CUWO tour to Cologne and Rhineland 2017

In the early hours of the 3rd July, Cambridge University Wind Orchestra set off from Newnham for our exciting 2017 tour to Germany! Following a day’s rehearsal at Newnham College to run through our concert repertoire, we embarked on the 12 hour coach journey to Cologne, which was made bearable by movies, card games and CUWO-style a capella renditions of pretty much every noughties classic!

The following day, after a final rehearsal, we travelled to our first concert at the beautiful resort of Bad Kreuznach. Our programme for tour was exciting and varied, consisting of the rousing Scottish Dances by Malcolm Arnold, Gershwin’s entertaining American in Paris, Bernstein’s emotive and varied Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, London Suite by Eric Coates and finally the captivating Yiddish Dances by Adam Gorb.

The repertoire was challenging and great fun to play, and by the end of the tour, both last year’s CUWO members and deps felt a strong affinity to these fantastic works. In total we played four concerts at venues including St Peter’s Church, Bacharach, the Church of St Aposteln in Cologne and the pretty town square in Linz. In each concert, we were warmed by the welcoming and appreciative reception we relieved from the locals who attended, and it was wonderful to see our music received so enthusiastically.

During the tour we also had the opportunity to explore Cologne and the beautiful surrounding Rhineland area. This included a visit to the fascinating and picturesque castle at Drachenfels, where we were able to gain an insight into the history of the local area and the aristocracy who wielded great power there. We also enjoyed a boat trip down the Rhine, which gave us a lovely view of the river that our concert locations were interspersed along. In addition we had the chance to visit the town of Bonn, the birthplace of Beethoven, where we were over-enthusiastic as always about the traditional CUWO scavenger hunt, which included performing an operetta outside the town theatre and taking selfies with the statue of Beethoven!

Overall, tour this year was a wonderful and varied experience filled with fantastic music and four uplifting concerts, some fun trips and great team spirit and laughs throughout. Every member of the orchestra made this trip such a pleasure to be part of, but in particular we are so thankful to our percussion-moving team and our fantastic coach driver Marc. Most of all we are all so grateful to the tour committee, Ellen, Simon and Joe, whose tireless work and commitment made this brilliant tour possible. We can’t wait to find out where CUWO will go next!

– Surina Fordington is a saxophonist in CUWO


Ben Glassberg, CUMS Alumnus, wins 55th International Besançon Competition for Young Conductors

We are delighted that CUMS alumnus, Ben Glassberg (Conducting Scholar 2013-14), has won all three prizes at the prestigious 55th International Besançon Competition for Young Conductors. After reaching the final round of the competition, Ben won the top prize, as well as the coup de cœur prizes from both the orchestra and the public. 

After completing his Music degree at Girton College, Cambridge, Ben went on the the Royal Academy of Music to study Conducting with Sian Edwards. He made his Glyndebourne conducting debut earlier in the summer as one of the youngest conductors in the Festival’s history. In the 2017/18 season Ben will work with Kammerakademie Potsdam in both symphonic concerts and in a new production of  Cosi fan Tutte as part of the Kammeroper Schloss Rheinsberg.  He will assist Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic Orchestra and returns to work with Antonello Manacorda at the Theater an der Wien on a new production A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Damiano Michieletto. 

CUMS looks forward to following Ben on what promises to be a very exciting career ahead! 

Summer 2017: CUMS on Tour

Two of our ensembles will be touring in Europe this summer: CUMS Symphony Orchestra and Cambridge University Wind Orchestra. If you happen to be in Prague or the Rhineland in July, perhaps you can attend one (or more!) of their fantastic concerts!

CUWO Tour: the Rhineland

Concert Programme: to include Gershwin’s An American in Paris and Symphonic Dances from Bernstein’s West Side Story. Conducted by Jack Bazalgette. 

CUWO on tour in Belgium, July 2016

Tuesday 4th July
at Kurgarten, Bad Kreuznach

Wednesday 5th July
at St. Peter Church, Bacharach

Thursday 6th July
at Church of St. Aposteln, Cologne

Friday 7th July
at the Town Square in Linz am Rhein


CUMS SO Tour: Prague

Concert Programme: Holst, A Somerset Rhapsody; Tchaikovsky, Symphony No.4. Conducted by John Tothill.

