Orchestral performance of Belshazzar's Feast

Playing opportunities

There are plenty of playing opportunities at UWE Bristol, from taking part in African drumming sessions to jazzing it up with the Big Band.

Exploring African Rhythm and Melody with Nick Clough

If you are looking for something completely different, try these exciting classes offered by an experienced and inspirational tutor in association with the Centre for Performing Arts (CPA).

Traditional West African musical patterns and flows are used as a basis for creating new songs and for encouraging rhythmic improvisation.

Drums, xylophones and other percussion instruments are provided for those who do not have their own. Participants who have their own musical instruments are invited to include their sounds and textures in the music making. 

We intend to create a collective that can provide musical accompaniments in community settings in and around Bristol. Previous cohorts have chosen to work in a variety of settings, for example:

  • Inventing percussion parts to support a performance of David Fanshawe’s African Sanctus at the Colston Hall.
  • Enhancing the social experience of an all-night charcoal burning session in an ancient piece of woodland on the edge of Dartmoor.

Beginners and experienced players are welcomed to join together. You will meet new friends, make and record music together and choose how you share your creations in wider community settings.

Exploring African Rhythm and Melody sessions are held on Tuesdays at 16:30–18:00, CPA Rehearsal Room 2, Frenchay Campus

You can download the Exploring African Rhythm and Melody with Nick Clough information sheet for further details.

Big Band

The Big Band has a devoted following of both players and audience, and welcomes experienced instrumentalists to its ranks, subject to vacancies.

The band is in demand for concerts and dances. They performed at a variety of different venues last year throughout the South West, in the city of Bristol and on campus. Most recently, they gave a highly successful performance at the CPA Showcase Concert at St George’s Bristol. 

For details of performances check out the CPA events page or ask at the CPA office.

Rehearsals are held on Mondays at 19:00–21:00 in Central Teaching Room 2E027, Frenchay Campus.

For more information about vacancies, please contact Maxwell Davies on +44 (0)117 32 84308 or by email at Maxwell.Davies@uwe.ac.uk.

Brass Consort

Players of all brass instruments might like to be involved in the Brass Consort, which gives regular concerts throughout the year, often with the University Symphony Orchestra or UWE Chamber Choir. These groups also provide music for special occasions, including fanfares and ceremonial music for University events.

Rehearsal times vary, but will mostly be on Tuesdays at 12:30, CPA Rehearsal Room 1, Frenchay Campus.

For more information please contact Maxwell Davies on +44 (0)117 32 84308 or by email at Maxwell.Davies@uwe.ac.uk.

Chamber Music Programme (small instrumental groups)

Our Chamber Music Programme caters for those who would like to play in small instrumental groups with others of a similar standard.

Repertoire performed in 2015–16 ranged from 18th-century trios to jazzy pieces, and 20th-century music in the classical tradition. Pianists are very welcome, and the Chamber Music Programme can also be an opening for solo instrumentalists seeking a pianist for accompaniment.

The core rehearsal time for these groups is Wednesdays from 16:30 onwards, but sessions may be arranged at other times.

Please contact the CPA for further information.

Chamber Orchestra

The UWE Chamber Orchestra is for experienced players with an interest in performing a wide spectrum of music. The ensemble's inaugural concert featured music from the Baroque period and was a celebration of Handel's 250th anniversary.

In 2011 the ensemble premiered a new student composition alongside a performance of Mozart’s Symphony No. 40. They took part in a highly successful concert with the UWE Chamber Choir in 2013, which included an authentic performance of Mozart’s Requiem at Bristol's St Mary Redcliffe Church. More recently, they performed Schubert's Symphony No. 3 and Strauss's Wind Serenade Op. 7 in a highly successful concert with the UWE Chamber Choir at Bristol Cathedral.

Please visit the CPA sound clips page to hear the UWE Chamber Orchestra in action.

Rather than meeting weekly, the Chamber Orchestra meets in the evenings and at weekends prior to concerts. As such, preparation for performances is intensive.

If you're interested in performing in the Chamber Orchestra or require more information, please contact Maxwell Davies on +44 (0)117 32 84308 or by email at Maxwell.Davies@uwe.ac.uk.

Contemporary Music Group

This group was formed in 2011 and is for performers interested in the diverse world of contemporary classical music. A selection of new works are rehearsed each year and performed in traditional and non-traditional performance spaces.

There are opportunities for those who have never played before to participate alongside more experienced musicians. Past performances include David Bedford’s Balloon Music, which took place at the UWE Bristol Perform event in the Colston Hall foyer.

Rather than meeting weekly, rehearsals are organised in preparation for the various performances given by the group.

If you're interested in taking part in the Contemporary Music Group or want more information on performances, please contact Maxwell Davies on +44 (0)117 32 84308 or by email at Maxwell.Davies@uwe.ac.uk.

UWE Jazz

This is an instrumental and vocal group that is smaller in scale to the UWE Big Band, which focuses mainly on improvisation.

The performance group comprises of a standard rhythm section (piano, bass, drums and guitar) with up to four horns (trumpet, sax, trombone) and between one and three vocalists. We work mainly from Real Book standards (such as All of Me, Cheek to Cheek and Blue Moon), as well as tackling and reinterpreting folk tunes, some pop music and even classical repertoire.

Everyone is welcome to attend rehearsal sessions, even if you have no experience of performing jazz or improvising. There is no audition, and a fun and supportive environment is guaranteed for anyone who wishes to take part. There will be opportunities for performances on and off campus, although we may need to rotate who performs depending on numbers.

