University Music 

The University of Birmingham enjoys one of the liveliest music-making scenes of any campus.

University Music

By getting involved in University Music you can continue your passion for music-making, receive professional mentoring and coaching, apply for scholarships (non-music students), and be part of our annual programme of 110-plus concerts and events. With over 1000 positions in our 30-plus ensembles, members participate in a variety of instrumental and vocal groups, across a range of abilities and styles. University Music is open to students, staff and the local community.

The University Music Society is a key part of the University Music scene and through it you can also get involved in running the groups and promoting the events.

Resident ensembles, workshops and masterclasses

Our resident ensemble and workshop programme combines longstanding partnerships with annual appointments to best support the diversity of University Music. Professional ensembles and musicians work with student musicans and composers across the year to encourage their development and to provide students with a broad range of experiences.

2016/17 activity

Resident ensembles: Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Birmingham Symphonic Winds, Pestova/Roche/Rees Trio, Musica Secreta.

Workshops and masterclasses: Vocal - Carolyn Sampson & Joseph Middleton. Musicians Health - Dr Jonathan White. Alexander technique - Rowenna Knight. Jazz - Percy Pursglove & Joanthan Silk. Flute Choir - Sandy Hay.

Orchestral and chamber music coaching: Upper Strings - Jane Wright (CBSO), CJ Hughes, Mike Jenkinson (CBSO). Cello  - Richard Jenkinson (Dante Quartet), Kate Setterfield (CBSO), Elaine Heinen. Bass - Sebastiano Dessanay. Brass - Stephen Roberts, Alwyn Green (CBSO-retired), Anneke Scott. Percussion - Andrew Herbert (CBSO). Woodwind - Margaret Cookhorn (CBSO), Jack McNeill, Diane Clark.

Auditioned* and hand-picked ensembles

Big Band

Director: Jonathan Silk

The Music Society's Big Band draws together the finest jazz musician on campus, under the direction of their professional MD, Jonathan Silk. The band performs in The Bramall and in a variety of jazz venues across the city.  Their main focus is on jazz orchestra repertoire, but they can also be heard playing the occasional funk tune and they have recently been playing some Chaka Khan classics. This year they are joined by guest soloists Stan Sulzmann and Bobby Shew.

Rehearsals: Tuesdays, 19.30-21.30.

Birmingham Symphonic Brass (Brass Dectet)

Director: Dr Stephen Roberts

This brass dectet offer symphonic brass players the opportunity to perform core brass dectet repertoire, new arrangements and works by their director and works with organ as part of the University Degree Ceremonies. The group perform in a concert each term in The Barber Institute of Fine Arts and at high profile University events.

For audition information or to book the group for an event please contact Christina Hancock.

Birmingham University Singers

Birmingham-University-Singers-in-rehearsal-at-the-Elgar-Concert-HallBirmingham University Singers in rehearsal at the Elgar Concert Hall

Director: Professor Simon Carrington

BUS is a mixed chamber choir of up to 40 auditioned singers run by the Music Department and led by 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.

New Music Ensemble

Director: Daniele Rosina

The hand-picked New Music Ensemble is the Department of Music's contemporary music group. Directed by Daniele Rosina, Director of Orchestral Studies, this group presents new works by student and staff composers, as well as commissioning UK-wide composers. Recently performed composers include Reich, Boulez and Dallapiccola.  New Music Ensemble feature in the Music Department's CrossCurrents music festival.

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

Rehearsals: Tuesdays, 17.00-19.00.

Philharmonic Orchestra and Symphony Orchestra

Director: Daniele Rosina

The Music Society has two full-sized, auditioned orchestras of equal standing. They each give a termly concert in The Bramall, and occasional concerts at Town Hall (Birmingham) with the University Chorus. Both orchestras are directed by Daniele Rosina and the general standard of players is around Grade 7-8, but orchestral experience is just as important as an exam result. The orchestras receive coaching from a variety of professional musicians, including members of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Auditions take place in Week one of the Autumn term.

Rehearsals: Philharmonic - Mondays 17.00-19.30, Wednesdays 15.00-18.00. Symphony - Thursdays 19.15-22.00.

University Camerata

University Camerata is specially selected choir of up to 40 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.