CUMS SO on tour in Bonn, July 2016

Friday 14th July
at the National Museum of Music
(Karmelitská 388/2, 118 00 Praha-Malá Strana, Czech Republic)

Saturday 15th July
at the House of Culture
(Tyrsova Street Nr. 1001, 592 31 Nové Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic)

Sunday 16th July
at Podebrady Spa Hall
(Námestí T.G.Masaryka 1434, Podebrady, Czech Republic)

CUMS Appoints 2017-18 Student President

Cambridge University Musical Society is delighted to announce that Edward Reeve has been appointed CUMS Student President for our 2017-18 Season.

Edward Reeve is twenty-one years old and is now in his third year reading Music at Queens’ College, Cambridge, as Senior Organ Scholar. Edward has been playing the piano since the age of seven, completing his Diploma of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music when he was fourteen. He gained the Licentiate of the Royal Schools of Music at the end of 2011 with distinction, achieving the same qualification on the organ in July 2014. Edward has been fortunate to have had the opportunity to perform piano and organ concertos with a number of orchestras, including Mozart’s 23rd, 24th and 27th Piano Concertos, Beethoven’s 1st, 2nd and 3rd Piano Concertos and Choral Fantasia, Mendelssohn’s First Piano Concerto, Brahms’ First and Second Piano Concertos, Poulenc’s Piano Concerto and Bach’s complete Brandenburg Concertos (on period instruments with Cambridge University Collegium Musicum).

Recent conducting experience includes conducting Mendelssohn’s Elijah and Lobgesang, Mozart’s Così fan tutte, Die Zauberflöte and the ‘Great’ Mass in C minor, Handel’s Jephtha, Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem, Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater and La Serva Padrona, Parry’s Songs of Farewell, Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, Blow’s Venus and Adonis, Offenbach’s Daphnis and Chloe, Howells’ Requiem and Salieri’s Prima la musica e poi le parole. Edward was recently appointed as the Associate Conductor for the Brandenburg Choral Festival of London, for which he has conducted Mozart’s Requiem and Haydn’s The Creation at St. Martin-in-the-Fields. In April 2017, Edward directed his own festival – the Cambridge Brahms Festival – featuring a series of concerts across the city, with visiting speakers and over a hundred performers, featuring both popular works and rarities, and finishing with a performance of the Second Piano Concerto.

Edward spent his gap year as Organ Scholar at Salisbury Cathedral, where he recorded sixteen discs of organ music on the Cathedral organ. In addition to his keyboard playing and conducting, Edward plays ‘cello, natural horn and sings.

Edward said of his appointment:

I am very excited to be the new Student President of CUMS, and to have the chance to bring together my experiences from various areas of the musical life in Cambridge, whether opera, the choral scene, orchestral playing, conducting, piano, historically-informed performance or concert/festival management. The coming year is a very important one for the Society, with the restructuring of its ensembles and various large concerts with prominent conductors, and it will be a thrilling time to be part of the running and growth of the Society. I look forward to being able to work with students, visiting musicians and Trustees alike, and – cello auditions permitting – to playing in some of the concerts!


Interview: CUMS Composer in Residence, Joy Lisney

We are delighted that Joy Lisney is one of our 2016-17 Composers in Residence. Joy is a composer and cellist who is currently completing her PhD at King’s College. Her new work, ‘Thread of the Infinite’, will be premiered by CUCO on Saturday 13 May.

Tell us about your musical background. When did you start composing, and why?
I dabbled in composition during school but when the carousel of submitting coursework for public exams was over, so – it seemed – was my compositional career. I returned to the manuscript in my second year as a music undergraduate (2012), chiefly to avoid writing any more essays than absolutely necessary! I was also performing contemporary music at the time, including a piece called JOY by Jan Vriend, which I premiered at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. This experience was instrumental in inspiring me to write my own music.

Do you have any particular musical influences, or is there a particular piece which really inspired you?
I find it difficult to identify musical influences in my own work though I am sure there are things in there which other people notice! Early on, however, I was influenced by a piece called Anatomy of Passion (2004), also by the Dutch composer Jan Vriend mentioned above. Anatomy is a truly epic addition to the cello and piano repertoire and one that I found fascinating to learn, memorise and perform. The understanding I gained from this experience still informs much of my compositional process. I can point interested readers in the direction of this YouTube video of a live performance with the score.

