Here you can find information about Oxford based ensembles that are neither within the remit of OUMS nor the college music societies.
If you would like your ensemble to be included on this page, please email OUMS.
Cowley Orchestra is a chamber orchestra that meets during term times on Wednesday evenings (7.00pm to 9.00pm) at The Oxford Academy, off Sandy Lane West, Oxford.
The orchestra is a little unusual in that they don’t give concerts. Each week they sight read through 6 or 7 pieces from their 400+ score strong library which includes a very wide selection of music of the classical composers Handel, Mozart, Purcell, through Mendelssohn, Weber, Britten and Walton plus light music of the 19th and 20th Century, Gilbert and Sullivan, Ketelby, Rogers and Hammerstein, Leroy Anderson. They also have many of the short arrangements that used to be played on the BBC Light programme, such as Teddy Bears Picnic!
Unless at the request of a member, the orchestra don’t usually repeat a programme from week to week, so it takes around 2-3 years to get through the entire collection. A typical evening might well include; My Fair Lady, a Haydn symphony, a Gershwin piece, Lustspiel, Fingal’s Cave, The Ostracised Imp, and The Blue Danube Waltz.
The orchestra is welcoming to anyone who wishes to join them. There are no auditions. The most important qualification is that each player is willing to have a go at sight reading and to enjoy an evening’s music.
For more information, you can visit their website.
OxLOrk is Oxford University’s Laptop Orchestra, an ensemble designed for the performance of live electronic and electroacoustic music by individually expressive players.
OxLOrk performers control musical parameters digitally, in real time, with a wide variety of different controllers. Members of the orchestra are trained to code new pieces for the ensemble and to perform with their laptops, dance mats, and other digital devices, all of which aid in the creation of maximally expressive digital instruments. OxLOrk performs with specially designed hemisphere speakers, which mimic the sonic properties of acoustic instruments and allow listeners to perceive each member of the ensemble as an individual performer. The ensemble seeks to spark new kinds of creativity–musical, artistic, and intellectual–across Oxford’s academic community.
OxlOrk was set up with a generous grant from the Faculty of Music.
Oxford Millenium Orchestra
The Oxford Millennium Orchestra is a non-auditioning concert orchestra. They rehearse once a week on Monday evenings, typically perform 3 concerts a year in the spectacular Sheldonian Theatre, and go on tour to a different European city every summer. Its members are mostly students from the University, but other members of the Oxford community are also welcome.
Founded in 1984, the Oxford Sinfonia are a high standard amateur chamber orchestra. The orchestra does not have a fixed membership or a permanent musical director, enabling the ensemble to engage a wide range of accomplished musicians to direct and play in each concert. Rehearsals are in Oxford in the evenings during the two weeks before each concert, and they perform a wide range of repertoire. The Sinfonia give four concerts a year plus some special projects, in which they often accompany choral societies. They also organise instrumental workshops, and are involved in twinning concerts, fireworks concerts and concerts for charities.
Oxford Studio Orchestra
The Oxford Studio Orchestra was founded in the 1970s. They play a wide range of orchestral music from Classical to 20th century, and they give three concerts per year, often giving an opportunity for a young soloist to perform a concerto. Rehearsals are on Monday nights in school term time in the Botley area. The Orchestra is often able to welcome temporary members who are in Oxford for a short period (e.g. research students or visiting fellows), as well as more permanent residents. There are no formal auditions. Players interested in joining should email the orchestra’s Secretary to enquire about vacancies. Contact details and further information can be found on their website.
The Radcliffe Orchestra consists mainly of members of the healthcare profession, including many from the John Radcliffe Hospital and other Oxford hospitals, where they have been rehearsing and performing for over 26 years. The orchestra gives three concerts each year in aid of medical charities. The Radcliffe Orchestra is always looking for charities to support, prepared to sell plenty of tickets, and to provide the refreshments for the audience at the end of the concert. If you would like the Radcliffe Orchestra to raise money for a charity you are involved with running, if you would like details of current vacancies, or to see details of upcoming concerts, you can visit their website.
St. Giles Orchestra
The St. Giles Orchestra play three concerts each year in Oxford and one in Didcot. Since its formation in 1980, SGO has developed a reputation amongst players and audience alike for varied and interesting concert programmes.
