Fringe Music Showcase wins Best Society Collaboration


Patrick Reardon-Morgan, President of the Music Society and a 3rd-year music student, on a recent awards success…

“Triumph for seven of Cardiff’s music societies, who last Friday (8 May 2015) took home the Students’ Union’s prize for Best Society Collaboration.

“The Music, Operatic, Jazz, Brass Band, Blank Verse, City of Cardiff Concert Band and Healthcare Music Societies were awarded the trophy for their showcase concert in March, which took place in the SU’s nightclub Y Plas as part of Cardiff Fringe 2015. This festival, now in its second year, celebrates society activity with a week-long programme of events, including everything from baking to stand-up.

“The four-hour Music Showcase was designed as an exposition of the fantastic work done by musical societies throughout the University and beyond. The Healthcare Music Society ensured students from the Heath Park campus were represented, and the City of Cardiff Concert Band even boasts some non-student members.

“The other five societies are based in the School of Music, supporting fifteen ensembles between them. Twelve of these were represented at the Showcase, with sets varying in length from ten minutes to half an hour.

PhD student Martin Humphries conducts the Wind Ensemble

“Brass Band brought the house down with a crowd-pleasing arrangement of the Ghostbusters theme, while Operatic Society reprised favourite items from both their March production of The Fairy Queen and their gala concert last November. Having secured partial funding for Wind Ensemble’s (now Wind Orchestra) trip to the finals of the National Concert Band Festival in Manchester, the Music Society was proud to present a programme of highest quality wind band music.

“The Jazz Society both opened and closed the show, which was finally concluded with Big Band’s performance of ‘Reach’ by S Club 7.

“With two stages – one on the ground floor and one on the balcony – the music never ceased. Blank Verse, the female voice choir who seek to create a ‘relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere’ in rehearsals, performed on the latter, and this description is apt to describe the evening itself.

“Though the music was consistently excellent, the Music Showcase had none of the formality of a traditional concert. By doing this, the seven societies involved were able to entice students who would not normally hear many of the musical styles on show. This kind of outreach must certainly have played its part in the Students’ Union’s decision to name it Best Society Collaboration.”

MuSoc in Paris

2nd-year BMus student Victoria Thomas tells us about the Cardiff University Music Society’s recent trip to Paris…

MuSoc logo“This Easter, the Music Society held its first trip abroad, spending 4 days in Paris.  It was a great break from the busy-ness of last semester and was an opportunity to leave the impending deadlines behind us for a few days!

“A small group of us got a mini bus from Cardiff to London St. Pancras, – which was kindly provided by the department – leaving Cardiff at the early time of 5:30am before getting the Eurostar to Paris.

DSC00661“Once in Paris we managed to see the Parisian skyline from the steps of La Basilisque du Sacré Cœur de Montmartre, before wandering around the market-stalls of Montmartre itself.

“The second day was planned with the guidance of Dr Caroline Rae, drawing on her expertise as department lecturer and Series Adviser for the Philharmonia’s City of Light concert series, which explores music composed in Paris 1900-1950.  With Dr Rae’s help, we were able to visit some of the places discussed in modules, or those thought highly of in the world of classical music, including the Musée de la Musique; Palais Garnier; and the Philharmonie de Paris.

“First up was a tour of the Palais Garnier; a nineteenth-century opera house, home to the Opèra Nationale de Paris. The building itself looks magnificent from the outside, complete with busts of famous composers lining the columns around the building; but this had nothing on the majesty of the interior– it’s certainly worth visiting if you ever find yourself passing!10408100_10205596150610497_4476800027931874204_n

“This was followed by a visit to the Musée de la Musique, part of the Cité de la musique, the area of Paris dedicated to music.  The Musée de la Musique contains a vast array of instruments from across the world from the seventeenth-century to the present day, all of which have been collected by the Conservatoire de Paris. The collection includes many unusual and rare instruments such as a theramin, an electric instrument which you do not touch to play, and an Octobass, standing at around 3.48m and one of only a few in existence.