How has your time at Cambridge shaped your compositional career?
My time at Cambridge essentially encompasses my entire composition career and continues to do so! The music I came across during my Undergraduate degree broadened my ideas hugely and the weekly Composers’ Workshops have often seen me head straight to the library to listen to something new. I am also incredibly grateful to the department and in particular Richard Causton and Jeremy Thurlow who gave me my first opportunities to hear my music. I was very lucky to have my first string quartet premiered by the Arditti Quartet in 2014.

How do you see your compositional career developing?
I grew up as a cellist and have always intended to make that the centre of my musical life. In the last couple of years, however, I have begun to explore the worlds of composition and of conducting and am discovering that they complement and benefit one another very well. Composer-pianists dominated the history of music throughout the last three centuries and I intend to revive that tradition as a composer-cellist.

What advice would you give to aspiring young composers?
As a latecomer to composition myself, I cannot easily compare my experiences with the more precocious young composer! I would however advise all young composers to learn an instrument to as high a standard as you can as I feel that there are many subtleties and realities about performance that it is impossible to pick up as an outsider. Your music can only benefit from a more thorough understanding of how it might feel to perform it.

You can hear the world première of ‘Thread of the Infinite’ at 8pm in West Road Concert Hall on Saturday 13 May, directed from the violin by Thomas Gould. See here for more details and booking.


Applications open for 2017-18 Lunchtime Concert Series

Applications are now open for the 2017/18 Cambridge University Lunchtime Concert series! The concerts are held at 1310 on Tuesday lunchtimes throughout Michaelmas and Lent terms, and for the first two weeks of Easter term – they frequently attract large audiences and are an excellent opportunity for small-scale performances.

The application form can be downloaded here – please include as much detail as you can in your application, and be aware that the performance in its entirety (including time spent on stage but not performing) must be no longer than 45 minutes.

There are 10 concert slots available, and the deadline for applications is 5PM, FRIDAY 5th MAY. Please send applications to Ed Liebrecht (CULC President 2017-18),, or send them via UMS to Jesus College.

We look forward to receiving your applications!

Applications for CUMS Student President and CUMS Student Committee 2017 – 2018

Cambridge University Musical Society is inviting applications for the roles of its 2017 – 2018 Student Committee.

The roles available are:

Student President

Publicity Officer

Social Secretary

Archiving Officer

Orchestral Fixer

Student Treasurer

Alumni Officer

The variety of roles on offer ensure that there is a position to suit every skill set, so I encourage everyone to read through the job descriptions to see if anything draws their interest.

Though CUMS is supported by a professional team of staff and advisors, the day to day running of CUMS would be simply impossible without the Student Committee. The success of our wonderful society relies on students stepping up and becoming involved with CUMS on a larger scale. Previous Student Presidents have come from a variety of ensembles, each with a unique vision, and all have changed the society for the better. With last year’s introduction of a Student Committee, there are now more opportunities than ever for students interested in arts management to gain experience working in a large-scale arts organisation. Working to make CUMS a better society is an immensely rewarding experience, and you will be able to see the changes you make having a positive impact at every rehearsal.

Applications for all positions open on Friday 17th March and close at midnight on Friday 21st April. The successful applicant for all roles aside from the Student President will be made based on the merit of their application, and candidates will be informed of their success in the week starting Monday 24th April. Applicants for the role of Student President that have been shortlisted for interview will be notified on Monday 24th April.

I strongly encourage anyone who may feel hesitant or unsure about applying to ask their Ensemble Presidents about the roles, or contact me directly (mp774) with any questions. Please do not hesitate to get in touch – I would love to hear from you!

Very best,

Mathilda Pynegar
CUMS Student President 2016-2017

Programme notes: Saturday 18 March


Our very own Conducting Scholar John Tothill has written the programme notes for CUMS Symphony Orchestra’s next concert, which you can now read online. Expect stuffed pigs, broken clocks, wooden spoons and more…

Don’t forget to book your tickets online to hear CUMS SO perform this thrilling repertoire under the baton of Jamie Phillips on Saturday 18 March!

Cambridge University Musical Society appoints new Executive Director

The Trustees of CUMS are delighted to announce that Chloe Davidson has been appointed Executive Director of the Society.