Repertoire is drawn mainly from the Romantic period, and its choice is based on player suggestions. SGO has been proud to partner with a number of local choral societies and professional soloists. In 2012 SGO recorded for a broadcast on the BBC One Show, and for a James Bond film song submission. Rehearsals are on Thursday evenings in Headington, and feature relatively complete brass and sometimes even a harp. When vacancies occur, they look for Grade VIII experience, but usually audition (informally) only for woodwind and brass vacancies. For future concerts, vacancies and more, visit their website.
The Arcadian Singers are a student-run chamber choir based in Oxford, originally formed in 1976. The choir is currently led by Jacob Ewens and consists of around 16 auditioned singers drawn mainly from the students and staff of Oxford University, however any committed singer is welcome to audition.
They perform at least one concert each term in Oxford, with last years landmark being a collaborative performance of Bach’s St John Passion with the OU Sinfonietta. In recent years they have released two CDs (Jubilate Agno and Salvator Mundi) and have plans for another in the Summer of 2015. The choir has also been broadcast on BBC Radio 3, participates in the Easter Liturgy at Ampleforth Abbey and tours to perform their vast range of music.
City of Oxford Choir
The City of Oxford Choir is one of Oxford’s leading chamber choirs, performing in the intimate surroundings of Oxford’s college chapels. They rehearse on Monday evenings at Magdalen College School.
Members are welcome from all walks of life in the city and surrounding areas, and the choir perform a wide selection of music from the Renaissance to the present day, both unaccompanied and with small ensembles.
Auditions are in the format of attendance of one rehearsal plus a private audition during the rehearsal interval or at the end of the rehearsal. Please email the choir’s Secretary to arrange an audition. For further information, you can also visit their website.
Commotio is one of Oxford’s foremost chamber choirs, formed in August 1999 to provide a refreshing alternative to the more readily available repertoire offered by most other choral groups, performing primarily lesser known material of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Commotio’s principal auditions are generally held at the beginning of the academic year, for all voices. However, auditions at other times may be arranged throughout the academic year, depending on the current needs of the choir.
The Headington Singers are a friendly, community choir singing the great choral classics (and much more) for the sheer love of it. They give three concerts a year, most with full orchestral accompaniment. The concert programmes are immensely varied – from requiems to ‘songs from the shows’ – but they always aim to sing some works that are less familiar. The singers rehearse at Headington School on Tuesdays during term time, and some musical experience is useful but not essential. They are a non-auditioning ensemble and new members are welcome – those interested in joining the group should see their website for details of vacancies.
newChoir is a young and growing small choral society. At present there are forty members and there are plans to grow to a maximum of fifty. So far there have been no auditions but members must be able to read music while not necessarily being sight-singers. newChoir’s repertoire ranges from less commonly known Baroque to 21st century compositions.
Please visit www.newchoir.org.uk to find fuller details of the choir and its activities.
Oxford City Singers
The Oxford City Singers are a non-auditioning community choir made up of residents, workers and students from Oxford city and surrounding areas. The choir sing all different types of music including songs from musicals, pop songs, folk and classical. New members are always welcome, and rehearsals are on Thursday evenings at St Michael at the Northgate church from 7 – 8:30pm.
For contact details and more information about the choir visit their website.
Oxford Welsh Male Voice Choir
The choir was formed in 1928 by Welshmen who came to Oxford looking for work in the car factory in Cowley and has been performing continuously since then. The current membership is around 50. Rehearsals are once a week on Thursday evenings, and the choir give a number of concerts throughout the year. They
have recently taken part in the Anglo Welsh Festival of Male Choirs with concerts in Birmingham and Cardiff
The choir sing the 4 part harmony typical of Welsh Male Voice Choirs, and about one third of their repertoire is sung in Welsh. While several of their members have Welsh roots, many are not.
The choir welcomes new members – there is no need to be Welsh or to be able to read music. If you enjoy singing, can hold a tune, (and are male!) you are welcome to join the choir! For more information, you can visit the choir’s website.
Schola Cantorum of Oxford is Oxford University’s premier chamber choir.
Founded by the conductor László Heltay in 1960 as the Collegium Musicum Oxoniense, Schola Cantorum has worked with many highly respected musicians, including former patrons Sir Michael Tippett and Yehudi Menuhin, as well as Leonard Bernstein, Gustav Leonhart, Sir Colin Davis, and Sir Neville Marriner.
Membership to the choir is by audition. While most new members join at the beginning of the academic year, Schola also holds auditions in Hilary and Trinity terms.