University of Birmingham Voices

University of Birmingham Singers at BBC Proms with BBC Proms Youth Choir

University of Birmingham Voices at BBC Proms with BBC Proms Youth Choir

Directors: Professor Simon Halsey CBE and Julian Wilkins

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). In September 2016, UoB Voices formed 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 Yeomen of the Guard with John Wilson, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and a host of international soloists. In summer 2017, the choir will then again form part of BBC Proms Youth Choir to perform alongside the BBC Symphony Orchestra & Chorus and Edward Gardner for the opening night of the BBC Proms 2017.

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

University Women's Choir

University-Women’s-Choir-in-rehearsal-with-Professor-Simon-CarringtonUniversity Women’s Choir in rehearsal with Professor Simon Carrington

Director: Professor Simon Halsey CBE

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.

Un-auditioned* ensembles and groups

Brass Band

Director: Stuart Birnie

The Brass Band is a Music Society  ensemble which gives two concerts per year, often joint with the Wind Band or Chamber Choirs. The band plays a wide variety of music, from traditional brass standards to film music and arrangements of pop classics. They are directed by leading tuba player and educator Stuart Birnie. This is an unadutioned group with no cap on membership - so expect between 40-55 players rather than a standard band format. Seating auditions are held at the start of each term in some sections to ensure that player are in the most suitable positions. The band compete in the annual Uni Brass competition and came 6th in the 2015 and 5th in 2016.

Rehearsals: Wednesdays, 19.30-21.30

CEMPR

Director: Professor Andrew Kirkman

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  and The Barber Institute of Fine Arts. For details about tuition and how to get involved please contact Professor Andrew Kirkman.

CEMPR Ensembles include:

  • Chamber Orchestra, Early Modern Vocal Ensemble, Baroque Flute Ensemble, Early Strings, Harmonie Band, Sackbutts and Cornetts, and Continuo Club.
  • Professional CEMPR coaches include: Anneke Scott (horns), Andrew King and Mark Chambers (vocal)

Chamber Choirs (SATB & SSA)

Student conducted

The Music Society run 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.

Rehearsals: Thursdays, 17:00 - 19:00 

Chamber Ensembles Network

The Music Society's Chamber Ensembles Network is a key part of Univeristy Music.  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 please contact Christina Hancock.

Creative Ensemble - New for 2016!

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. 

New to 2016 this group will get together on Saturday mornings in The Dome. If you are interested in this group please contact Christina Hancock.

Flute Choir

Student conducted / Professional coaching - Sandy Hay

The Music Society has created the Flute Choir in order to give the growing number of flautists on campus the opportunity to perform in an ensemble together. They give an annual concert and in 2016 they will be coached by the Director of the Birmingham Flute Choir, Sandy Hay. Please contact the Music Society for details, and sign up in Week 1.

Gamelan Ensemble

Director: Dr Andy Channing

The Music Society Gamelan Ensemble is directed by leading Gamelan expert Andy Channing. The group rehearse at weekends and perform at a variety of University events. They also give a concert each spring as part of the Music Department's series of Monday lunchtime concerts.

Jazz Collective

Professional Coaches: Percy Pursglove & Jonathan Silk

The Music Society has seen a huge growth in the number of students interest in jazz in the last 5 years. As a result they now co-ordinate Jazz Collective - a pool of players and small bands that get together for workshop and coaching sessions in order to peform at various events and with the Big Band.

Saxophone Choir

Student conducted

The Saxophone Choir is one of the liveliest ensembles, playing a wide variety of purposely arranged and composed music. This group gives two concerts per year, and includes over 30 sax players from the University and wider community.

Rehearsals: Fridays, 17.00-19.00.

University Chorus

Director: Julian Wilkins

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.

Rehearsals: Tuesdays, 19:00-21:30, Elgar Concert Hall.

University Staff Singers - New in 2016!

If you are a member of staff at the University and would like to get involved in music in your lucnh break then this new staff choir coudl be perfect for you. With no requirement for prior experience or the ability to read music this choir is a fun opportunity for you to give singing a try. 

If you are interested and want to find out more please contact Gavin Allsop, G.m.allsop@bham.ac.uk

Rehearsals: Thursdays, 12.30-13.30. The Barber Institute of Fine Arts 

Wind Band

Student conducted / Professional coaching: Keith Allen and Birmingham Symphonic Winds

This Music Society band is a large ensemble of brass, woodwind and percussion players, who perform orginal works for wind band and wind orchestra alongside popular arrangements. With over 100 players this is the largest unauditioned instrumental ensembles.