“The musical day ended with a visit to the newly opened Philharmonie de Paris to see the Russian National Orchestra play Tchaikovsky’s 6th Symphony and 2nd Piano Concerto with Nikolai Lugansky, conducted by Dmitri Liss. This is yet another striking building which was only opened in January of this year.


“After seeing some of the locations related to our course, the next day was all about being tourists, visiting the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris; Musée D’Orsay; and the Eiffel Tower.  This was my first visit to the Notre-Dame Cathedral and I felt so lucky to see just how spectacular the cathedral’s design truly is, both in the nave and after climbing the 385 steps to the top of the bell tower to be greeted by gargoyles and a breath-taking view of the city.

“Jelly-legged after climbing and descending the many stairs, we made our way to the Musée D’Orsay to view works by the likes of Van Gogh, Monet and Manet. Following a lovely meal at Le Petit Cler, the trip was brought to a close watching the Eiffel Tower lights display as the sun set, before making our way back to the UK the following morning, ready to tackle the final few weeks of the year.”

Busy year for Cardiff University Wind Ensemble

Composer and conductor Martin Humphries studied here for his BMus and his MMus in Composition. He is currently undertaking PhD research in composition. He’s also been conductor of the successful Cardiff University Wind Ensemble for the past two years and he’s here to tell us about the Ensemble’s recent activities…

“Following two very enjoyable days in Manchester, I am pleased to announce that the Cardiff University Wind Ensemble were awarded the joint highest mark in the hardest difficulty category at the National Concert Band Festival Finals at the Royal Northern College of Music.

11150584_10155383756020394_6794866141611291151_n“The festival is the largest wind band competition in the UK and we chose to enter at the professional level category, a challenge which the band has really risen to. The judges praised our programme which was made up entirely of music by current and former students of Cardiff University, including a piece we commissioned for the festival by current PhD candidate Joseph Hillyard.

“I began conducting the band two years ago and during that time we have focussed on programming music of young, British composers from within and outside of the wind band movement. This academic year we took this ethos even further and began looking at music by current and former Cardiff students. The band really responded to the repertoire we found (Cardiff University having a reputation for producing a good pedigree of band composers), and we realised we had enough music to record a CD.

10881520_10152719130452353_4102058855033266906_n“With the support of the School of Music, the Students’ Union, and the Music Society, we were able to make this a reality and just days before competing in the festival we embarked on a hugely ambitious recording project. The band returned to Cardiff and spent two days in the University Concert Hall which became our studio. The recordings went off (virtually) without a hitch and we’re all very excited to share the results with everybody later this year.

“The CD is made up entirely of music by current and former students and the track listing will be:

1) Activate – Matthew Hall

2) On The Edge – Daniel Bickerton

3) Crotalus Cerestes – Richard McReynolds (winner of our 2015 call for scores)

4) Welsh Airs and Dances – Alun Hoddinott

5) Put A Tiger In Your Tank – Martin Humphries

6) The Smile – Matthew Hall

7) Unexpected Reincarnation – Joseph Hillyard

8) Looking In – Tom Davoren

9“Thank you to everybody in the band for making both the CD and the festival such enormous successes!

“We have lots of exciting plans lined up for next year including projects collaborating with the Central Band of the Royal Air Force and the University of Saskatchewan (Canada). Watch this space…”

Performing Debussy premieres

Later this month Cardiff University Symphony Orchestra will perform world premieres of works by Debussy at Cardiff’s St David’s Hall. Sam Warner, a 3rd-year student and Principal Cellist, looks ahead to the concert…

cuso“During my seven years playing in an orchestra, the only French orchestral repertoire from the turn of the 20th-century I’ve had the opportunity to play is Ravel’s Boléro. I was thrilled to learn that as part of the Philharmonia Orchestra’s ‘City of Light’ concert series happening over the country, the University Symphony Orchestra will, once again, be broadening my orchestral experience.

We will be ending the Cardiff festival with the well-loved Debussy Nocturnes and Ravel’s La Valse. In addition to this, we will be playing world premieres of two of Debussy’s works he left unfinished (No-Ja-Li and L’Histoire de Tristan), as well as the UK premiere of ‘Poèmes intimes’ by André Jolivet.