The Cherwell Singers
The Cherwell Singers are an Oxford-based, mixed-voice chamber choir, founded in 1977. They sing all types of music from the late Middle Ages to the present day – including mainstays of the choral repertoire and lesser-known, even obscure, works. They place a high value on musicianship, aiming to perform to a consistently high standard.
The Cherwell Singers give three public concerts per year in central Oxford, and also perform at private functions, including conferences and weddings.
The choir are always looking for new singers, including students. For details of auditioning and for further information, visit their website.
The Oxford Singers
The Oxford Singers, founded in 2010, are Oxford’s largest non-auditioning and non-classical choir. They sing both a cappella and accompanied arrangements (often their own) of music ranging from Michael Jackson to Disney to Broadway to The Lonely Island – in other words, everything and anything! They meet on Wednesday evenings to rehearse for theirr termly concerts and to have fun. The choir also organise charity events such as busking and have been asked to perform at balls and in college bars.
The Oxford Singers also have a Small Ensemble, rehearsing on Monday evenings. This smaller group is auditioned and take on more complicated arrangements that are often brought to the main choir at a later date. Their quality is high but the emphasis at Singers is on enjoying singing together. There’s no need to have previous choral experience or to be able to read music. The choir is varied, and consists of Oxford University students, Oxford Brookes students, DPhils, post-DPhils, Masters and undergrads, as well as exchange students and a couple of sixth formers. To find out more, visit their website.
A Capella Groups
In The Pink
Founded in 2003, In the Pink is an all-female a cappella group. In The Pink is about learning new skills from arranging music to beatboxing, enjoying harmonising with best friends, and putting on an amazing show no matter what.
In The Pink perform at a wide range of Oxford events, ranging from the Law Society Ball to a Chinese New Year celebration at the town hall; and from several charity events to singing at weddings. They have won awards at the Voice Festival UK, for Best Soloist and Best Overall Performance. They frequently tour, and also perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where they have often received five-star reviews! To find out more, visit their website.
The Oxford Alternotives were Oxford’s very first a cappella group, having been established in 1993 as an alternative to the chapel choirs which dominated the Oxford singing scene at the time. As Oxford’s only mixed contemporary a cappella group, the Alternotives are renowned for their interesting and often experimental takes on any song that comes their way. In the last few years, arrangements have included Flight of the Conchords’ ‘Business Time’, Muse’s ‘Knights of Cydonia’, and their award-winning arrangement of Regina Spektor’s ‘Samson’. In 2013 the Alternotives were Oxford’s regional champions in the national VFUK competition, winning a place in the national final and appearing on BBC1′s The One Show. Like many of Oxford’s other groups, the Alternotives also travel to Edinburgh to perform in the Fringe Festival every year, and even find time embark on international tours, with the 2012 tour making its way to Boston and New York. Their most recent studio album, ‘Take Your Mama’, is available on Spotify and iTunes. They are always on the lookout for talented singers to join their ranks, so if you are interested please send them a message. Contact details and moe information can be found by visiting their website.
The Oxford Belles
The Oxford Belles are Oxford University and Oxford Brookes University’s original all-female a cappella group, founded in 1995. They rehearse three times a week, and perform both in around Oxford and beyond – they travel regularly to London, and to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe almost yearly. Members enjoy a great social scene, too! This group are all about sass, professionalism, and originality, and in particular they enjoy their frequent impromptu arranging sessions in which the whole group gets involved. For more information about the group, and about how to get involved, you can visit their website.
The Oxford Gargoyles
The Oxford Gargoyles are Oxford’s mixed jazz A Cappella group founded in 1998. In 2012 they were crowned Open Category Choir of the Year, and subsequently performed on BBC radio and television. In 2010 they won the Voice Festival UK competition, and performed with A Cappella superstars, The Real Group, the following year. The group have toured North America, Europe, and Asia, and regularly perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where they are going into their 10th consecutive year. The Gargoyles have performed to audiences at the Royal Festival Hall, London, and the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester. The Gargoyles have released thirteen albums to date, the most recent of which is titled ‘Tonehenge.’ More information about joining the group can be found on their website.
