University Music Highlights in 2023-24

Following the completion of another successful Summer Festival of Music, University Music looks back on a jam-packed year of music-making on campus.

performance outside the Bramble music building

This year was full of exciting opportunities in University Music; from collaborations with local guest artists to welcoming back alumni, audiences enjoyed a huge variety of performances from students and community members alike.

The University Jazz Orchestra performed a wealth of new music throughout the year, first being joined by Gabriella Liandu as part of the Our City of Stories concert series and performing brand new arrangements of Steve Banks’ ‘Emboldened Suite’ at the CBSO Centre. Popular jazz venue The Spotted Dog also welcomed the Jazz Orchestra as part of a residency during our annual Summer Festival of Music, which saw the Jazz Vocal ensemble perform in the regular ‘Jazz at the Spotted Dog’ programming alongside a number of Jazz Collective ensembles.


Music performance by University of Birmingham students

Also welcoming local guests were the University Brass Band who performed a joint concert alongside the Langley Band, one of the oldest bands in the West Midlands. The band also said a fond farewell to longstanding professional conductor Stuart Birnie with an Alumni Reunion Massed Band concert, and welcomed Stephen Kane who joins us as the new conductor.

Choral music remained an integral part of the University Music offer, with notable performances from University of Birmingham Voices who performed the UK premiere of John Luther Adams’ ‘Vespers of a Blessed Earth’ with the CBSO Chorus, and a new commission by Toby Young premiered by Birmingham University Singers in their Spring concert. Birmingham University Liturgical Choir made several outings during the year, visiting Lichfield, Birmingham, and Worcester Cathedral to give choral evensong, and University Upper Voices were pleased to feature in the annual University Carol Service. A particular highlight was the formation of the Summer Festival Voices ensemble which returned this year due to popular demand and performed an enjoyable lunchtime concert during the Summer Festival of Music.

The Philharmonic and Symphony Orchestras enjoyed a plethora of sold-out concerts, including the Philharmonic Orchestra’s performance of the Yellow River Concerto with pianist Di Xiao in collaboration with the University of Birmingham China Institute for their annual Lunar New Year concert. We also welcomed back the 2021 Soloist Competition winner Eloise Yates to feature in Oliver Beck’s ‘Heroica’ with the Summer Festival Orchestra. This piece was selected as the winner of the 2023 Composition Competition and was programmed alongside the Bruch Violin Concerto in G Minor which was performed by this year’s Soloist Competition winner Jessie Lewis.

Finally, the year came to a close with the annual Summer Festival of Music which saw students from all subjects and disciplines come together for two weeks of relaxed performances. Symphonic Brass, accompanied by some fantastic weather, performed an entertaining set on Chancellor’s Court, talented University Music Scholars and Chamber Music ensembles delighted audiences with a variety of performances in their lunchtime concerts, and students enjoyed an introductory workshop into South Asian Music in collaboration with the Sonia Sabri Company. The festival came to a triumphant close with a lively (and full!) concert from the University Folk Band, following their successful performance as part of Joe Broughton’s Power Folk festival at the Spotted Dog.

University Music provides the University of Birmingham with one of the liveliest music-making scenes of any campus. With around 1500 positions available in our 35-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, and provides participants with opportunities for professional coaching, exceptional concerts, as well as the chance to apply for yearly scholarships. To find out more, please visit the Music department website.

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