ArtsFest has existed in some form or another for several years now but in the last couple of years has really taken off as a week long festival with many societies involved in celebrating and showcasing the performing arts at Imperial. This year?s festival ran from 6th to 10th February and supported the charity CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young).
The week began on Monday evening with a Chamber Music Concert in the MDH. The first act was Contraband who performed a range of jazz and swing pieces with the characteristic flair that would be expected from any offshoot of the IC Big Band. The audience enjoyed this immensely and were particularly enthusiastic in applauding the improvised solos from various band members. This was followed by some more traditional music in the form of a Bach flute trio delivered by Chamber Music Society. The third group in the line up was Contemporary Music Society who performed a structured improvisation using saxophone, violin, keyboard, percussion and some more unusual instruments, for instance, a pink plastic tube. This interesting and haunting piece really captured the audience?s attention. Next up were six representatives of Imperial College Symphony Orchestra who played a string sextet by Brahms with the great musicality and performance that is to be expected from ICSO musicians. The next piece in the programme was a pair of guitar solos from Classical Guitar Society. Each soloist gave the audience a brief introduction to their chosen piece and then proceeded to demonstrate their talents in a couple of excellent performances; the first, Villa-Lobos?s Etude 11, and the second, Barios?s Prelude in G Minor. The final group featured in this concert was the Imperial Winds, the wind band of Imperial College, who performed a Holst Suite for Windband and ?Instant Concert?, a comic medley of many well known tunes in a fitting finale to this thoroughly enjoyable evening.
The next event was Jazz and Rock Night in dB?s on Tuesday. Due to other societies? rehearsals, this reporter was only able to catch one of the bands performing which was in this reporter?s opinion well worth a listen. White Elephant performed an atmospheric mixture of blues and rock numbers, which were in this reporter?s opinion both great fun and very well played. The set featured some excellent solos, in particular from lead guitarist Maxim.
?Charity Wednesday? saw an afternoon Dance Marathon in the JCR consisting of classes in ballet, contemporary, break dancing/hip-hop, wu shu and cha-cha-cha from Dance Company, Funkology, Chinese Wu Shu and DanceSport which were well attended. In the evening there was a private view and opening of the exhibition in the Blyth Gallery. This consisted of works by Leonardo (Fine Arts) Society, Photography Society and Origami Society. The majority of pieces were by LeoSoc based around animal, vegetable and mineral themes and were examples of things that are seen and used on an everyday basis as visualised through the artist?s personal understanding and experiences. This reporter particularly liked Keith Brown?s ?Cabbage on Paper? and Dan Mason?s ?Playing of Shadows?. Ivy Chan?s ?Me? was also very thought provoking. Dan Mason even had one of his pieces exhibited outside the faculty building in Upper Dalby Court. Throughout the week his cubic structure provided people walking through college with an interesting talking point. Unfortunately there was only a catalogue for the LeoSoc portion of the exhibition and this reporter would have particularly liked further information about PhotoSoc?s work, much of which appeared to contain interesting mood effects. The Origami Society?s display of boxes, interlocked chains, 3D structures and animals all made of folded paper really showed how intricate and complicated this art form can be.
Also on Wednesday evening, there was a short Charity Concert in the Great Hall, featuring Imperial Brass, ICU Choir and IC Symphony Orchestra. Imperial Brass performed first with ?Processional? by Mathais arranged by Wheeler and ?A Londoner in New York - Part II? by Jim Parker. This was followed by ICU choir who sang two movements ?Kyrie Eleison? and ?Angus Dei? from ?Mass? by Steve Dobrogosz. The choir was missing many of their usual singers due to the early start of this concert but those who were there made a great effort to produce a good sound in this atmospheric work which features a jazz piano accompaniment. The concert ended with ICSO performing ?Pines of the Appian Way?, the final movement of Respighi?s ?Pines of Rome?. This ominous and thrilling piece which describes a misty dawn on the Appian with a Roman Army approaching was played with ICSO?s usual ability and was certainly well appreciated by the audience.
Throughout lunchtimes during the week many societies busked on level two of the Sherfield Building and in the Tanaka Building Foyer in aid of CRY. These included Musical Theatre Society, Classical Guitar Society, various smaller groups of musicians from the orchestras and bands, a magician, Capoeira and Contemporary Music. The busking and the charity concert together raised £580 for CRY.
Big Band?s gig on Thursday was also an excellent night. Playing a mixture of jazz standards and more ?arty? pieces, the Band entertained a packed dB?s for around three hours. Big Band were in this reporter?s opinion great as always and the gig as a whole was really good fun. The highlight of the evening, for this reporter anyway, was the last couple of songs, masterfully sung by Henry Dowlen. Any opportunity to have a few pints and listen to some excellent jazz before forcing innocent Choir and ArtsFest committee members to dance to ?New York, New York? is, in this reporter?s opinion, well worth taking.
The festival finished on Friday evening with a finale concert in the Great Hall. This was the only event during the entire week which charged for entry and had technical support provided by Imperial College Dramatic Society. The concert started with Sinfonietta performing the third and fourth movements, ?Aurora? and ?The Dawn of Humanity? from Shostakovich?s Symphony No 12 in D Minor, ?The Year 1917 - in memory of Lenin?. Sinfonietta?s performance of this evocative work set a high standard for the rest of the participants to follow. The next act was Dance Company performing ?Rock/Paper/Scissors?. This reporter was impressed by the high standard of dancing shown by the members of the company who were all given the opportunity to perform in this dance whilst a few selected members returned later in the concert with ?Hula? and ?Juiced?. The next society to perform was Capoeira. Capoeira originated in Brazil in the sixteenth century as a form of self defence among the African slaves, its deadly potential hidden in its dance-like form and musical accompaniment. Capoeira performed ?Roda? and ?Maculel?? to evident interest and enjoyment from the audience. This was followed by a return to more traditional music with Imperial Brass playing ?The Earle of Oxford?s March? by Byrd, ?Londonderry Air? arranged by Iveson and ?Russian Sailors? Dance? from ?The Red Poppy? by Gliere. Their performance was excellent with this reporter particularly enjoying the arrangement of ?Londonderry Air? featuring solo trombonist Louise Oakes. The remaining society to perform in this half of the concert was DanceSport who danced the Jive, the Rumba and the Cha-Cha-Cha.
The second half of the concert began with Imperial College String Ensemble who performed the first movement of Tchaikovsky?s ?Souvenir de Florence?, ?Allegro Con Spirito?. ICSE were formed as part of ArtsFest 2005 from the string players of ICSO and Sinfonietta and were so successful that this year they set up as a separate union society. They were followed by Imperial Medics? Chamber Choir who performed a selection of close harmony favourites which went down extremely well with the audience, in particular ?The Bare Necessities? from the Walt Disney film ?The Jungle Book?. Next up was Chinese Wu Shu who did a demonstration of routines, kicks and fight scenes. The concert ended with Jazz Big Band performing ?Gonna Fly Now? by Bill Conti, Carol Connors and Ayn Robins, ?Sailing? by Scott Stroman and ?Norwegian Wood? by Lennon and McCartney in a fantastic end to this finale concert.
With the final curtain behind them, both the performers and audience retired to the union for the ArtsFest after party - a fun end to a brilliant week.