Music making at Birmingham

The University of Birmingham enjoys one of the liveliest music-making scenes of any campus with a wide variety of ensembles organised by the Department of Music, University Music Society and the Guild of Students.

Music ensamble

Music Department Ensembles

Birmingham University Singers

BUS is a mixed chamber choir of up to 40 auditioned singers run by the Music Department and led by Professor Simon Halsey and Professor Simon Carrington. They rehearse weekly and perform varied repertoire, ranging from Weelkes and Britten to Whitacre and Jonathan Dove. The choir usually gives two concerts per year in the Elgar Concert Hall, plus a performance in Symphony Hall as part of the University of Birmingham Voices. Their annual Festival of Lessons and Carols at St Michael’s, Tenbury, is a highlight of the year.

In recent years BUS has sung in Tewkesbury Abbey, Worcester, Gloucester, Oxford Cathedral’s, Clare College (Cambridge), the Royal Albert Hall, and Llangollen International Music Eisteddfod. Over the years BUS have had the opportunity to work with professional vocal ensembles, such as The Sixteen, Binchois Consort, and Voces8.

Rehearsals: Mondays, 19:45-22:00.

University Women's Choir

The University Women’s Choir was founded by Professor Simon Halsey in 2013 to accommodate and nurture the wealth of strong female voices at the University. Through their first year they quickly made a name for themselves, placing 1st position in the Female Choirs Competition and securing a place in the Choir of the World final at the International Music Eisteddfod.

Conducted by Professor Simon Carrington, the University Women’s Choir have performed in the Elgar Concert Hall, Symphony Hall, Worcester Cathedral, and the Royal Albert Hall. In 2015 they worked with Juice Vocal Ensemble on a programme of contemporary women’s repertoire, including compositions by UoB Composition Fellow Dr Daria Kwiatowksa

Rehearsals: Mondays, 19:45-22:00. 

University of Birmingham Voices

The University of Birmingham Voices rehearse in the spring term for an annual performance alongside the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in Symphony Hall. This choir is a chorus of approximately 100 students, including singers from Birmingham University Singers, University Women’s Choir, and University Camerata. Performances to date have included a Gilbert & Sullivan Gala (2014) and Opera Choruses Gala (2015), as well as a revue show of the music of Rodgers & Hammerstein (2016). On 9 September 2016, UoB Voices will form part of the BBC Proms Youth Choir to perform Verdi’s Messa da Requiem with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and Marin Alsop.

In spring 2017, UoB Voices will give a performance of Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Yeoman of the Guard with John Wilson, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and a host of international soloists.

Rehearsals: Mondays, 19:45-22:00 (spring term only).

University Camerata

The University Camerata is a choir of 20 - 25 voices, created to work with the MA Choral Conducting students, under the supervision of Professor Simon Halsey and University Chorus Director, Julian Wilkins. They rehearse once a week, focusing particularly on singing and conducting technique. Working with up to four conductors, Camerata is a great platform for exploring a variety of choral repertoire. In 2016/17 Camerata will perform alongside the Music Society Chamber Choirs and for the MA Choral Conducting students’ final recital in March.

Rehearsals: Mondays, 17:00-19:00.


Birmingham ElectroAcoustic Sound Theatre (BEAST) is one of the leading international systems for the presentation of electroacoustic music. Relatively unique as a large-scale touring loudspeaker orchestra, BEAST is now capable of mounting systems with in excess of 100 discrete channels, and this year celebrates 30 years of innovating and leading in the field. BEAST is directed by Dr Scott Wilson.


If you are interested in early music and would like to study on a period instrument or take vocal lessons with one of our specialist teachers, then you can join the activities of the Centre for Early Music Performance and Research. With a focus on period performance practice, CEMPR co-ordinates a number of ensembles (for Undergraduate and Postgraduate students) who receive coaching from some of the leading professional in the field, and give concerts in the Bramall Music Building and The Barber Institute of Fine Arts. For details about tuition and how to get involved please contact Dr Paul Rodmell (Acting Director of CEMPR)

New Music Ensemble

The department's New Music Ensemble gives regular performances of contemporary music, and performs student works in both concerts and workshop sessions.  Recently performed composers include Reich, Boulez and Dallapiccola. This ensemble involves enthusiastic students from the Department of Music and some musicians from other departments.

Please note that NME auditions do not take place as part of the main audition process detailed below.  Please contact Christina Hancock (details below) for more information.

Birmingham Ensemble for Electroacoustic Research

BEER was founded in 2011 as a research project within the Music Department to explore aspects of realtime electroacoustic music making. Particular interests include networked music performance and live coding.

