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10 Minutes with Alena Walentin

We start our series of interviews with some of our amazing visiting staff in the Music Department with flute teacher Alena Walentin.

Alena, could you start by telling us something about your current performance projects?

I recently recorded my debut solo album and also a second album with my wind quintet Atéa. Both albums will be released later this year which I’m very much looking forward to! I will also will be recording with my chamber duo partner harpist Anne Denholm for a planned release next year. As well as recording, I have some masterclasses and performances coming up in Denmark, the USA and in the UK, including with Ian Pace at City! Right now, I’m in the middle of a tour of Wales with Mid-Wales Opera as part of the Ensemble Cymru playing Puccini’s Tosca. So some really exciting and enjoyable projects. 

What is the highlight of your music teaching career so far?

I feel that each conservatoire and university  I teach at is unique and each offers a different but wonderful experience. When I was a student I had no idea that such an important part of my career would be teaching, but now I teach and give masterclasses in so many amazing places and I absolutely love it. I feel very humble and honoured to be teaching at City as well as at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Junior Royal Academy of Music and Royal Birmingham Conservatoire as well as giving masterclasses in different countries. I think sharing one’s knowledge is so important and it’s a very special, incredibly happy feeling when you hear your students progress and see that they enjoy playing the instrument!

What were the most important things you learned from your own teachers?

It would be very hard to identify one single thing – they all together form one thing! Everything from intonation, the technical side of playing the instrument, posture, breathing, rhythm, dynamics etc are all incredibly vital to being able to express the composer’s intentions to its fullest. But if I had to pick the very most important thing, it would be the feeling that I’ve had from when I first started to play the instrument: that music always should come first, technique second. Instrumentalists, of course, need a flawless technique to be able to be professional, but the musical part should always take first place. When an audience member comes to a concert, they might not know much about the instrument and how hard certain passages or aspects of the playing might be. However, they feel the music! And if one can make them cry, laugh, smile from real enjoyment or bring back to them sacred memories – that is what it’s all about and is the reason why we learn the instrument. And that is why I always aspire to be a musician, an artist and not an instrumentalist. And I wish to all the students out there to remember why they love music so much and why they want to play the instrument.

Thank you very much for your time and good luck with your forthcoming tours!

You can find out more about Alena’s music at

Alena and Ian Pace (piano) will present a lunchtime recital on Friday 15th March 2019 at 1:10pm. Click here for details and to reserve free tickets. The programme will include music by York Bowen, Vitalli and Rachmaninoff.


Careers with a Music Degree Evening

On Tuesday February 5th, the Music Department held its annual ‘Careers with a Music Degree’ evening, organised in conjunction with the City Careers Service.

The panel was hosted by Antonia Clark from the Careers Service and included 8 speakers from a range of different professional areas, including a number of City alumni, as follows:

  • Jim Harrison, Head of Music, Latymer School
  • Eve Carpenter, Promotions Coordinator – Partnerships, EME, The Walt Disney Company
  • Guy Davis, CEO, Hilton Grove
  • James Perkins, Head of Quality Assurance and Enhancement, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama
  • Sean Hendrie, Event Ticketing Coordinator, Sponsorship at O2 (Telefónica UK)
  • Ben Cook, Composer
  • Leslie East, former Director of Music at ABRSM publishing
  • Karoline Zobens-East, Paralegal, Warner-Chappell Music

Panel members spoke about their particular areas of work, and offered valuable advice on the kinds of skills, qualifications and work experience needed in order to secure a placement or graduate position. They also offered useful tips on CV writing and interview skills.

The evening was attended by about 40 BMus and BSc students, who were able to find out more about the breadth of professions open to music graduates. They also pointed to the kinds of transferrable skills that music students develop – including team-working, time-management, presentational skills and creative thinking – which are widely recognised and valued by employers.

Students were encouraged to make full use of the City Careers Service, where they can access a range of support including mock interviews, CV writing and information on jobs, as well as opportunities to gain valuable experience through placements and volunteering.

The main panel was followed by a networking session where students could talk informally with speakers.


Chamber Orchestra Concert at St Clement’s

The first Music Department concert of the year took place on the evening of Friday 18th January, with the City Chamber Orchestra performing music by Bach, Handel and Mozart, conducted by our very own Tim Hooper.

The concert was held in the beautiful church of St Clement’s, Finsbury, close to the university, and with a very appreciative audience.

The programme started with J.S. Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor, followed by a performance of the first movement of Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet in A Major, with second year BMus student Michael Cutajar playing solo clarinet.

The final piece on the programme was Handel’s Concerto Grosso Op.6 No. 1 in G major.

