worldwide event dating back to 1909 which celebrates the economic, political, and social achievements of women. The position of women in music is no less underrepresented and deserving of recognition, and consequently Music Durham decided to honour the occasion with a concert dedicated entirely to female composers. A wide range of repertoire, ranging from the 1600s right up to the present day, was on display, which demonstrated the contributions female composers have made to music throughout history. Furthermore, the pieces had been directed and rehearsed entirely by female conductors from the student body of the Music Department. The programme began with a welcome talk from the Dean of Culture and Diversity, Prof. Catherine Alexander, before a string quartet led by third-year Music student Rebecca Howell performed the first two movements from Fanny Mendelssohn’s only string quartet (in  E♭ major). Fanny was the sister of the more famous Felix Mendelssohn, and occasionally used his name to get her works published. Like her brother she had a prodigious mind, composing over 460 pieces of music, and excelled as a pianist from an early age. This sumptuous performance was followed by a vocal duet (third-year sopranos Rachel Newell and Gwen MacNaughton) accompanied by departmental member of staff Dr Hector Sequera on theorbo. They performed Begli Occhi by seventeenth-century Italian composer Barbara Strozzi, who...

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DUOS, American Concert

With the Gala Theatre making a comeback this year regarding student productions, after a string of musical theatre, a cappella and opera performances, DUOS made the shrewd choice of joining in with what turned out to be an excellently crafted concert. Welcomed into the building by many of the organisers, one could not hope to miss the electric, sunset orange programmes, with the artwork expertly designed by Sofia Greaves. As the first thirteen performers settled into their seats and began tuning, there was time to take in the visual perks of the stage, including the vibrant red chairs, the excellent cut of the conductor’s jacket, the sumptuous velvet dress of the First Violin Clemmie Metcalfe and the single golden clarinet Peter De Souza. Of course, from an organisational point of view, beginning the concert with the smallest ensemble and working up makes sense, and in this case was improved by the calm, but delightfully controlled entry into Appalachian Spring. The piece is understood perfectly as a description of the American plains, which only added to the welcoming environment of the concert. It was clear that the ensemble barely noticed the 300 strong audience, staring intently at their conductor, Joe Schultz, who occasionally stared back and shook his head as if breathing in the crisp prairie air. There was the occasional shaky sustained note from the bassoon and some oddly...

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Concert Band, A Springtime Prom

Durham University Concert Band’s (DUCB) Town Hall debut was a particularly patriotic performance. Living up to the highly professional poster and programme created by Shauni McGregor, the concert delivered a variety of musical styles. Simultaneously diverse in genre but linked in heritage, the Britishness of the selected pieces shone through, celebrating the contributions of British composers across the last century. The jolly Trailblaze set a confident tone and the percussion drove the piece along with excellent gusto. Insecurities in running passages failed to detract from the piece’s overall quality, with Evan Penn successfully navigating the band through the tempo changes. Despite it being my first time hearing it, it bore all the trademark characteristics of a Goff Richards classic. The great programming continued with Whitacre’s October. Whilst far from ‘Springtime,’ it was certainly appropriate, given last season’s prom dedication to Whitacre. The band took the audience on an emotional journey, providing a great release that was largely unaffected by some slight issues with tuning and intonation. Tremendous credit should be given to Ryan Kerr for beginning the piece with a commendable oboe solo. The end of the first half saw principal conductor Emma Maslin take to the stage for Symphonic Beatles. This whirlwind medley of the Beatles’ much-loved classics — including A Hard Day’s Night, Hold Your Hand, Yesterday, and Hey Jude— was helped along by George Dobson’s excellent...

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Northern Lights Unplugged

The Northern Lights have been very busy over the last few years, in whirlwind of activity leading them to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the semi-finals of the International Championships of Collegiate Acapella among other exciting ventures. However, Saturday’s performance was a chance for the busy ensemble slow everything down and, as President Luke Hill put it in his welcoming address, ‘strip everything away’ and just sing.  The small and intimate venue of the Dowrick Suite at Trevelyan College was ideal for the afternoon concert.  As an audience we were invited to feel like we had been invited into their living room, but this informality never took away from the overall polish of the set. The theatrical manner in which the concert began immediately made the audience warm to the performers as they began their arrangement of ‘Prince Ali’.  In this number, and ‘American Pie’ which followed, soloists Sam Arrowsmith, Biff Sharrock and Lottie Jones were very good, though just a little reserved.  There was a slight issue of balance between the soloists and the ensemble, but this might not have been helped by the unusual acoustic of the Dowrick Suite.  In the third number, a mash-up of Elton John and Frank Ocean which needs to be heard to be believed, the relaxed vibe given off by the soloists was appropriate to the song, whereas in the previous two...

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Rachmaninoff Vespers

For an average conductor, the job is simple; to make sure the musicians stay in time. For a half-decent conductor the role becomes more than this; to ensure that they are the safety-net between the musicians and a piece of music they are challenged by. For a good conductor, the job is enormous; they weave their ensemble with elegance through the music, reinforcing and adding to their work in rehearsal so that they create a performance in which the musicians achieve something they never thought they could. Thomas Brooke can do that. He is clear enough for his choir to know exactly when to place a chord, yet impassioned enough that every available thread of emotion is conjured from his score. With one flash of his Rachmaninov-like hand span his twenty three singers could exquisitely fill the Chapter House of Durham Cathedral with scorching sound before, in the next moment, a subtle gesture of his finger would direct them to the most sensitive of pianissiomos. Of course, he has a fantastic ensemble to work with, who have seen in their conductor a figure they can trust, who they respect and who they can share those oddly intimate moments of singer-conductor eye contact with. Rachmaninov’s All Night Vigil is a perfect choice for this choir and as Fiona Brindle explains in her Manager’s Welcome, was chosen with the sensational acoustic...

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Upcoming Events

Oct 02

The Freshers’ Fair

2 October 11:00 am - 6:00 pm
Durham
United Kingdom
Oct 03

The Freshers’ Fair – Day 2

3 October 11:00 am - 6:00 pm
Durham
United Kingdom
Oct 05

Orchestra North East concert

5 October 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm
Durham
United Kingdom
Nov 01

DUCO First Concert

1 November 8:00 pm - 9:30 pm
Durham
Nov 08

DUPO Schools’ Concert

8 November 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm
Durham