Cambridge University Musical Society

The Cambridge University Musical Society (CUMS) is a federation of the university's main orchestral and choral ensembles, which cumulatively put on a substantial concert season during the university term.


Music has a long history at Cambridge. In 1464 the world’s first firmly-authenticated Bachelor of Music degree was awarded at Cambridge to one Henry Abyngdon, Master of the Children of the Chapel Royal to Edward IV. Over the intervening centuries celebrated musicians such as William Boyce, William Sterndale Bennett, Charles Villiers Stanford, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Arthur Bliss, Alexander Goehr, Robin Holloway and Thomas Adès have studied or taught at Cambridge.


In 1843 the Cambridge University Musical Society (CUMS) was established,[1] and was originally called the Peterhouse Musical Society as most of its members were originally undergraduates from that college.[2] The founders of CUMS included John Bacchus Dykes,[3] William Thomson and John A. L. Airey.[4]

Conductors of CUMS

Many respected musical figures have directed the Cambridge University Musical Society, including the following:


Students wishing to join an orchestra are required to audition at the beginning of the academic year. One audition is required for all ensembles, and based on your abilities and preferences, you are allocated a position. Competition for places is variable depending on instrument. Selection is purely on merit, and irrespective of age, standing in the university, or subject being read. At least half, if not more, of the ensembles are made up of students who do not read Music at the University.

Cambridge University Orchestra (CUO)

A full symphony orchestra, consisting of the university's elite instrumental musicians, most of whom either hold university instrumental awards or have been involved in nationally-significant music making, particularly the National Youth Orchestra. The ensemble is conducted by professional conductors, such as Sir Mark Elder, Sir Roger Norrington, and John Wilson.

Cambridge University Sinfonia (CUS)

The second symphony orchestra of CUMS, giving five concerts in the academic year. Usually conducted by students who have won the CUMS conducting competition.

Cambridge University Wind Orchestra (CUWO)

The wind orchestra, conducted by students.

CUMS Chorus

The large choir, conducted by many well-known conductors over the years (see above).

Cambridge University Chamber Choir

A small choir, consisting of the university's elite singers, directed by Martin Ennis and David Lowe.

Cambridge University Lunchtime Concerts

A series of lunchtime recitals, run by a committee of students, supported by CUMS.

Cambridge University Percussion Ensemble

The newest addition to the CUMS family. Run by students.


  1. ^ Lindley, David (2004). Degrees Kelvin: a tale of genius, invention, and tragedy. National Academies Press. p. 21. ISBN 978-0-309-09073-5.
  2. ^ Gerald Norris (1980): p. 7
  3. ^ Carroll, Lewis (1997). Edward Wakeling, ed. Lewis Carroll's diaries: the private journals of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) : the first complete version of the nine surviving volumes with notes and annotations, Volume 4. Lewis Carroll Society. p. 129. ISBN 978-0-904117-09-7.
  4. ^ Craik, Alex D. D. (2008). Mr Hopkins' Men: Cambridge Reform and British Mathematics in the 19th Century. Springer Science+Business Media. p. 152. ISBN 978-1-84800-132-9.
  • Gerald Norris: Stanford the Cambridge Jubilee and Tchaikovsky, Newton Abbot: David and Charles, 1980 ISBN 0-7153-7856-2

External links

Augustus Austen Leigh

Augustus Austen Leigh (1840–1905) was the 32nd provost of King's College, Cambridge. Born at Scarlets, Berkshire, he entered King's College, in 1859, where earned the members' prize in 1862, and graduated with an M.A. in 1866. He was appointed a tutor at the college from 1868 to 1881, and was dean from 1871-3 and 1882-5, and vice-provost from 1877 to 1889. He succeeded Richard Okes as provost on 9 February 1889. He held various other positions, including president of the Cambridge University Musical Society from 1883, and president of Cambridge University Cricket Club from 1886 to 1904.

Brian Pippard

Sir Alfred Brian Pippard, FRS (7 September 1920 – 21 September 2008), was a British physicist. He was Cavendish Professor of Physics from 1971 until 1984 and an Honorary Fellow of Clare Hall, Cambridge, of which he was the first President. He was educated at Clifton College.


CUMS may refer to:

Cambridge University Musical Society

Capital University of Medical Sciences

Camille Saint-Saëns

Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns (French: [ʃaʁlkamij sɛ̃sɑ̃s]; 9 October 1835 – 16 December 1921) was a French composer, organist, conductor and pianist of the Romantic era. His best-known works include Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso (1863), the Second Piano Concerto (1868), the First Cello Concerto (1872), Danse macabre (1874), the opera Samson and Delilah (1877), the Third Violin Concerto (1880), the Third ("Organ") Symphony (1886) and The Carnival of the Animals (1886).

