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!

Programme Notes: CUCO 4 March

Programme notes for CUCO’s next concert with internationally acclaimed pianist Peter Donohoe are now available to read and enjoy online in advance of the concert. Thank you Declan Kennedy for another great set of notes! You can read more from Declan on his blog.

Mozart Symphony No.25 in G minor

Shostakovich Piano Concerto No.2

Mozart Piano Concerto No.20

Don’t forget to book your ticket in advance for what is guaranteed to be a fantastic evening of chamber music!

Applications open for 2017-18 CULC Committee

Applications are now open to be on the Cambridge University Lunchtime Concerts Committee for 2017-18.

Open to anyone who enjoys attending concerts and would like to find out more about how they are run, this is a wonderful opportunity to get involved in Cambridge’s most prestigious lunchtime concert series. Taking place every Tuesday at 1.10pm in West Road Concert Hall, these concerts showcase the University’s finest performers with a wide variety of repertoire and regularly attract a large audience. The role of the committee is to organise the concerts, including programming the series and inviting performers, as well as ensuring that everything runs smoothly on the day. Becoming part of the CULC committee offers the chance to develop skills and experience in arts management and administration, as well as being enjoyable and rewarding.

There are four roles available, each with varying degrees of commitment:

Concert Manager
Front of House

Please see here for a description of each role.

To apply, please send a CV and covering letter to Alice Webster (, by 5pm on Monday 27th February. If you are applying for the role of president, the covering letter should include two suggestions of concert programmes which you think would be suitable for CULC and would attract large audiences. The new president will shadow the current President during Easter term.

Mahler Symphony No.3 Review

Paul Daniel credit Frances Andrijich

Photo: Frances Andrijich


‘This ability to cling onto every ounce of the listener’s attention rarely left the performance’

Read Thea Sands’ excellent review of our Mahler 3 concert with Paul Daniel on the Varsity website.

Interview: CUMS Composer in Residence, Jonathan Woolgar

Jonathan Woolgar

Jonathan Woolgar

Jonathan Woolgar, this year’s joint CUMS Composer in Residence, tells us about his influences, his compositional techniques, and the ideas behind Rattle His Bones, which will be premiered by the Cambridge University New Music Ensemble on 2 February

1. Tell us about your musical background. When did you start composing, and why?
I started composing as soon as I started learning the piano. Going to the theatre as a child was hugely important. It made me want to write theatre music – which I still do – and also gave me a fundamentally theatrical conception of music. The more technical aspect came later when I went to Chetham’s School of Music for the Sixth Form and had composition lessons for the first time. Everything before that was instinct and, very fortunately, some open-minded local teachers who exposed me to a wide range of music.

2. Do you have any particular musical influences, or is there a particular piece which really inspired you?
I’m not sure that the music I love most deeply comes out in my own music much at all, but that’s hard for me to judge. Pieces which have had a big impact on my life at different points include The Rite of Spring (naturally), Parsifal, Adès’s Arcadiana, Harvey’s Song Offerings, Kurtág’s S. K. Remembrance Noise, Das Lied von der Erde, Stockhausen’s Tierkreis pieces… Perhaps there are trends there? I wouldn’t knowingly or willingly subscribe to any particular style or school. I don’t want to be a “British composer” particularly…

3. How did your time at Cambridge shape your compositional career?
I was very fortunate to have Giles Swayne as my composition teacher while in Cambridge, and he shaped my music and my attitude to composition enormously. Highly orthodox though it is to say, the study of harmony, counterpoint and history at Cambridge was also fundamental, particularly in retrospect. It’s akin to a Christian religious upbringing – even if you reject the doctrines later, you have a much deeper understanding of Western cultural history. And some doctrines can be hard to shake off. But it’s better to have something to push against than to be floating in an arbitrary, zero-gravity sort of world.

4. Tell us about the compositional process for Rattle His Bones. What ideas are behind this piece?
The piece is based on a little chorale which I wrote, appropriately enough, during my time as an undergraduate in Cambridge, but which I never really got out of my system. The instrumentation is fairly unusual in a Stravinsky/Varèse sort of way (wind, brass and “rhythm section”), largely because it was a new challenge and I had been working on a piece for violin and viola duo just beforehand.

5. Did you come across any particular challenges when composing Rattle His Bones?
Composing is always a challenge, but in the case of Rattle His Bones the main challenges were structural. I have tried to create a narrative trajectory which doesn’t slot into a hackneyed shape but is still coherent and satisfying. The listeners can judge if I’ve been successful in that.

6. What advice would you give to aspiring young composers?
Have something to say and work hard until you find the best way in which you can say it. Question musical orthodoxies of all kinds – “new music” still has its own orthodoxies of course, though they’re subtler than they used to be. The Emperor is often naked, and that’s fine. And listen, listen, listen of course. Listen to everything. 

Don’t miss the world première of Rattle His Bones this Thursday, 2 February at West Road Concert Hall, in an innovative and exciting concert which also features music by John Hopkins and Mark-Anthony Turnage. See here for more details and booking.

Programme Notes: Mahler 3

‘My [Third] Symphony will be something the like of which the world has never heard.’

Coming to our Mahler 3 concert on Saturday 21 January? Be sure to take a look at Declan Kennedy’s brilliant programme notes beforehand. To read more of Declan’s work, take a look at his website.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Mahler 3


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
Director, Cambridge University Chamber Choir
Martin Ennis
Artistic Advisor
Sian Edwards
Associate Directors, Cambridge University Chamber Choir
David Lowe, Nicholas Mulroy