Creative Ensemble

Creative Ensemble is a place for performers and composers to experiment, collaborate, and discover in an open contemporary music environment. The genre-crossing ensemble is dedicated to the performance of music written and formulated by members of the group and beyond, and can range from the traditionally notated to the totally improvised. Discussions, workshops, and rehearsals form the basis of the flexible collective, leading to exciting performances and concerts with wide-ranging approaches. Open to composers, performers or both. 

University Music Society Auditioned Ensembles*

Big Band

This small auditioned ensemble gives at least two concerts per year in a mixture of formal and informal settings.  It plays a wide variety of music from early jazz classics of the 1920s and 30s right through to recently composed and arranged numbers.

Birmingham Symphonic Brass (Brass Dectet)

A new addition to the Department of Music, this brass dectet offer symphonic brass players the opportunity to perform core repertoire and works with organ as part of the University Degree Ceremonies and at other high profile events. Annual auditions will be held for this ensemble and the ensemble will be coached by professional brass tutors. For audition information or to book the group for an event please contact Christina Hancock,

Philharmonic Orchestra and Symphony Orchestra

We run two full-sized orchestras of equal standing; each one gives one concert with the University Choir and one concert on its own, and is conducted by professional conductors and members of Music Department staff. The general standard of players is around Grade 7-8 but orchestral experience is just as important as an exam result.

University Music Society unauditioned ensembles*

Brass Band

The Brass Band is a student run ensemble which gives two concerts per year, often joint with the Wind Band. The band plays a wide variety of music, from traditional brass standards to film music and arrangements of pop classics.

Chamber Choirs

Chamber Choir nurtures two choirs – the mixed choir and the female choir. Both choirs are student led, with student conductors chosen by the choirs themselves. They perform a varied programme, this year looking at works by Brahms, Whitacre, Rutter, and Gjeilo, and in previous years they performed new works by Howard Goodall in a concert attended by the composer himself.

Chamber Choir is an un-auditioned ensemble, open to anyone interested in smaller choral works. They rehearse on Thursdays from 17:00 - 19:00 in the Dome Rehearsal Room and perform one joint concert per term.

Saxophone Ensemble

The Saxophone Ensemble is one of the liveliest ensembles, playing a wide variety of purposely arranged and composed music. This group gives two concerts per year, not to be missed! 

University Chorus

University Chorus is a large choir of between 150 - 200 singers. They perform large works for chorus, including a recent performance of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana alongside the University Philharmonic Orchestra in Birmingham Town Hall. The University Chorus is conducted by Director, Julian Wilkins, and has Professor Simon Halsey, Director of Choral Activities, as its Artistic Director. Rehearsals for University Chorus also act as a platform for the MA Choral Conducting students, who will occasionally lead warm-ups or take sectional rehearsals.

University Chorus is an un-auditioned community choir, open to singers of all experience levels. At present, the majority of the choir is made up of members of the local community and staff from campus. They rehearse on Tuesday’s from 19:00 - 21:30 in the Elgar Concert Hall and perform two large works a year.

Wind Band

This is a student-conducted ensemble of brass, woodwind and percussion players, giving two concerts per year, often jointl with the Brass Band. The Wind Band perform a diverse selection of music from Holst’s Military Band Suites through to Harry Potter and Star Wars.

Chamber Ensembles

The Chamber Ensembles group is the newest addition to the UMS. It has been set up to get like minded musicians together to form small chamber groups. Informal platform sessions are held throughout the year, in order for groups to gain constructive feedback from their peers. There is one Chamber Ensembles concert each year, usually near the start of the Spring Term.

For more information on all UMS ensembles please visit

Other University music-making organisations:

The UMS and Department of Music are not the only people on campus devoted to music making:  there are several more societies based in the Guild of Students, many faith groups organise musical activities and some other departments have their own ensembles.

Guild Music Theatre Group: A student-run group that stages two or three popular musicals a year.

Chamber Music Society: A society which enables students who wish to play chamber music,  but who don't have a regular ensemble, to come together.

Jazz and Blues Society: A student-run society promoting both participation and appreciation of Jazz and Blues.

Summer Festival of Music: A week long annual student-run festival including an opera production and concerts by various ensembles in collaboration with the UMS and Department of Music.


*Auditioned Ensembles: Auditions take place in the first week of term.  More information, and sign up sheets, will be available from the Bramall Music Building during the Freshers' Fayre or on the UMS notice board.

*Unauditioned Ensembles: If the ensemble is listed as unauditioned then please just turn up at the first rehearsal to register.

NB. All ensemble members will be required to sign an ‘Ensemble Contract’. An example contract will be available for you to see on the UMS notice board.

If you have any queries, or require any further information about instrumental ensembles, please contact Christina Hancock, Orchestral Projects and Planning Officer, at or on +44 (0)121 414 3280.

Alternatively, please contact Gavin Allsop, Choral Music Coordinator, at or on +44 (0) 121 414 8226 for any queries relating to the music department’s choral ensembles.