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 support the diversity across the University Music offering. Professional ensembles and musicians work with student musicians and composers across the year to encourage their development and to provide students with a broad range of experiences.

Recent and upcoming activity

Resident ensembles:

  • Birmingham Contemporary Music Group
  • Birmingham Symphonic Winds
  • Pestova / Roche / Rees Trio
  • Musica Secreta 

Workshops and masterclasses:

  • Tenebrae
  • Onyx Brass
  • Bozzini Quartet
  • Callino Quartet
  • Carolyn Sampson
  • Joseph Middleton
  • Simon Carrington
  • Patrick Russill
  • Michael Seal
  • Dr Jonathan White (Musicians Health)
  • Rowena Knight (Alexander Technique)
  • Percy Pursglove
  • Sandy Hay
  • Binchois Consort
  • The Sixteen

Orchestral, chamber music, and voice coaching:

  • Strings – Jane Wright (CBSO)
  • Strings – CJ Hughes
  • Strings – Colette Overdijk (CBSO)
  • Strings – Mike Jenkinson (CBSO)
  • Strings – Richard Jenkinson (Dante Quartet)
  • Strings – Kate Setterfield (CBSO)
  • Strings – Elaine Heinen
  • Strings – Sebastiano Dessanay
  • Woodwind – Margaret Cookhorn (CBSO)
  • Woodwind – Jack McNeill
  • Woodwind – Diane Clark
  • Brass – Stephen Roberts
  • Brass – Alwyn Green (previously CBSO)
  • Brass – Anneke Scott
  • Percussion – Andrew Herbert (CBSO)
  • Voice – Alison Chamberlain
  • Voice – Mark Chambers
  • Voice – Elizabeth Cragg
  • Piano Accompaniment – Julian Wilkins

Auditioned and hand-picked ensembles

Birmingham Symphonic Brass

Director: Dr Stephen Roberts
Rehearsals: Alternate Friday evenings

This brass dectet offers symphonic brass players the opportunity to perform core repertoire with organ as part of the University Degree Ceremonies and other high profile events. They recently played for the installation ceremony to formally welcome the University’s new Chancellor. The ensemble also perform regular concerts.

For audition information, or to book the group, please contact Christina Hancock.

Birmingham University Singers

Birmingham University Singers in performance on tour at St. Matthäus-Kirche, BerlinBirmingham University Singers in performance on tour at St. Matthäus-Kirche, Berlin

Director: Bob Chilcott
Rehearsals: Monday 19.45 – 22.00

BUS is a mixed chamber choir of up to 45 auditioned singers directed by Bob Chilcott. Since its inception, the choir has gained a national reputation as one of the finest university choirs in the UK.

Rehearsing weekly and performing a wide and varied repertoire, the choir usually gives two concerts per year in the Elgar Concert Hall, plus a performance in Symphony Hall, Birmingham as part of University of Birmingham Voices. Their annual Festival of Lessons and Carols at St Michael’s, Tenbury, is a highlight of the academic 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, Tenebrae, and Voces8. The choir has also developed a noted international reputation, having given concerts in Germany, Czech Republic, and Poland. BUS will return to Europe in the summer of 2020 for their biennial tour.

BUS has appeared under the baton of many distinguished guest conductors including Simon Carrington, Simon Halsey, and Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla. Recent collaborations have included performances with Jeffrey Douma and Yale Glee Club, Nigel Short and Tenebrae, and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

Jazz Orchestra

Director: Jonathan Silk
Rehearsals: Tuesday 19.30 – 21.30

Jazz Orchestra is the University’s premier auditioned jazz ensemble, creatively directed by Jonathan Silk. It explores contemporary music written for large jazz ensemble, working on theme based projects over the course of the academic year. In the 2018/19 season the ensemble took on the challenge of interpreting Kenny Wheeler’s Sweet Time Suite and Jim McNeely’s East Coast Blowout albums in the Autumn term – performing these in at concert at the CBSO Centre – and then worked alongside guest artist Iain Ballamy in the Spring term to present a concert of his own tunes arranged by Malcolm Edmonstone in the Bramall Concert Hall. Previous guest artists have included world renowned musicians such as Bobby Shrew, Stan Sulzmann and Mark Lockheart.

New Music Ensemble

Director: Daniele Rosina
Rehearsals: Tuesday 17.00 – 19.00

The hand-picked New Music Ensemble is the University Music's contemporary music group. Directed by Daniele Rosina, Director of Orchestral Studies, this ensemble 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 regularly feature in the Music Department's CrossCurrents music festival.

Philharmonic Orchestra & 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.

  • Philharmonic Rehearsals: Monday 17.00 – 19.00 & Wednesday 15.00 – 18.00
  • Symphony Rehearsals: Thursday 18.00 – 21.00

University Camerata

Director: MA Conducting Students
Rehearsals: Monday 17.00 – 19.00

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 student MA conductors, Camerata is a great platform for exploring a large variety of a cappella choral repertoire.