UWE Jazz has a regular performance slot in The Students' Union at UWE Bristol on Monday afternoons, and provides music for many of the University's in-house functions and external events.

Rehearsals are held weekly during term time in Rehearsal Room 2 at the Centre for Performing Arts, Frenchay Campus.

For more information, please contact Max Davies by emailing Maxwell.Davies@uwe.ac.uk or by calling the CPA office on +44 (0)117 32 82067.


The CPA has excellent piano practice facilities and several of its ensembles have opportunities for pianists.

If you are interested in playing in small instrumental groups, accompanying soloists, or finding a piano duet partner, you may be interested in the Chamber Music Programme (see above).

Please contact the CPA for details.

Saxophone Group

This is a lively, friendly and very flexible small group that keeps advanced players interested whilst giving those with less experience plenty to do. Most of the music played is in jazz and popular styles, and is specifically written for saxophone ensembles.

The repertoire is varied by including some arrangements of classical works and pieces based on folk tunes. We perform in a wide variety of settings – formal, informal, on and off campus. You may have the chance to entertain guests enjoying wine and canapés at social functions, perform at lunchtime and evening concerts, or make UWE Bristol resound to the sound of Christmas carols.

Rehearsals are on Tuesdays from 19:30–21:15 in the Centre for Performing Arts, Frenchay Campus. Please contact the CPA for further information.

UWE BeatsLab

Everyone is welcome to take part in the exciting new BeatsLab course that revolves around using software for experimental music production.
After looking at basic production techniques based on your tracks, we will focus on the randomisation of beats at the level of drum sounds, rhythms, loops and processing. We aim to have fun while creatively engaging with new techniques and beats that you might already be trying out.
New techniques and ideas will be demonstrated using MaxForLive, along with Ableton plugins specifically designed for these tasks. Students using other platforms will be able to use generative strategies by routing musical instrument digital interface (MIDI) in and out of their digital audio workstation (DAW) of choice.

Interested students will have the opportunity to perform during events organised as part of the course.

Bring your laptop and ideas to this free-for-all activity. The course will run on Mondays from 23 January until 20 March, taking place from 19:00–21:00 in Room 1N95, Frenchay Campus.

For further details please email the course tutor, Dr Zlatko Baracskai, at Zlatko.Baracskai@uwe.ac.uk. You don't need to sign up for this course in advance  simply turn up.

The UWE BeatsLab Facebook page also has announcements about the course (please note that you don't need to join this Facebook group in order to take part in the course).

Symphony Orchestra

The Orchestra performs a challenging and varied repertoire in venues such as the Colston Hall, Bristol Cathedral and St George's Bristol. It also accompanies the University Singers in concerts throughout the year and at the annual UWE Bristol Carol Service.

Recent performances have included: Rossini's William Tell Overture, Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, Orff's Carmina Burana, Elgar's The Music Makers (2014), Williams's Star Wars Symphonic Suite (2013), Holst's The Planets (2012), Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5 (2011), Respighi's Pines of Rome (2010) and Walton's Belshazzar’s Feast (2010).

More recently the orchestra has performed Malcolm Arnold's Cornish Dances, Edward Elgar's Enigma Variations and gave the world première of an Adrian Hull work called Virion. They were also joined by the UWE Singers, international shakuhachi virtuoso Clive Bell and vocal soloists for a performance of Karl Jenkins's Requiem. In April 2015 they accompanied the UWE Singers in Haydn's Nelson Mass, and also performed Brahms's Symphony No. 2.

The programme of music for the 2015/16 season included a performance at the Colston Hall of Malcolm Arnold's English Dances, and the world premiere of three newly commissioned works on a green theme by UWE Bristol staff composers Dr Adrian Hull, Dr Liz Lane and Dr Maxwell Davies.

For the 2016/17 season we will initially be rehearsing in preparation for a performance in Bristol Cathedral on 3 December, with a programme that will include Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 and Mozart's Requiem.

The Orchestra is conducted by senior staff members of the Centre for Performing Arts and by eminent guest conductors. It has weekly support from professional string tutors.

Players of all orchestral instruments are invited to apply for membership. Woodwind, brass and percussion players should be at least ABRSM Grade 7 (or equivalent), and string players should have achieved Grade 6 (or equivalent). There are occasional auditions when demand exceeds supply in certain sections and instruments.

Rehearsals take place on Thursdays from 19:30–21:30 in Central Teaching Room 2E027, Frenchay Campus.

For more information, please contact Maxwell Davies on +44 (0)117 32 84308 or by email at Maxwell.Davies@uwe.ac.uk.

Woodwind Ensemble

This is a small and friendly ensemble of between five and 12 members that welcomes players of any woodwind instrument.

The group plays a wide range of music, including light classical, jazz and popular styles, and music especially written for mixed woodwind groups.

Flute-playing members of the Woodwind Ensemble often form their own group, and the scope of the Flute Ensemble is enhanced by the availability of a CPA alto flute and piccolo.

Past performances for both groups have ranged from entertaining groups of senior citizens in venues of various sizes to events on the University’s campuses, as well as more formal lunchtime and evening concerts, both on and off campus. Sometimes the Woodwind Ensemble presents its own concerts, and sometimes it performs alongside other groups such as the UWE Saxophone Group, African Rhythm and Melody Group, and the UWE Big Band.

Rehearsals are on Wednesdays, from 14:30–16:15 in the Centre for Performing Arts, Frenchay Campus.

Please contact the CPA for further information.

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