Saint-Saëns was a musical prodigy; he made his concert debut at the age of ten. After studying at the Paris Conservatoire he followed a conventional career as a church organist, first at Saint-Merri, Paris and, from 1858, La Madeleine, the official church of the French Empire. After leaving the post twenty years later, he was a successful freelance pianist and composer, in demand in Europe and the Americas.

As a young man, Saint-Saëns was enthusiastic for the most modern music of the day, particularly that of Schumann, Liszt and Wagner, although his own compositions were generally within a conventional classical tradition. He was a scholar of musical history, and remained committed to the structures worked out by earlier French composers. This brought him into conflict in his later years with composers of the impressionist and dodecaphonic schools of music; although there were neoclassical elements in his music, foreshadowing works by Stravinsky and Les Six, he was often regarded as a reactionary in the decades around the time of his death.

Saint-Saëns held only one teaching post, at the École de Musique Classique et Religieuse in Paris, and remained there for less than five years. It was nevertheless important in the development of French music: his students included Gabriel Fauré, among whose own later pupils was Maurice Ravel. Both of them were strongly influenced by Saint-Saëns, whom they revered as a genius.

Cantata academica

Cantata academica, Carmen basiliense (Op. 62) is a 1959 choral work on a Latin text by the English composer Benjamin Britten. It was commissioned by Paul Sacher for the quincentenary of the University of Basel. He conducted the premiere on 1 July 1960.

Charles Villiers Stanford

Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (30 September 1852 – 29 March 1924) was an Irish composer, music teacher, and conductor. Born to a well-off and highly musical family in Dublin, Stanford was educated at the University of Cambridge before studying music in Leipzig and Berlin. He was instrumental in raising the status of the Cambridge University Musical Society, attracting international stars to perform with it.

While still an undergraduate, Stanford was appointed organist of Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1882, aged 29, he was one of the founding professors of the Royal College of Music, where he taught composition for the rest of his life. From 1887 he was also Professor of Music at Cambridge. As a teacher, Stanford was sceptical about modernism, and based his instruction chiefly on classical principles as exemplified in the music of Brahms. Among his pupils were rising composers whose fame went on to surpass his own, such as Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams. As a conductor, Stanford held posts with the Bach Choir and the Leeds triennial music festival.

Stanford composed a substantial number of concert works, including seven symphonies, but his best-remembered pieces are his choral works for church performance, chiefly composed in the Anglican tradition. He was a dedicated composer of opera, but none of his nine completed operas has endured in the general repertory. Some critics regarded Stanford, together with Hubert Parry and Alexander Mackenzie, as responsible for a renaissance in music from the British Isles. However, after his conspicuous success as a composer in the last two decades of the 19th century, his music was eclipsed in the 20th century by that of Edward Elgar as well as former pupils.

Coronation Ode

Coronation Ode, Op. 44 is a work composed by Edward Elgar for soprano, contralto, tenor and bass soloists, chorus and orchestra, with words by A. C. Benson.

It was written for the Coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra in 1902, and dedicated "by Special Permission, to His Most Gracious Majesty King Edward VII", but the Coronation was postponed due to the King’s being ill, so the first performance was not until 2 October 1902 at the Sheffield Festival, by the Sheffield Choir, soloists Agnes Nicholls, Muriel Foster, John Coates and David Ffrangcon Davies, with Elgar conducting. The first London performance was at Covent Garden on 26 October 1902.

There are six parts:

I – Introduction: "Crown the King", for soloists and chorus

II – (a) "The Queen", for chorus; (b) "Daughter of ancient Kings", for chorus

III – "Britain, ask of thyself", for bass soloist and men's chorus

IV – (a) "Hark upon the hallowed air" for soprano and tenor soloists, followed by (b) "Only let the heart be pure", for soprano, contralto, tenor and bass soloists

V – "Peace, gentle peace", for soprano, contralto, tenor and bass soloists and chorus unaccompanied

VI – Finale: "Land of hope and glory", contralto soloist, with chorus

Cyril Rootham

Cyril Bradley Rootham (5 October 1875 – 18 March 1938) was an English composer, educator and organist. His work at Cambridge University made him an influential figure in English music life. A Fellow of St John's College, where he was also organist, Rootham ran the Cambridge University Musical Society, whose innovative concert programming helped form English musical tastes of the time. One of his students was the younger composer Arthur Bliss, who valued his tuition in orchestration. Rootham's own compositions include two symphonies and several smaller orchestral pieces, an opera, chamber music, and many choral settings. Among his solo songs are some settings of verses by Siegfried Sassoon which were made in co-operation with the poet.

