History

CUMS is one of the oldest and most distinguished university music societies in the world. It offers a world-class musical education for members of the University and local residents, nurturing the great musicians of the future and providing performing opportunities for over 500 Cambridge musicians every year.

The Society has played a pivotal role in British musical life for over 170 years. It has educated Sir Andrew Davis, Sir Mark Elder, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Edward Gardner, Christopher Hogwood and Robin Ticciati, has premièred works by Brahms, Holloway, Lutoslawski, Maxwell Davies, Rutter, Saxton and Vaughan Williams, and has given successive generations of Cambridge musicians the experience of performing alongside visiting conductors and soloists including Britten, Dvorak, Kodaly, Menuhin and Tchaikovsky. Since the 1870s, CUMS has enjoyed the leadership of several of Britain’s finest musicians, including Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, Sir David Willcocks, Sir Philip Ledger, and, from 1983 to 2009, Stephen Cleobury.

In 2009 Stephen Cleobury assumed the new role of Principal Conductor, Cambridge University Symphony Chorus, and Sir Roger Norrington was appointed as Principal Guest Conductor of CUMS. A ‘Great Conductors’ series was launched with the objective of exposing CUMS members to a succession of world-class visiting conductors.

In 2010 CUMS entered another new phase of its development when it merged with the Cambridge University Chamber Orchestra and Cambridge University Music Club. In October 2010 the Society launched the Cambridge University Lunchtime Concerts – a new series of weekly chamber recitals at West Road Concert Hall showcasing the University’s finest musical talent.

In 2011 CUMS merged with the Cambridge University Chamber Choir, which is directed by Martin Ennis, David Lowe and Nicholas Mulroy. In 2014 CUMS welcomed the Cambridge University Jazz Orchestra and the Cambridge University New Music Ensemble as associate ensembles. The Cambridge University New Music Ensemble were delighted to take part in the three day Cambridge festival Secret Theatres which celebrated Harrison Birtwistle’s 80th birthday.

In 2017 the CUMS Orchestras undertook a restructure, forming two ensembles (Cambridge University Orchestra and Cambridge University Sinfonia) as opposed to three, with the aim of creating a greater number of opportunities for students to play under some of the best professional conductors.

CUMS continues to provide opportunities for the University’s finest student soloists and conductors by awarding conducting scholarships and concerto prizes, and it actively encourages new music by running a composition competition and premiering at least one new work each year. Recent highlights have included Wagner’s Parsifal (Act III) conducted by Sir Mark Elder, a recording of The Epic of Everest’s original score for the British Film Institute, a concert of Haydn and Mendelssohn at Kings Place, London, conducted by Sir Roger Norrington and Verdi’s Otello (Act I) conducted by Richard Farnes.

 

Registered Charity No. 1149534

Cambridge University Musical Society
West Road Concert Hall
11 West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DP
Principal Guest Conductor
Sir Roger Norrington CBE
CUMS Conductor Laureate
Stephen Cleobury CBE
Director, Cambridge University Chamber Choir
Martin Ennis
Artistic Advisor
Sian Edwards
Associate Directors, Cambridge University Chamber Choir
David Lowe, Nicholas Mulroy