This will be a huge learning curve for me as a cellist and a musician. Not only will we be performing these works in St. David’s Hall but this weekend the Orchestra will also be recording these three premieres, along with a piece by one of our own composition lecturers, Dr Robert Fokkens.

This will be the second CD the Orchestra has released, hopefully there will be many more in years to come! 

Our concerts website has more information on the St David’s Hall concert. You can also visit the School’s website to learn more about our involvement in the Philharmonia Orchestra’s City of Light: Paris 1900-1950 festival. 

Celebrating Welsh Music

The Palestrina Singers of Cardiff University, one of the many student-run ensembles at Cardiff, will be celebrating St David’s Day on 2 March with a lunchtime concert of Welsh music. Musical Director Kieran Jones, a 3rd-year BMus student, tells us about this upcoming event…

palestrinas logoAs I embark on my final year of studying music at Cardiff University’s School of Music, it is a great honour and a privilege for me to be conductor of The Palestrina Singers of Cardiff University. This is a choir that holds great stature in the choral scene of Cardiff and it is important to me to keep the reputation of this choir alive.

I’m originally from North Wales and a first language Welsh speaker so St David’s Day has always been a special date in my calendar each year. Throughout my years at school this day would be celebrated with an eisteddfod and an annual walk made by the whole school across Flintshire. It became increasingly important to express the Welsh language and what it means to be Welsh on this day.

rehearsalIn Cardiff, this day is even more special as the city is thriving with parades, concerts and other various events throughout the day. I look forward to these celebrations each year and am fortunate to be able to contribute this year through organising this concert to celebrate St David and the long standing tradition of Welsh music.

Music has always been an important part of Wales’ culture and Wales is often regarded as the ‘land of song’. This concert is a celebration of all things musical and Welsh. The Cardiff University Male Voice Choir, of which I am also musical director, will be involved in this concert singing modern arrangements of classic Welsh folk melodies.

3Alongside this will be a combination of choral spectaculars from the Palestrina Singers of Cardiff University with music ranging from Mathias, Paul Maelor and Geraint Lewis. In addition to this, we are so lucky to share the stage with two prolific talents. International Soprano Gail Pearson, who will be singing a variety of songs written by Welsh composers, and Jeffrey Howard who will be accompanying both choirs and Gail Pearson.

5Not only are these guests special to me personally but they are also alumni of the School of Music and it is an enormous pleasure for me to welcome them back to perform in this special concert.

This concert is taking place on St David’s Day in the heart of Wales’ capital city with two outstanding Welsh musicians joining the Cardiff University Male Voice Choir and the Palestrina Singers of Cardiff University. I can’t think of a more perfect way to celebrate St David’s Day and expose the most wonderful music that really proves Wales to be the “land of song”. ​

MuSoc in Paris

MuSoc logo“For the first time in its recent history the Music Society is going abroad – to Paris, the City of Light. Travelling by Eurostar, students will have the opportunity to visit such iconic musical venues as the Palais Garnier and Théâtre des Champs Élysées, as well as Parisian landmarks the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame cathedral. The trip will also include a visit to the brand new Philharmonie de Paris, where the Russian National Orchestra will be performing Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony and Second Piano Concerto.

“No trip to Paris would be complete without seeing the nineteenth century opera house, the Palais Garnier, whose auditorium is considered one of the most opulent in the world. The chandelier, made of bronze and crystal, weighs seven tonnes and dominates the ceiling of the theatre (at the expense of many of the cheaper seat’s view of the stage!) academieThe Théâtre des Champs Élysées could scarcely be more different; designed to be shockingly plain in appearance it is perhaps most famous for hosting the premiere of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps in the year of its construction. Today its orchestra in residence is the Orchestra National de Franc, and it also acts as a home from home for the Wiener Philharmoniker.

“Inaugurated in January this year, the Philharmonie de Paris completes the Cité de la Musique, a dedicated music centre which also features a musical instrument museum and education centre. Part of a major 1990s redevelopment project, the Cité de la Musique is an international institution which has been at the centre of multiple filming and recording projects by Cardiff University lecturers Prof Kenneth Hamilton and Dr Caroline Rae.