Chloe takes over from Justin Lee who is stepping down after 2 years in the position. CUMS’ Chairman of Trustees, Stuart Laing, said: ‘Justin has contributed enormously to the development of our supporter base and artistic vision over the last two years, and has helped to return the society to a balanced budget. I am delighted that Chloe is taking over. Chloe has worked for CUMS for 7 years and has become increasingly instrumental in the organisation so the role of Executive Director represents a natural and logical expansion of her duties.’

Chloe Davidson said of her appointment: ‘It is an enormous privilege and responsibility to take on the role of Executive Director of CUMS. I look forward to building on the stability and successes we have achieved over the recent years. Together with the student president, student committee and the Trustees of CUMS, I will endeavour to assist in the continued growth of this wonderfully bold, challenging and engaging society.’

Chloe is already in touch with everyone at CUMS but she would be pleased to meet anyone to discuss ways in which she can help in her new role. Please feel free to contact her at

‘A unified team of soloists’: CUCO perform without a conductor

Aditya Chander, leader of Cambridge University Chamber Orchestra, gives his thoughts on the orchestra’s first rehearsal with Peter Donohoe and the thrill of performing without a conductor

Aditya Chander, Leader of CUCO

Last night, pianist Peter Donohoe joined CUCO for our first rehearsal of Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto no. 2 in F and Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 20 in D minor. We’re performing these pieces, together with Mozart’s Symphony no. 25 in G minor, without a conductor.

Playing in a conductorless orchestra is hugely exciting. For me, the experience is closer to playing in a string quartet than in a full symphony orchestra: every player is listening intently to their colleagues, and responding dynamically and sympathetically to any musical gesture that is suggested by another player or section. There’s also a lot of eye contact, and it’s refreshing to look around at different sections of the orchestra (especially the winds and brass), rather than feeling you have to have your eyes glued to the conductor. Ultimately, though, the most exciting thing is the completely liberated sound of the orchestra. I’ve rarely heard CUCO sound so fine, and I think it’s due to the individual responsibility people are taking to shape the music as carefully and intelligently as they can. We’re playing as a unified team of soloists, and it’s making the music come alive.

Each concerto poses quite different challenges. The Shostakovich concerto needs razor-sharp precision in the outer movements to convey the highly rhythmical writing, and a feeling of intense grief in the slow movement, which features one of the most sorrowful and passionate melodies in the orchestral literature. The Mozart concerto certainly requires the same precision, but the individual lines are more undulating and complex, and the textures aren’t centred on the piano in quite the same way as they are in the Shostakovich. There is an inexorable flow in the music – it’s one of Mozart’s darkest works, and there needs to be enough weight in the orchestral sound without it sounding thick and sluggish.

We haven’t rehearsed the Mozart symphony yet, but it’s a fantastic piece with plenty of musical substance. It’s an early work of Mozart: he wrote it when he was just seventeen, while the concerto was written nearer the end of the composer’s life. While one might associate young Mozart with prodigal brilliance and boundless elation, that’s not quite the case in this symphony. The key of G minor is often linked with tragedy in Mozart’s output and, despite the virtuosity of the outer movements in particular, the Symphony no. 25 is no exception. The chromatic lines and plaintive oboe melodies of the first movement and the closely-voiced sonorities of the second movement, with its melodic bassoon lines and muted strings, give a different impression of the young composer.

Perhaps he was influenced by the Sturm und Drang movement of the early classical period: the moods change rapidly, and the fiery textures of the inner string parts suggest a prevailing drama. But, more than that, this symphony could be seen to prefigure some of the more tragic works from Mozart’s later period, such as the Requiem in D minor, the Adagio and Fugue in C minor, and the Piano Concerto no. 20 in D minor which we are also performing. Indeed, the links to the concerto are more than just in mood: both pieces start with a syncopated string texture and a rising sequence; both have slow movements in the submediant major (E-flat major in the symphony and B-flat major in the concerto); and both have brisk finales with fast harmonic changes.

I can’t wait to present this programme to you with CUCO on 4 March at West Road Concert Hall. You’d be hard-pressed to hear a finer student orchestra in Cambridge, and Peter Donohoe said himself that even the first rehearsal was better than he’d heard many professional orchestras in concert. Book now to avoid disappointment, and see you there!


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