Rehearsals: Mondays, 19.45-21.45.

Electroacoustic groups

BEAST

Director: Dr Scott Wilson

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.

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. For information please contact Dr Scott Wilson.

Membership information

*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 Music Society 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 Music Society 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 c.hancock@bham.ac.uk or on +44 (0)121 414 3280.

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

Other University music-making organisations

There are lots of music and music-making societies in our student union, the Guild of Students, covering a wide variety of genres and skills. 

Whether you are interested in;

  • Being part of a popular musical or opera
  • Developing your talents as a songwriter
  • Hosting your own radio show
  • Joining a band/ choir/ A cappella group
  • Helping to organise the largest student-run music festival in the UK
  • Trying something new
  • Meeting like-minded people
  • Exploring what the Birmingham music scene has to offer

You are welcome to join as many societies as you like here at Birmingham. We now have over 250 active student groups, but if you cannot find the one you want, why not look into setting up one of your own?

Musicians health and wellbeing

As the only University in the UK Healthy Conservatoires Network we work with colleagues from higher education and professional arts organisations to share best practice and continually develop our Health and Wellbeing provision.


Being part of the University Music is the first step in improving your health and wellbeing. Not only does this give you access to numerous workshops, masterclasses and resources listed below, it connects you to a network of like-minded musicians who are likely to become your biggest support network during your time at University. You can also be part of our Health and Wellbeing committee, helping us shape our programme and identify areas where support can be offered.

What we offer

All of our health and wellbeing events are open to all our performers – both departmental and Music Society. Whether you are a singer, composer or instrumentalist; a music student, non-music student, or member of the local community; as long as you are in a University Music ensemble you are welcome at all of our wellbeing events.

  • Performance workshops
    We run the following FREE sessions throughout the year aimed at improving your Health and Wellbeing. Details on when sessions are happening, and how to sign up will be circulated through the Music Society mailing list.
  • Performance coaching
    If you are a recitalist, choir member, orchestral musician, or any kind of performer who gets anxious about public performance, these sessions are for you.
  • Alexander technique
    Specialist Rowena Knight comes in regularly throughout the year for individual sign up sessions. If you’ve never experienced it before – we can’t recommend Alexander Technique enough for your general wellbeing and the huge effect it can have on your overall performance. Chamber Ensembles musicians, and orchestra members might even find Rowena in one of your rehearsals.
  • Mindfulness in music
    Eliza McCarthy, mindfulness expert and professional pianist will be running sessions on mindfulness in music – if this is something you’ve wanted to find out more about then look out for emails detailing how to sign up.
  • Lecture series
    Each academic year we run a Health and Wellbeing lecture series with talks from a variety of industry professionals including medical practitioners from the British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM), Performance coaches and Alexander Technique specialists. These will be every Wednesday evening at 18:00 during October.
  • Sport psychology workshops
    We’ve recently linked up with the High Performance department at UoB Sport to see how we can learn from their methods of performance preparation. We will be bringing you workshops from the Sports Psychology team throughout the year so you can use their techniques for your own performances. We also advise taking full use of the sports facilities for yoga, pilates and other relaxation classes that could benefit your wellbeing.
  • Student support agreement
    If you have a Student Support Agreement in place with your department that you think could impact your involvement in an ensemble you can talk to Gavin Allsop (choral ensembles) or Christina Hancock (instrumental ensembles) about this in confidence. This might include getting music in larger print, on different coloured paper, or having an agreement in place about absences from rehearsals.

For further information please contact our Health and Wellbeing Champion – Christina Hancock at c.hancock@bham.ac.uk.

Professional support

University Music is managed by a dedicated team of full-time professional staff - ensuring that our activities are unrivalled in any other UK University. With a wealth of experience, the team have come to the University from organisations including CBSO, English Touring Opera, the Bournemouth, and Milton Keynes Symphony Orchestras, Warwick Arts Centre and educational organisations including Birmingham Conservatoire.

Delivering over 130 concerts and events each year (including the concert series in The Barber Institute of Fine Arts), the team work with a dedicated team of professional conductors, coaches and the University Music Society. The team also lead on strategic partnerships with music organisations across the country and run an internship scheme from September – March each academic year.

For information or to discuss future collaborations please get in touch. 

University Music and Concerts Team