Undergraduate and postgraduate students working within CEMPR, take tuition on voice and instruments and in ensemble performance, and follow academic courses in the history and performance of music.
Tuition is available in strings, wind and brass instruments from the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Baroque and early Classical periods. Vocal tuition is available for music in all of those periods. Singers should particularly note that, if you have a good natural voice, to receive training in early music singing also equips you to sing contemporary music, as well as folk and jazz (whereas training in the traditional nineteenth-century method rather restricts you to a narrow range of musical style and career prospects).
All CEMPR's instrumental and vocal tutors are professional performers of international calibre (see select biographies, below). Most initial technical training is done in groups, and students can learn early instruments or voice as an ‘extra’: that is, you do not have to forgo lessons on modern instruments in order to try your hand at an early instrument. But you will find that you have more time to develop your technique if you substitute training on an early instrument or in early vocal technique for one of the two sets of lessons that are offered as part of the Music course. If you do take up a new instrument you will be assessed on the progress that you have made over the year. You may already have in mind an instrument or a family of instruments on which you would like to work — violinists might like to try their hand at a Baroque violin or a medieval fiddel, and guitarists can readily learn to play the theorbo — but there are also other, less obvious, choices: if you play the trumpet, you can tackle not only the natural trumpet but also the cornett; if you play trombone, then you will easily master the sackbut. If in doubt, ask. In the past few years students have been presenting final-year recitals of first-class standard in early instruments and voice while others have included early music as part of their recital.
There are ensembles of all kinds: Medieval and Renaissance vocal ensembles; viol consorts, sackbut and cornett ensembles, recorder ensembles, Baroque string orchestra, Baroque flute ensembles, and a variety of other chamber ensembles involving different combinations of instruments and/or voice. The Centre puts on a number of lunch-hour concerts each year in which CEMPR student soloists and ensembles are showcased. There are also possibilities to partake in larger-scale CEMPR projects, involving choir and Baroque orchestra: recent performances have included Bach’s St John Passion, and Handel choral and instrumental works, in which students are trained by the professional performers on the CEMPR staff who also perform (or direct from an instrument) in the concert. For instance, the St John Passion performance was led by cellist Richard Tunnicliffe, and the Handel concert by harpsichordist and continuo player David Roblou.
Undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes
CEMPR remains part of the Music Department at Birmingham, and undergraduates in particular are encouraged to gain a broad musical education and to take advantage of other departmental strengths such as contemporary music. However, within the Music Department's new BMus syllabus there is ample opportunity to follow your interests in early music history, editing, performance and performance practice. The Department also has an early music pathways on its Music MA, and opportunities to focus on early music on its Musicology and Performance Practice PhD/MA by Research programmes.