Eiffel1“On the final day of the trip, MuSoc will be taking a walking tour of the city from Notre-Dame cathedral to the Eiffel Tower (via the Musée d’Orsay). Completed in 1345, Notre Dame is a gothic architectural marvel and one of the most famous churches in the world. The Musée d’Orsay is Paris’s top-rated attraction on acclaimed travel website Trip Advisor, and houses many of the world’s finest pieces of impressionist art. To end the trip, Music Society members will be treated to the very grandest of photo opportunities – the Eiffel Tower at dusk.

“Join the Music Society on their trip for as little as £210 (payable in three deposits). To buy tickets and for more information, please visit

Patrick Reardon-Morgan, President of the Music Society and a 3rd-year music student.

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Performing Beethoven

One of the most attractive features of studying at Cardiff is the richness and diversity of performance opportunities available to students, both on campus and within the city. 

In November, Cardiff University Symphony Chorus and Cardiff University Symphony Orchestra joined forces, under conductor Mark Eager, to perform Beethoven Symphony no.9 at St. David’s Hall in Cardiff. 

Assistant Chorus Manager Ben Gutsell, a 3rd year BMus student, tells us about the experience:

Beethoven 9 - SDH

“As the Assistant Chorus Manager of the University Symphony Chorus, it has been a great experience to see the whole department, singers and instrumentalists alike, working together to perform such an iconic work as Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, furthermore to do it in a matter of 9 weeks!

“It is always hard to put the fourth movement into context until the performance; you have to sit there and experience the first three movements as a whole to understand how it fits into place! I feel this is the case for other people too, and once you have heard it all you can’t help but give your all singing the Ode To Joy theme!

“Suddenly you realise quite how dramatic the contrasts should be, how much the text needs to be articulated and how each theme relates to the rest of the symphony! I feel like this clicked in the performance as the energy was tremendous and everyone gave 110% commitment!

“I think that we are very lucky to be able to perform such iconic works. I feel that this challenge has built a platform for us to go on and perform other exciting works and continue to build a strong relationship between the chorus and orchestra.

“It is an experience I will remember for a very long time and I certainly hope I get to perform it again in the future!​”

Competing at the National Eisteddfod

Steffan Rhys Hughes – National Eisteddfod Llanelli
August 2014

National Eisteddfod field

National Eisteddfod field

This was the 12th National Eisteddfod I have competed in and although it was not my first visit to Llanelli, it was my first attending this festival in this area. The Eisteddfod appeals to me not only because of the competing but because you meet so many old friends and peers who compete and you have an annual boost of immersion in Welsh culture and language, and of course many opportunities for socialising!

After arriving, we soon realised that the park and ride system was not going to work for us given the timings of the preliminaries and the need to rush to and from the field where the Eisteddfod was held. We decided to take a chance and park on the street as near to the field as possible – not as easy as it sounds with hundreds of others with the same idea but it worked without a parking fine in sight! Our hotel was ‘The Three Rivers’, some 10 miles away in Ferryside, and the views from the hotel across the estuary towards Llansteffan Castle and down towards Laugharne were beautiful.

There were five preliminaries for me on the Tuesday from 8.30am onwards and one stage performance. The top three (occasionally four) in each competition get to perform on stage in the large Pink Pavilion, televised on S4C and in front of an audience. There were between ten and thirty competitors – the best in Wales – in the various preliminaries I took part in throughout the week. There really are no passengers in the competition,  particularly by the time you reach post-school age where most competitors are from Music Collages and Conservatoires, so if you want to do well you really do have to prepare, practice and focus. I was pleased to be placed first in the Cerdd Dant under 21 competition – a traditional Welsh art of vocal improvisation – the soloist sings a counter-melody over a melody played by the Harp.

Steffan competing

Steffan competing

The Eisteddfod field was set out in 3 large circles and one smaller one with masses of stands, exhibitions and activities – well worth a visit! However, usually I never get the chance to see many areas of it as, when I am not competing, I like to support my friends by going to their preliminaries and watching other competitions in the Pavilion to see how my opinions compare with the judges’ decisions.