Many congratulations to all for a fabulous concert!



Laudan Nooshin Presents Keynote at RMA/BFE Conference in Sheffield

On 11th January 2019, Laudan Nooshin presented a Keynote paper at the Royal Musical Association/British Forum for Ethnomusicology Annual Music Research Students’ Conference, held this year at the University of Sheffield.

Laudan’s keynote was entitled: ‘Space Invaders? Reflections on Diversity, Disciplinary Identities and a Music Studies for the 21st Century’ and discussed a number of issues around the need to foster a more inclusive and diverse Music Higher Education for the future. The keynote asked what the current state of Music HE reveals about the workings of power and privilege: what are the barriers to diversity, and how do such issues intersect with recent debates over ‘decolonising’ the academy? The second half of the keynote addressed similar questions, but in relation to disciplinary and sub-disciplinary identities.

City was well represented at the conference, with presentations by current City PhD student Jonathan Higgins, who played some of his compositional work and presented a paper entitled ‘Faking the Past: The Noise of Obsolete Technologies in Contemporary Composition’; as well as by City alumni now pursuing doctoral studies elsewhere: Beanie Arkle (University of Surrey) talking about ‘Gustav Mahler and the Wagnerian Musical Turn: An Analytic Reading of the Role of the Turn’ and Hannah Gibson (Queen’s University, Belfast), whose paper was entitled ‘Dancing and Sociality in the Irish Country Music Scene’. It was so nice to see our former students doing so well in their postgraduate studies.

The RMA/BFE Research Students’ Conference brings together music research students from across a wide spectrum of areas, including musicology, ethnomusicology, composition, performance and other kinds of practice-research, music education, music psychology and more. Next year’s conference will be held at the Open University in Milton Keynes from 9th to 11th January 2020 and all our research students are strongly encouraged to attend.


Hannah Gibson Presenting




City University Singers Wrapping Up: Christmas Carol Singing in Trafalgar Square

Blog by Carolina Herrera, Year 3 BMus

For their last performance of the year, singers from the Music Department and the university staff choir came together in the festive spirit of the season to sing traditional Carols beneath the famous Norwegian Christmas tree as part of the Greater London Authority’s Carol Singing Programme for Christmas.

Densely wrapped to brave the cold, students and staff congregated in front of the mixed and enthusiastic audience, eagerly singing some of the most loved hymns and carols for an hour to raise funds on behalf of Mind and Islington Law Centre, their chosen charities. Favourites included Hark! The Herald Angels Sing; Ding, Dong! Merrily on High; In the Bleak Mid-winter; O Little Town of Bethlehem; We Wish you a Merry Christmas, Silent Night and O Come, All ye Faithful. In addition, the Staff Choir delighted the public with Carol of the Bells and the Chamber Choir added Sleep, my Jesu and Tomorrow Shall be My Dancing Day, for a memorable evening of Christmas cheer.

Led by Tim Hooper and constituted by talented students from the Music and other departments, the City University Chamber Choir performs at the end of each academic term. This year, it sang Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem in St Giles’ Cripplegate church in London and also as part of the festival de Printemps de l’Université PSL (Paris Sciences & Lettres) in Paris during the spring 2018. They recently performed their annual Christmas Carol Concert at St. Clement’s Church, in collaboration with Civitas, the university vocal ensemble devoted to the performance of early music and led by Dr Alexander Lingas.

The City University Staff Choir is a community ensemble open to academic and professional service staff with no previous experience required, from across the university. The choir was set up 18 months ago by Louise Gordon, who also manages and conducts. 15 of its 25 members sang in Trafalgar Square and their beautiful voices brightly resonated together with singers from the Music Department, creating a light-hearted atmosphere for which the public showed appreciation.

After the session, singers and staff were offered mulled wine and mince pies by the Music Department and had photographs taken by friends and the public.

Many thanks to Tim Hooper for conducting the choirs, to Dr Alexander Lingas for joining the singers, to Dr Laudan Nooshin and Dr Ian Pace who diligently collected funds from the crowd and, of course, to all the singers who helped us raise more than £200 for charity!




BSc Students visit Tate Modern

Students taking the BSc in Music, Sound and Technology recently met at London’s Tate Modern gallery to experience Christain Marclay’s film The Clock.  Marclay’s work connects with many topics that were discussed in the Music, Sound and Technology module throughout the term, including musical and audio-visual techniques of sampling, cut-up, splice and montage, as well as wider issues relating to authorship. and the use of environmental or found sound as compositional materials.

Current student Fabian has written evocatively about his experience of the trip.