The Ultrasounds are Oxford’s all-male, all-medic a cappella group. They perform at events throughout the university and over the past year have been booked for gigs all around Oxford and the UK including MCR events, garden parties, weddings, a music festival and a variety show for hospital consultants. The group sing a wide range of modern music arranged by its members, and they rehearse regularly throughout the year. If you’re a clinical medic interested in joining and would like to audition, you can contact them via their Facebook page.
Out of the Blue
Out of the Blue is Oxford University’s premier all-male a cappella group. Formed in the year 2000, OOTB has gone on to enjoy international success, having sung in Sri Lanka, Japan, Hong Kong, Spain, Scandinavia and the USA to school kids, Presidents and everyone in between. In the UK, the group sings at a number of events, including the Edinburgh Festival Fringe — the largest arts festival in the world — where the group has won the Fringe sell-out award five times and gained critical and popular acclaim. In 2011, OOTB reached the live semifinals of the popular show Britain’s Got Talent, where they were featured on national TV and even praised by Simon Cowell!
OOTB also conducts dozens of school workshops throughout the UK and the US each year. The group’s goal in doing so is to instill in school kids a sense of courage and adventure when it comes to performing and engaging with music, a joy that they hope to share with our audiences every time they sing on stage.
Since 2006, the group has supported Helen and Douglas House, an Oxford-based charity that started in 1982 as the world’s first hospice for children with life-limiting illnesses. Each year, OOTB performs alongside well-known British comedians for thousands of supporters at the charity’s annual fundraising event, and the group collects donations for the charity after all of its public concerts in the UK.
Serving an unbeatable cocktail of hot harmonies and outrageous choreography, Out of the Blue’s fourteen sharp-suited singers provide a musical experience like no other. The group’s enjoyment is contagious, their musicality infectious – this is a cappella like you’ve never heard it before!
Oxford Gamelan Society
The Oxford Gamelan Society meet regularly to practice the gamelan music of Central Java – percussion music, using traditional-style bronze instruments made in Java, often combined with singing. They usually perform several times a year, in response to requests received, either as a music-only concert, or to accompany dancers or shadow puppet drama. Practice sessions are from 1800 to 2100 on Wednesday evenings (Oxford University terms plus one extra week before and after), in the Music Faculty building on St Aldates. No previous musical experience is necessary, but participants need to be able to sit cross-legged on the floor (or on a cushion or a very low stool). No connection with the University is required- all over-18′s are welcome, and children normally only if accompanied by a parent who is also playing. Complete beginners in their first term or two normally take part only for the first half of the evening, 1800-1930. For contact details and further information, visit their website.
Oxford Guitar Society
The Oxford Guitar Society is a friendly setting for players of the classical guitar of all standards. The main criteria for entry is that members must have basic sight reading skills to able to take part in the ensembles. Ensemble playing is the main activity of the group, but there are also opportunities for solos and duets, and from time to time there are talks and master classes by their patron Ray Burley. Meetings are at 6.30pm on the last Tuesday of the month in the Music Faculty on St Aldates. Further information and contact details can be found on their website.
Keble Little Big Band
Hosting an event that needs some smooth jazz? Want to listen to some great tunes played live by great musicians but can’t fit an entire big band in the room? Look no further, Keble Little Big Band is here to help – a stripped-down version of the acclaimed Keble Big Band, with the same amount of fun and frivolity. Our five-person combo of sax, trumpet, bass, keys and drums is guaranteed to get your toes tapping and your party swinging, with jazz classics to put a smile on your face all night long. To get in touch, drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org!
JazzSoc hosts weekly jam sessions on Tuesdays starting at 8.30pm, which usually kick off with performances by special guest musicians (see What’s On), and continue until the wee hours. These are open to both student and non-student alike, so get yourself there and don’t miss out!
Visit the JazzSoc website for more information.
The Donut Kings
The Donut Kings is one of Oxford’s most active and exciting big bands. A group of around 18 talented musicians from all over the university, they play everything from well-known swing classics to smooth Latin to hot funk! Available for balls, society drinks events, garden parties and much more. If you are interested in joining the band or hiring us for your event, please contact the musical director at email@example.com.
Oxford University Symphonic Band
The Oxford Symphonic Band is one of Oxford’s largest non-auditioning wind bands and is entirely run by the students; their repertoire is predominantly classical and film music.
They aim to include all wind and brass players who wish to continue playing their instruments whilst at university, but without the pressure of a selective band structure, playing music that is neither too easy nor very difficult.
To contact the band for more information and current rehearsal times, visit their Facebook page.