On the Wednesday I had three preliminaries, the first starting at 9.00am and 2 stage performances – Recitation from the Scripture which I was pleased to be placed first in, and Cerdd Dant Duet under 21 with Sion Eilir a student at Aberystwyth University. We were placed first – a relief, after very little rehearsal time!

Thursday  was one preliminary for me – recitation to music, and two appearances on stage – Folk song under 21 and recitation under 25 and I was relieved to gain another two first places – some prize money to help in year three at Cardiff!

I had been planning to go with friends to ‘Maes B’ on Thursday night – the young people’s village at the Eisteddfod where live gigs are held with some of the best young bands in Wales performing. However as I was on stage on the Friday morning I made the decision to give it a miss and go back to our hotel to rehearse and get a good sleep.

The following morning, I returned to perform on stage with recitation to music and came second. It was the first time I had competed in this competition and I had composed and recorded the accompaniment myself.

I moved from the hotel on the Friday to the Eisteddfod Caravan field close to the Maes to share a caravan with friends and went to Maes B that night. I had finished my individual competitions by then, but still and one ensemble to compete with in the morning, so I tried to take it easy…

10537398_10153079211324535_2228097478533472225_nThe Cerdd Dant quartet was my final competition, and I was joined again by Sion Eilir along with Ceri Haf Roberts – who won the girls solo under 19 (coming toCardiff University to study law in September) and Mared Williams who won the song from a musical under 19 and is also the lead singer of the band ‘Trwbz’ who performed in Maes B on the Friday night.

On Saturday night it was off to Maes B again for the final gig of the week. It was nice to enjoy the evening without worrying about performing the following day, and I had a chance to catch up with old friends as well as making a few new ones.

Sunday we packed up the caravan and awning and all the camping equipment and made our way in stormy weather back to North Wales, slightly sad to see another National Eisteddfod over!

My time with Palestrina Singers – Jessica Haig

Palestrina Singers of Cardiff University at Porchester Castle (photo by Charlotte Smallwood)

Palestrina Singers of Cardiff University at Porchester Castle (photo by Charlotte Smallwood)

Having recently graduated from a busy three years studying at the School of Music, life has still been pretty hectic, travelling around the country singing in wonderful venues. But now things have finally begun to calm down for the summer, I have had time to sit and reminisce about all of the fond memories from my time in the department, ones I will cherish for a very long time.

I have been so very lucky to gain some incredible opportunities with the school, like singing with several choirs, both ensemble and solo, gaining first class academic training from some of the best lecturers in the country, and meeting some of my closest friends, who I will have for life. On top of all that, being awarded the David Evans Award for my outstanding general contribution to the musical life of the school was a particular highlight – I am so grateful!

Being a very keen choral singer, my singing experiences are the ones that particularly shine out for me. But one of the fondest, which shines out brightly amongst my experiences, is being a part of The Palestrina Singers of Cardiff University for the two final years of my degree. Directed by Masters student Nathan James Dearden, and managed by fellow student Cathy Mottershead (both in my final year), the fact that Palestrina is a completely student-run ensemble is the reason why I was so utterly impressed with my time as part of the ensemble.

Palestrina Singers of Cardiff University at Romsey Abbey (photo by Charlotte Smallwood)

Palestrina Singers of Cardiff University at Romsey Abbey (photo by Charlotte Smallwood)

As a choir, we partook in many amazing concerts, choral pilgrimages and tours, and all of them were organised, managed and made successful by these students – what a wonderful achievement! Furthermore, I got to sing alongside some very talented singers, conducted by an incredibly skilled musical director – Nathan is such a knowledgeable, artistic musician, and I can’t wait to see what he does in the future, it has been a pleasure, thank you!

The most significant event with Palestrina for me was our summer Tour to the South of England, singing in beautiful churches and cathedrals in Guildford, Portsmouth and Romsey. We sang some very tricky repertoire, and our audiences were so appreciative – that’s what makes it so special, singing to such grateful audiences.

I’ve learnt so much from being in the ensemble, both musically and performance-wise, and most of this was from being a part of the busy, hard-working conditions of a tour. We all had the greatest time singing and socialising together (I’ll forget the amount of driving I did around in the minibus… Such fun!), and I think it’s a tour, and choir, we will all remember for a very long time.