We woke up that last Friday of our first term, excited and exhausted. It had been a long term of lectures, labs and assignments – but today was the day. We had only one more class, then the famous Christmas Cabaret – an all-department event filled with music, dancing, and a little too many bottles of wine.
The morning was raining and cold yet none of that mattered because we were going to the Tate, one of the better modern art museums in London. Our lecturer, Tullis Rennie, brought the perfect storm. The last day of term, Christmas cabaret, and a field trip instead of class – it felt like being in primary again.

The reason we went to the Tate was due to their showing of The Clock, a 24-hour film by Christian Marclay. The film is a collection of shots of clocks arranged in real time, i.e. it is 10:24 in the morning so you see a clock in the film at 10:24. Thousands of shots from films arranged in perfect timing to the real world, so that every minute there’s at least one instant of the time. It could be a simple bedside clock, or someone can ask for the time and a character replies. You can see slices of popular films as well as random shots from films you would’ve never seen before. This collage is nothing short of a masterpiece, with the most impressive part being the cohesiveness of the shots in combination. Audio flows from one to the other, and the tracks make contextual sense – it’s not just random shots thrown around. It’s a precisely edited and arranged piece of art.

We sat in the Tate theatre for around an hour in the morning, seeing the 10:15-11:15 am section of the film. I would recommend anyone that wants to see this piece to see it at any time they are able to. In the morning the film will be riddled with shots of people going to work, and at night with people stumbling home from a pub; yet every minute is an interesting peak into the way that civilization moves around in our 24 hour time frame.
I only hope that we can have more field trips to further our outside experience into the arts. Go! Watch it – experience it.


Sound Art and Technoculture Module Trip to the V&A Museum

By Saule Boguzaite, BSc Year 3

On Friday, 30th November, the discussion about technology and media in the Sound, Art and Technoculture module was taken a tube ride away from campus to the world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design – the V&A. Led by Dr Claudia Molitor, we visited an interactive exhibition, ‘Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt’, which explored the development, practice and magnitude of the medium since the mid-2000s.

The exhibition explores the world beyond the user’s interface of what for many of us, is a daily source of entertainment. Artefacts on display such as detailed blueprints and field research documentation revealed the extensive labour and process of video game production. The visitors from City enthusiastically gathered around the game-like exhibits that required hands-on interaction. An enormous screen showing an eSports tournament gave the visitor an idea of a rapidly growing player community and culture. The ‘Disrupt’ stage provides some food for thought through critical discussion about the social, cultural and political influence of videogames. The arcade with retro-style machines concluded the exhibition, where videogame enthusiasts of any level could find something they enjoyed.

Here is what some of the attendees had to say about the exhibition:

“I enjoyed the Play stage of the exhibit the most just for the simple pure enjoyment of having fun playing some of the unique and thought provoking games. The Design stage was also very interesting, to see the different motivations, ideas and techniques that went into the making of the games on display.” – Chris, BSc Year 2

 “I found that the plethora of sound effects present in the video game exhibition gave me new ideas for my major project, which involves sound design for video games.” – Moumen, BSc Year 3.

The exhibition is on until 24th February 2019


Chamber Choir and Civitas Christmas Concert at St Clement’s

by Carolina Herrera, BMus Year 3

The City University Chamber Choir and Civitas delighted the audience during their Christmas Carol Concert at St. Clement’s Church, Finsbury, on Wednesday the 5th of December 2018.

Joining forces for the first time, the two City, University of London choral ensembles performed repertoire that included a mix of Gregorian chant, English anthems, sacred motets, traditional carols and the premiere of Nunc Dimittis from Ty Gwyn Canticles, an original work by choir baritone, final year Music student and composer Jacob Collins.

Conducted by Tim Hooper, the Chamber Choir performed Henry Balfour Gardiner’s Evening Hymn (1908), Samuel Sebastian Wesley’s Thou wilt keep Him in perfect peace (1850), Josef Rheinberger’ Abendlied (1855) and Jamie W. Hall’s Sleep, my Jesu (2015). In alternation with these and Civitas’ pieces, the choir also sang Once in Royal David’s City (1848) by Arthur Henry Mann and Henry John Gauntlett, Tomorrow Shall be my Dancing Day (1830) by John Gardner; Ding Dong! Merrily on High, Eng. trad., arr. Charles Wood; A Maiden Most gentle, French trad., arr. Andrew Carter; Sans Day Carol and Nativity Carol (1963) by John Rutter, as well as O come, all ye faithful, J. F. Wade and Gabriel’s Message, Basque carol. The evening ended with Hark! The Herald Angels Sing by Mendelssohn, all arr. Willcox, for which the audience stood to join in song.

