About Us

Cambridge University Musical Society (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 performance opportunities for over 500 students each year.

Founded in 1843, the Society has played a pivotal role in British musical life for over 170 years. It has educated Sir Stephen Cleobury, Sir Andrew Davis, Sir Mark Elder, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Edward Gardner, Christopher Hogwood and Robin Ticciati, has premièred works by Brahms, Holloway, Lutoslawski, Rutter, Saxton and Vaughan Williams, and has given generations of Cambridge musicians the experience of performing alongside visiting conductors and soloists including Britten, Dvořák, Kodaly, Menuhin and Tchaikovsky.

Today, CUMS is made up of eight high-quality ensembles which offer a wide variety of musical experiences to Cambridge students. For orchestral musicians, the Society offers two outstanding orchestras: the flagship Cambridge University Orchestra, who perform a variety of symphonic and chamber repertoire with professional conductors and soloists, and the Cambridge University Sinfonia, which is conducted by visiting professionals and the finest student conductors throughout the year. Additionally, Cambridge University Wind Orchestra provides opportunities for wind, brass and percussion players to tackle a challenging and musically diverse repertoire in a sociable environment. For singers, CUMS includes a Symphony Chorus and an elite Chamber Choir, which provide opportunities for singers to perform outside of the Cambridge chapel choir environment.

CUMS provides unrivalled opportunities for Cambridge students to work with professional soloists and conductors, to perform in venues like King’s College Chapel, Ely Cathedral and West Road Concert Hall, to enter conducting, concerto and composition competitions and to tour internationally. Recent highlights have included Wagner’s Parsifal (Act III) conducted by Sir Mark Elder, a recording of Haydn and Mozart symphonies with Sir Roger Norrington, Mahler’s Third Symphony with Paul Daniel, Debussy’s La Mer with Sian Edwards and Verdi’s Requiem with Jac van Steen.

Students also run the organisation, with professional support. To find out more about how CUMS is run, please see our Society Information page.

Each of the CUMS ensembles holds auditions at the beginning of every academic year, details of which can be found here.

If you are interested in music-making in Cambridge, CUMS is the place for you. More information on the work and history of the Society can be found throughout our website. If you have any queries about the work of the Society, please get in touch with Chloe Davidson.

Our 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.

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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 a recording of Haydn and Mozart Symphonies with Sir Roger Norrington, Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 with Paul Daniel, Brahms Symphony No. 1 with Sir Mark Elder, Verdi’s Requiem conducted by Jac van Steen, Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, conducted by Duncan Ward, and Britten’s War Requiem with Graham Ross and a host of operatic stars.