David Willcocks

Sir David Valentine Willcocks, (30 December 1919 – 17 September 2015) was a British choral conductor, organist, composer and music administrator. He was particularly well known for his association with the Choir of King's College, Cambridge, which he directed from 1957 to 1974, making frequent broadcasts and recordings. Several of the descants and carol arrangements he wrote for the annual service of Nine Lessons and Carols were published in the series of books Carols for Choirs which he edited along with Reginald Jacques and John Rutter. He was also director of the Royal College of Music in London.

During the Second World War (1939–1945) he served as an officer in the British Army, and was decorated with the Military Cross for his actions on Hill 112 during the Battle of Normandy in July 1944. His elder son, Jonathan Willcocks, is also a composer.

Derek Kidner

Frank Derek Kidner (22 September 1913 – 27 November 2008) was a British Old Testament scholar, best known for writing commentaries.

George Benjamin (composer)

Sir George William John Benjamin, CBE (born 31 January 1960) is an English composer of classical music. He is also a conductor, pianist and teacher.

Gwen Raverat

Gwen Mary Raverat (26 August 1885 – 11 February 1957), née Darwin, was an English wood engraver who was a founder member of the Society of Wood Engravers. Her memoir Period Piece was published in 1952.

Jasper Rootham

Jasper St John Rootham (21 November 1910 – 28 May 1990), was a civil servant, soldier, central banker, merchant banker, writer and poet.

John Alexander Fuller Maitland

John Alexander Fuller Maitland (7 April 1856 – 30 March 1936) was an influential British music critic and scholar from the 1880s to the 1920s. He encouraged the rediscovery of English music of the 16th and 17th centuries, particularly Henry Purcell's music and English virginal music. He also propounded the notion of an English Musical Renaissance in the second half of the 19th century, particularly praising Charles Villiers Stanford and Hubert Parry.

Fuller Maitland was criticised for his failure to acknowledge the talents of the English composers Arthur Sullivan, Edward Elgar and Frederick Delius, and later it was shown that he had falsified the facts in a critique of Sullivan. He was also slow to recognise the worth of contemporary composers from mainland Europe such as Claude Debussy and Richard Strauss.

John Bacchus Dykes

John Bacchus Dykes (10 March 1823 – 22 January 1876) was an English clergyman and hymnwriter.

Laurence Binyon

Robert Laurence Binyon, CH (10 August 1869 – 10 March 1943) was an English poet, dramatist and art scholar. His most famous work, "For the Fallen", is well known for being used in Remembrance Sunday services.

Philip Ledger

Sir Philip Stevens Ledger, CBE, FRSE (12 December 1937 – 18 November 2012) was an English classical musician and academic. He is best remembered for his tenure as the Director of the Choir of King's College, Cambridge between 1974 and 1982, and as Director of Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama from 1982 until his retirement in 2001. He was also a composer of choral music and an organist.

Stephen Cleobury

Stephen Cleobury ( KLEE-bər-ee; born 31 December 1948) is an English organist and Director of Music.

The Bach Choir

The Bach Choir is a large independent musical organisation, founded in London, UK, in 1876 to give the first performance of J. S. Bach's Mass in B minor in Britain.The choir has around 220 active members. Directed by David Hill MBE (BBC Singers/Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra), one of the country’s most eminent choral directors, it regularly performs and records across London and the UK, for example the Royal Albert Hall and Abbey Road Studios.

The choir's patron is HRH The Prince of Wales, and the conductor laureate was Sir David Willcocks, who previously held the post of Musical Director of the choir from 1960-1998. Other Musical Directors have included Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Reginald Jacques.

In 2013, John Rutter was appointed as President of the choir, following the death of Leopold David de Rothschild in 2012. The Vice Presidents are Dame Janet Baker, James Bowman, Dame Felicity Lott and Sam Gordon Clark.The Bach Choir has an extensive recorded output to which it regularly adds new titles, and is also in demand for film scores. In recent years, it has featured on some of the biggest film releases, such as Kingdom of Heaven, Prometheus, Robin Hood, The Chronicles of Narnia, Shrek the Third, and Jack the Giant Slayer. In 2011, it collaborated with John Rutter and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on The Colours of Christmas, which reached No 3 in the Official Classical Charts. In 2013, it also worked on projects for BBC Radio 3, BBC One, Sky Arts and Sky Sports News.The choir's relationship with classical label Naxos Records, developed under current Musical Director, David Hill, has led to many acclaimed releases, including Howells' Stabat Mater, Vaughan Williams' Dona Nobis Pacem / Sancta Civitas in 2010, which received a Gramophone award nomination, and Frederick Delius's A Mass of Life, which received a coveted Choc de Classica from French classical magazine Classica, and album of the week from both The Sunday Times and The Telegraph.

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