The University of Birmingham is supporting the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s (CBSO) New Year tour of China – marking a long musical partnership between the two institutions.

Supporting its home city’s orchestra, the University is the academic partner for the CBSO’s tour of five concerts in four Chinese cities in late December and early January.

The sponsorship reflects the University of Birmingham’s rich history of musical education and research, which stretches back to its first professor of music – revered English composer Sir Edward Elgar, who joined the university in 1905.

The CBSO - pictured above by Upstream Photography - will perform Elgar’s Enigma Variations in programmes of music which will also include Tchaikovsky, Sarasate and Dvorak at concerts in Beijing, Changsha, Guangzhou and Shanghai.


University of Birmingham Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir David Eastwood will attend the Beijing concert after hosting a special reception for some of the University’s friends and partners in China.

Professor Sir David Eastwood said: “The University of Birmingham has a proud musical heritage which began with Sir Edward Elgar’s appointment as our first professor of music and continues today with our innovative teaching and research that place us at the forefront of music in the UK.

“We also have a strong musical connection with China, as the first original Chinese violin composition was Difficult Road (Xinglu Nan), composed in 1919 by our famous geology alumnus Li Siguang.

“The University of Birmingham has worked closely with the CBSO for many years and it makes perfect sense to partner with our home city’s orchestra on its tour of Chinese cities.  We have a strong tradition of cultural engagement stretching back to 1900 and, as a global ‘civic’ university, we have a responsibility to enrich the life of our home city and the wider world.”

The University ‘s world-renowned MA in Choral Conducting is directed by Professor Simon Halsey CBE - Director of the CBSO Chorus. The high-profile course runs in association with the CBSO, giving students opportunities to observe, conduct and sing every week.

CBSO Assistant Chorus Master Julian Wilkins trains three of the University’s choirs and many students who perform in its orchestras receive tuition from CBSO musicians.

The University of Birmingham is also home to a vibrant and exciting music department, which is an international leader - ranked joint second in the UK in the most recent Research Assessment Exercise - with a programme that embodies the latest cutting edge developments in the practice and study of music.

The university’s research strengths lie in a number of areas, including electro-acoustic music and British music of the 19th and 20th centuries, whilst top musicians come to Birmingham to study for an MA in Performance - receiving high-level training to improve their capabilities as artists.

The University of Birmingham has one of the liveliest music-making scenes of any university, with over 1,000 students taking part in a range of groups. There are two full-sized classical orchestras, 12 large ensembles, seven choirs and over 25 smaller musical groups.

Renowned musical alumni include soprano Carolyn Sampson, accompanist Joseph Middleton and composer Gabriel Prokofiev – grandson of Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev. The former students often return to the University to give masterclasses to the next musical generation.


For more information or interviews, please contact Tony Moran, International Communications Manager, University of Birmingham on +44 (0) 121 414 8254 or  +44 (0)782 783 2312

Notes to Editors               

  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions, its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 5,000 international students from over 150 countries. 
  • The CBSO’s tour of China features conductor Vassily Sinaisky and solo violinist James Ehnes. Its China tour, supported by the University of Birmingham, comprises of the following concerts: 

-                      Friday 30 December  and Saturday 31 December - GUANGZHOU, Opera House       

-                      Sunday 1 January - CHANGSHA, Concert Hall                                             

-                      Tuesday 3 January - SHANGHAI, Grand Theatre         

-                      Thursday 5 January - BEIJING, National Centre for Performing Arts    

  • University Music allows Birmingham students to continue their passion for music-making, receive professional mentoring and coaching, apply for scholarships, and be part of an annual programme of 110-plus concerts and events.