University of Birmingham Voices

University of Birmingham Voices at the BBC Proms with BBC Proms Youth ChoirUniversity of Birmingham Voices at BBC Proms 2018 with BBC Proms Youth Choir

Director: Professor Simon Halsey & Julian Wilkins
Rehearsals: Bespoke Project Schedules

University of Birmingham Voices rehearse in the spring term for an annual performance alongside the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in Symphony Hall. This symphonic choir is a chorus of approximately 120 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), a revue show of the music of Rodgers & Hammerstein (2016), and a critically acclaimed concert production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Yeomen of the Guard (2017). In 2019 they collaborated with CBSO Chorus in a massed performance of Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast with the orchestra and John Wilson.

University of Birmingham Voices remain in high demand and – alongside other vocal ensembles at the university – have returned to perform at the BBC Proms on a number of occasions in recent years. Highlights include three performances of Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius with Sir Simon Rattle and the Vienna Philharmonic in Birmingham, London, and Lucerne, as well as a performance of Verdi’s Messa da Requiem with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and Marin Alsop at the penultimate night of the festival in 2016. In 2017, the choir opened the Proms season with BBC Proms Youth Choir and Edward Gardner in a live televised performance of John Adams’s Harmonium.

In 2019/20 the choir will sing alongside the CBSO and CBSO Chorus at Symphony Hall in a performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 (“Symphony of a Thousand”).

University Vocal Consort

Director: UG Conducting Students
Rehearsals: Thursday 17.00 – 18.00

University Vocal Consort is hand-picked choir of 16 voices, created each year to work with final year undergraduate conducting students. They rehearse once a week, focusing on recital repertoire, with occasional supervision from professional academic staff. The choir gives committed and experienced choral singers the opportunity to sing challenging repertoire in an a cappella small group setting.

University Women’s Choir

University Women’s Choir in rehearsal with Patrick BarrettUniversity Women’s Choir in rehearsal with Patrick Barrett in the Elgar Concert Hall

Director: Jack Apperley
Rehearsals: Monday 19.45 – 22.00

The University Women’s Choir was founded by Professor Simon Halsey CBE in 2013 to accommodate and nurture the wealth of strong women’s 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 Jack Apperley, 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. In recent years they have focussed on celebrating historic and contemporary women composers, including Elizabeth Poston, Cecilia McDowall, and Janet Wheeler.

UWC has appeared under the baton of many distinguished conductors, including Patrick Barrett, Simon Carrington, and Simon Halsey. Recent projects have included commissioning of new music by Paul Mealor, and a premiere performance of the complete set of new choral works, written especially for upper voices, published by Oxford University Press.

 

Un-auditioned ensembles and groups

Birmingham University Liturgical Choir

Birmingham University Liturgical Choir at Lichfield CathedralBirmingham University Liturgical Choir at Lichfield Cathedral

Director: Dr Paul Rodmell
Rehearsals: Bespoke Project Schedules

BULC is a mixed choir of around 26 singers who come together, usually once per term, to sing Evensong at local cathedrals across the West Midlands area. Recent projects have included repeat visits to Lichfield Cathedral.

The choir is an un-auditioned ensemble and is open to anyone who is interested in exploring the Anglican church music tradition. A sign-up sheet is posted in the Music Office in the Bramall Music Building each term, as places are first-come-first served. For more information, please contact Gavin Allsop.

Brass Band

Director: Stuart Birnie
Rehearsals: Wednesday 19.30 – 21.30

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 un-auditioned 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. 

Centre for Early Music Performance and Research (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. 

CEMPR Ensembles include: 

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

Chamber Choirs (SATB & SSA)

Director: Student Conducted
Rehearsals: Thursday 19.00 – 20.15 (SSA) & 20.15 – 21.30 (SATB)

The Music Society run two choirs – the mixed choir and the upper voices choir. Both choirs are student led, with student conductors chosen by the choirs themselves. They perform a varied programme, from small sacred and secular works to popular world musics. 

Chamber Choirs are un-auditioned ensembles, open to anyone interested in smaller choral works.

Chamber Music Network

Our Chamber Music Network gives students the opportunity to be part of a variety of chamber ensembles, and perform in two annual concerts. Students can set up their own small ensemble, or join a pre-existing group. Informal platform sessions are held throughout the year, in order for groups to gain constructive feedback from their peers. For more information, please contact Christina Hancock.

Flute Choir

Director: Student Conducted
Rehearsals: Wednesday 13.00 – 14.00

Flute Choir is one of the society's newest ensembles, having recently been created due to high demand. It is a small ensemble that caters for flute players of all abilities. The ensemble is conducted by student conductors, and takes part in two concerts per year. 

