Author: Music

Why did Usha choose Birmingham?

“Back home in India, music is considered an attractive hobby for girls, oriented to marriage […] I saw on the TV that there was a certain person – he was giving a concert, and was on a grand piano and it was on a stage, and I said, ‘that’s what I want to do'”.

From a inquisitive six-year-old tinkering on the organ in her  church in India, to performing at the BBC Proms with the University choir – Usha talks about why she chose Birmingham to study our BMus Music degree programme.

Bassoonist’s eye view – Gilbert & Sullivan Society’s ‘Patience’

Zoe Lumsden GS Blog photo

Last month I was lucky enough to play bassoon in the orchestra for the UoB Gilbert & Sullivan Society’s production of ‘Patience’.  With three performances from the 28th-30th January in the Deb Hall at the Guild of Students, both the chorus and orchestra entertained audiences with panache and humour.

The production follows the character Patience to whom love is simply a ‘closed book’.  This is problematic for Bunthorne, an aesthetic poet who only has eyes for Patience, despite the mass of admirers who incessantly pursue him.  Director Jessica Dalton developed an innovative modern interpretation of the traditional show, casting Patience as a waitress in a café surrounded by smart-phone fanatics glued to the internet and bearded hipsters complete with beanie hats and braces.  The modern twist alongside the the original Arthur Sullivan music and William Gilbert librettos gave the performance a sense of tradition and modernity, making the show relatable to all audience members from students to grandparents.

In a small orchestra of strings, wind and brass directed by third year music and maths student, Jamie Naylor, we rehearsed and performed alongside the singers.  One of the great things about any Gilbert and Sullivan show is that the entire cast can be involved and have a fair share in the performance.  This was definitely so for the orchestra, providing musical accompaniment but equally having more limelight moments in the overtures.

As orchestra members we positively felt like a part of the action on stage and the overall setting especially in our hipster concert dress.  We certainly enjoyed ‘hipstering up’ with the cast for the performances!

Playing in an orchestra or pit band for a show is a considerably different experience from playing in a traditional orchestra, requiring awareness of performers on stage as well as musicians around you.  Being in the orchestra for this production was a lot of fun and the musicians become a sort of pit orchestra family!  After the rehearsals and performances the entire orchestra are nearly word perfect in the songs and honestly would join in with the chorus numbers if we weren’t playing ourselves!

Being a part of this G&S production was really good fun and a great way to begin the second semester.  Involvement with a show is a nice way to meet new people and share a passion for music and performance.  I would encourage anyone to give it a try.  Productions such as this require huge amounts of creativity from casting, acting, singing, playing music, lighting, set design and many other factors, but are exciting opportunities to bring people together combining many skills to create memorable performances.

This production exemplified the abundance of creativity at UoB and the joy that students take in working together to create brilliant opportunities and events.

CBSO Concert Review


Symphony Hall, Birmingham, Sunday 10th January

Debussy Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune

Schumann Piano Concerto

Sibelius Lemminkäinen Suite

On a wintery Sunday afternoon this concert from the CBSO offered an inviting and warming programme of love and legend.  Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune was captivating and shimmering, exploring broad orchestral colours right from the exquisite flute opening.

Beatrice Rana’s performance of Schumann’s Piano Concerto captured vitality and adoration, ideal for Schumann’s only completed piano concerto written for his wife Clara.  Rana and the CBSO presented this concerto with encompassing delight, exploring beautiful tones and cascades of chords.  Rana then enchanted the audience with a subtle and nuanced encore of Liszt’s transcription of Schumann’s song, Widmung.

Bringing a rousing conclusion to the concert, the orchestra performed Sibelius’s Lemminkäinen Suite with drama and conviction.  With true heroic spectacle and boldness this piece offered an energised climax to this afternoon’s concert.

This stirring programme was performed under the baton of the young Lithuanian conductor Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla who debuted with the CBSO last summer, and was invited back especially for this concert.  Together conductor and orchestra enthralled the audience, creating immense energy and enchantment on stage.

This concert offered true Sunday afternoon escapism with a magnificent programme in which even the quietest pianissimo and smallest musical gestures filled the stunning venue that is Symphony Hall.

As a student at the University of Birmingham it is consistently remarkable that concerts such as this, from a world class orchestra featuring renowned soloists and conductors, at a stunning venue are basically on your doorstep (or a seven minute train ride away…!).

So accessible, and too good to be missed!

Music in the Making


On Sunday 27th September more than one hundred musicians descended on the Bramall Music Building at the University of Birmingham for a day of varied music making.

Beginning with an orchestral session in the stunning Elgar Concert Hall musicians explored Brahm’s Academic Festival Overture and Berlioz’s Hungarian March from The Damnation of Faust with vigour and enthusiasm encouraged by conductor Daniele Rosina. Hearing the Elgar Concert Hall filled with the glorious sound and vitality of young musicians made for a vibrant and exciting start to this day of musical activity.

The afternoon featured the chance to sing Haydn’s Nelson Mass with Choral Director Simon Halsey or join an open jam session led by professional big band director, Lluis Mather. Led by members of the University Music Society, a chamber music session also took place culminating with public performances in the foyer of the Bramall showcasing the afternoon’s work.

Open all day was the Centre for Early Music Performance and Research (CEMPR) for curious musicians to explore the world of early music ensembles and performance opportunities.

In the stunning surroundings of the Bramall and Chancellor’s Court the Music in the Making Day proved to be a great way to conclude Fresher’s Week on a musical note as the music department welcomed all students to the vibrant and varied department.



Hi, I’m Zoe and I’m in my first year studying BA Modern Languages & Music (French & German)

Home town: Northampton

Instrument: Bassoon

Favourite piece of music:  Ruslan and Lyudmila Overture – Glinka

Why I study music: The study of music unlocks a world of creativity that I have always found exciting.  Studying music provides the opportunity to explore history and cultures.  Music is a universal language and it is great when people from all over the world are able to connect through music.

Hobbies: Playing orchestral and chamber music.  Walking the dogs, and the occasional bit of knitting or anything arty and creative!

Fascinating fact about me: My favourite biscuits are pink panther wafers!