Civitas, led by Dr Alexander Lingas, performed Veni, Veni Emmanuel; Magnificat Antiphon Hodie, Cristus Natus Est; old Roman chant for the Mass of Christmas Day Kyrie in Natale Domini (MS Bodmer 79 ‘1071’); Christmas Canon, Ode 1 (Medieval Byzantine chant, MS Grottaferrata E. γ. II -13th c., ed. Ioannis Arvanitis); Lutheran chorale Wir schön leuchtet der Morgenstern by Philipp Nicolai; Resonet in Laudibus (S. Gall MS, ed. Keyte and Parrott) and Annunciation carol Nova! Nova! (Hunterian Museum MS, ed. Keyte and Parrott).

During the interval, mulled wine and mince pies were available to singers and guests, who included friends and family, as well as Music department lecturers and members of the local community.

Many thanks to Tim Hooper and Dr Lingas. Also, to Dr Laudan Nooshin and Leo Chadburn for their concert organisation, to St Clement’s for hosting the concert, and of course to everyone who played!

The Chamber Choir will be Carol singing in Trafalgar Square this Tuesday, 11th of December and will be back in St. Clement’s Church for their annual Easter-themed spring performance.


Laudan Nooshin Presents Keynote Paper in Montréal

In October 2018, Laudan Nooshin travelled to Montréal, Canada, to present an invited keynote paper at the conference ‘Music and Nation III: Music in Post-war Transitions (19th to 21st Centuries)’. Laudan’s paper was entitled ‘From Post-Revolution to Post-War: Music and the Play of Identities in 1980s Iran’.

The conference was attended by about 50 delegates from across the globe and papers covered a wide range of topics relating to post-war transitions, including music in Cold War Europe, the creation of a Spanish national orchestra following the Spanish Civil War; rock music and global countercultural citizenship after the Vietnam war; and music in post-Civil War Tajikestan.

The conference was held in the stunning setting of the Music Department at the University of Montréal, located high up on Mount Royal (see below).

Laudan Nooshin at Royal Musical Association Conference

From 13th to 15th September 2018, Head of Department Laudan Nooshin attended the Annual Conference of the Royal Musial Association, the largest annual gathering in the UK of those working across the range of music studies, including musicologists, ethnomusicologists, performers, composers, and many more! The conference was hosted by the Music Department at the University of Bristol and held in their building – the Victoria Rooms – built in the 1840s as Assembly Rooms: some of the original drinking bars are still in place and provided an interesting setting for conference sessions!

Laudan presented a paper entitled ‘A Window Onto Other Worlds: Musical Exoticism in Iranian Cinema – The Case of The Lor Girl’, which explored the role of music in processes of constructing and representing ‘otherness’ in early Iranian cinema, focusing on the first Persian-language sound film, The Lor Girl, made in Bombay in 1933.

Laudan also spoke on a panel entitled ‘Decolonising Analysis’, which considered some of the ways in which recent calls to ‘decolonise the academy’ have impacted on the practice of music analysis. In a music studies context, the notion of ‘decolonisation’ is about recognising the ways in which our knowledge is, and has been, shaped by power relations and about challenging the normative centres of privilege and taken for granted assumptions through a diversity of musics and perspectives. Given that we’re all enmeshed in some way in colonial histories that inevitably shape how we think, Laudan asked whether it is in fact possible to decolonise analysis before we decolonise our own minds and bodies, particularly in the context of academic institutions – together with their structural inequalities – that were founded on colonial thinking and funded by the riches of empire. The panel provoked an interesting discussion and the setting of the University of Bristol was particularly appropriate, given that an estimated 85% of the wealth that was used to found the university was derived from slavery. Other panel members were: Chloë Alaghband-Zadeh (University of Manchester), Freya Jarman (University of Liverpool), Byron Dueck (Open University) and Ruard Absaroka (SOAS, University of London).

The conference keynote speakers were: Professor Robert Adlington (University of Huddersfield), presenting the annual Le Huray Lecture: ‘Democracy in Action? Audience Participation as Community Organising’; and Alejandro L. Madrid (Cornell University), who was presented with the prestigious Edward J. Dent Medal and whose lecture was entitled: ‘The Importance of Being from ‘the Other Side’: Music and Border Studies in the 21st Century’.

Next year’s RMA conference will be held from 11th to 13th September, and will be hosted jointly by the Music Department at the University of Manchester and the Royal Northern College of Music.

‘Decolonising Analysis’ Panel

University of Bristol, Victoria Rooms