Gamelan Ensemble

Director: Dr Andy Channing
Rehearsals: Various Weekend Sessions

The Gamelan Ensemble is a student-led group for learning and performing Balinese gamelan gong kebyar. Workshops are ran by Gamelan specialist, Dr Andrew Channing, alongside student-led rehearsals. All students are welcome and no previous experience is required to take part.

Jazz Collective

Director: Jonathan Silk
Rehearsals: Private band rehearsals, plus Friday evening workshops

Jazz Collective gives talented jazz musicians within the University a chance to form smaller ensembles, performing a range of repertoire from well-known standards to arrangements and compositions by students. There are many performance opportunities offered through Jazz Collective, in venues across Birmingham.

Samba Band

The Samba Band is a new ensemble and gave its first performance at the Birmingham Prom in June. 2018 No previous experience or specific musical ability is required to become a member of the ensemble - simply show your interest by signing up during Welcome Week.

Saxophone Choir

Director: Student Conducted
Rehearsals: Friday 17.00 – 19.00

The Saxophone Choir is an ensemble conducted by students available for alto, tenor, baritone and soprano players. It welcomes saxophone players of all abilities and performs a variety of works from popular hits to well-known classical compositions, taking part in two concerts per year. Recent repertoire has included Holst’s Fantasia on the Dargason and Karen Street’s Tango.

University Chorus

University choirUniversity Chorus in rehearsal with University Symphony Orchestra and Julian Wilkins at Birmingham Town Hall

Director: Julian Wilkins
Rehearsals: Tuesday 19.00 – 21.30

University Chorus is a large choir of between 150 – 200 singers. They perform large works for chorus, including a recent performance of Haydn’s The Creation 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, students, and staff from campus. 

University Staff Singers

Director: MA Conducting Students
Rehearsals: Thursday 12.30 – 13.30 

Founded in 2016, University Staff Singers offers members of staff at the University the opportunity to get involved in music-making in their lunch break. With no requirement for prior experience or the ability to read music the choir is a fun opportunity for all staff to give singing a try under the training of the MA Choral Conducting students from the Music Department. The choir rehearses on Thursday afternoons in term time from 1230 at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts.

If you are interested and want to find out more, please contact Gavin Allsop.

String Orchestra

Director: Student Conducted
Rehearsals: Sunday 17.00 – 19.00

String Orchestra is a newly formed student-conducted group aiming to play a variety of classic and contemporary repertoire. Recent repertoire has included Grieg's Holberg Suite and Elgar's Serenade for Strings. The ensemble welcomes players of all abilities. 

Wind Band

Director: Student Conducted (with coaching from Keith Allen and Birmingham Symphonic Winds)
Rehearsals: Monday 20.00 – 22.00

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

Visiting tutors

Music students at the University of Birmingham are entitled to instrumental/vocal lessons. For BMus students this is a compulsory part of the course, while for Joint Honours students it is optional. Tuition is delivered by a variety of tutors from Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, and also by specialists from across the UK employed directly by the Department of Music (as listed below).

Piano

  • Alexander Boyd
  • Cinzia Scafetta

Violin

  • CJ Hughes
  • Colette Overdijk

Voice

  • Alison Chamberlain
  • Mark Chambers
  • Elizabeth Cragg

Clarinet

  • Jack McNeill

Trumpet

  • Steve Lee

Trombone

  • Martyn Sanderson

Trombone - Jazz

  • Richard Foote

Drum kit

  • Jonathan Silk

Baroque Violin

  • Miki Takahashi

Baroque Flute

  • Katy Bircher

Harpsichord

  • Yeo Yat-Soon

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 the Autumn term each year. More information, and sign-up sheets, is available from the Bramall Music Building during Welcome Week or on the Music Society notice board.

Un-auditioned ensembles – if an ensemble is listed as un-auditioned, please sign-up during Welcome Week at the Music Society stall in the Bramall Music Building, or get in touch with the team. 

N.B. University Music strives to achieve the highest possible performance standards. In order to achieve this, it is necessary that each ensemble member maintains a high level of commitment and meets the requirements of the performing group. Thus, each participating student is required to sign a ‘Member Agreement’ at the start of each academic year. 

If you have any queries about the aforementioned information, or have any further queries about our performing ensembles, please contact either of the following:  

Christina Hancock (Orchestral Projects and Planning Officer)
C.Hancock@bham.ac.uk / +44 (0)121 414 3280

Gavin Allsop (Choral Music Coordinator)
G.M.Allsop@bham.ac.uk / +44 (0) 121 414 8226

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 for our musicians

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 the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, English Touring Opera, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Milton Keynes Symphony Orchestra, Warwick Arts Centre, and other educational institutions, including Royal 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 more information, or to discuss future collaborations with the team, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

University Music and Concerts Team