Edinburgh University Music Society (EUMS)
Performing Mahler in Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh
Principal conductorNeil Metcalfe (Chorus), Kristine Donnan (Sinfonia), William Conway (Symphony)

The Edinburgh University Music Society (EUMS) is a student-run musical organisation based in Edinburgh. Since its founding in 1867,[1] the EUMS has been based within the University of Edinburgh.

The society performs in three concert series throughout the year whilst also undertaking a programme of charity events and education projects.[2][3]


The Edinburgh University Music Society is the oldest student’s musical society in Scotland[4] and can be traced back to its origins in a concert in February 1867: the 27th Reid Memorial Concert. This concert was unusual in that, rather than exclusively relying on the professional players within Edinburgh at the time, as had been normal up until this point, the performance was cast as a "University Amateur Concert". It consisted of a selection of musicians from around the University of Edinburgh, most students, some academics, and others members of the St. Cecilia Instrumental Society.

They were led by the then professor Herbert Oakeley in George Street’s Music Hall (now the Assembly Rooms). That summer a draft constitution was set down and at the commencement of the next academic year the first students rehearsed under Oakeley for the first time in what became known as the Edinburgh University Musical Society.

The society first performed in what became an annual concert in March 1868. Oakeley soon called on his influence to enhance the standing of the society, and in 1872 the Edinburgh University Musical Society performed alongside the Hallé Orchestra from Manchester and a selection of well-known artists of the time. This performance began a three-day festival devoted to the continuation of General John Reid’s passion for music.

Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana was premiered in Scotland by the EUMS in 1963, and the BBC has made recordings of several EUMS concerts[citation needed]. In 2007, the society celebrated its 140th anniversary with a series of concerts in the impressive McEwan Hall, ending with a widely acclaimed rendition of Verdi’s Requiem to a thousand-strong audience.[5]


Chorus performing Poulenc's Gloria in St. Cuthberts Parish Church, Edinburgh

The society in its current form consists of three ensembles: Chorus, Sinfonia and the Symphony Orchestra.


The largest ensemble in the Edinburgh University Music Society is the Chorus, conducted by Neil Metcalfe. It consists of between 150 and 200 people and is non-auditioned. Recent performances have included Jenkins' Armed Man and Bruckner's Te Deum.


Sinfonia, a full symphony orchestra conducted by Kristine Donnan, consists of auditioned players apart from the string section which is non-auditioning.[6] Alongside Chorus, they perform a large choral piece every other year.

Symphony Orchestra

The Symphony Orchestra, a large fully auditioning orchestra of high standard, is conducted by William Conway. They perform works from a wide range of composers including romantic and 20th century artists. Recent performances have included pieces by Mahler, Shostakovich, Sibelius, Dvořák, Tchaikovsky, Chausson and Rimsky-Korsakov, amongst others. As with Sinfonia, the Symphony Orchestra perform with Chorus once every two years. In 2011 this piece was Elgar's Dream of Gerontius.[7]


In May the society entered a float in the Charities Week Procession: this took the form of a section of the choir and orchestra under the direction of Mr. Mortimer Henderson in an interminable performance of the then currently popular song "Davy Crockett" - the whol (sic) going under the name "Crockett Philharmonic".

— Herbert Shepherd, EUMS Minutes from 12 March 1957

Work with charity

An excerpt from the Society's minutes in 1957 indicates that the Edinburgh University Music Society has been involved with supporting charities since at least the 1950s.

More recently, EUMS has worked with Scottish charity the Bethany Christian Trust to host the Big Sing 2012. The Big Sing is a come and sing Handel's Messiah, raising money for the Bethany Christian Trust's Stop Homelessness campaign. The project ran for the first time in 2011 when it raised over £1300 for the charity[citation needed].[8] Following this, EUMS collaborated with Drake Music Scotland in 2013.[9] Drake Music Scotland is a Scottish charity that enables children and adults with disabilities to learn, compose and perform music. Through carolling projects, EUMS raised £600 for them.

Work in education

In the early 2000s, the Edinburgh University Music Society piloted a project where a group of members went to Edinburgh schools for an afternoon presentation about classical music and the structure of the orchestra. For the next few years the project developed and greatly contributed to the society being awarded the Edinburgh University Students' Association Community Action Award in 2010[citation needed]. The project currently runs on an annual basis, and is a series of hour-long education projects. Members from the society show local primary school students the workings of an orchestra, and a choir, and the pupils are able to learn all about the different instruments and voices.

EUMS takes an active interest in music education; other projects run by the society have included free entry to EUMS concerts when a school booked a class to attend, collaborative performances between a school ensemble and members of the society, and group master-classes hosted by senior players. All concert and tour programmes run by EUMS welcome audiences of all ages, and the society as a whole looks to promote classical music within the University of Edinburgh and the wider community.

EUMS performing in Amiens Cathedral whilst on tour in France


The EUMS regularly tours to locations across the United Kingdom and Europe. These usually consist of a touring orchestra and chorus. Recent tours have included destinations such as Ireland, Belgium, France, Holland and Norway.

Notable alumni



Years active Name Position
1867–1891 Sir Herbert Oakeley Conductor & Founder
1891–1896 Carl Hamilton Conductor
1896 – between 1914/23 James A. Moonie Conductor
Between 1914/23 – 1941 Henry Kinniburgh Robertson Conductor
1941–1971 Prof. Sidney Newman Conductor & Chorusmaster
1946–1951 Dr. Hans Gál Orchestra conductor
1951–1958 Owen Swindale Orchestra conductor
1959–1962 Dr. Kenneth Leighton Orchestra conductor
1963–1965 Ted Smith Orchestra conductor
1965–1969 Edward Harper Orchestra conductor
1969–1971 Alasdair Mitchell Orchestra conductor
1971 – ? Michael Lester-Cribb Orchestra conductor
1971 – ? Raymond Monelle Chorusmaster
1984–1989 Christopher Bell Conductor
1991–1998 James White Conductor
? – 2004 James Lowe Conductor
2002–2008 Ewan C. Armstrong Chorusmaster
2004–2022 Russell Cowieson Symphony Orchestra conductor
2004–2006 Tom Butler Sinfonia conductor
2006–2009 Iain McLarty Sinfonia conductor
2009 – present Neil Metcalfe Chorusmaster
2009–2011 Nicholas Fletcher Sinfonia conductor
2011–2013 Michael Graham Sinfonia conductor
2013–2015 Peter Keenan Sinfonia conductor
2015–2018 Michael Devlin Sinfonia conductor
2018–2020 Ondřej Soukup Sinfonia conductor
2020–2023 Sam McLellan Sinfonia conductor
2022 – present William Conway Symphony Orchestra conductor
2023 - present Kristine Donnan Sinfonia conductor

Other members

See also


  1. ^ "Music at the University of Edinburgh: a short history". University of Edinburgh. 1 August 2011. Archived from the original on 29 August 2011. Retrieved 26 September 2011.
  2. ^ "Drake Music Scotland - Supporters". Drake Music Scotland. Retrieved 18 September 2012.
  3. ^ "EUMS - Community". Edinburgh University Music Society. Archived from the original on 8 May 2012. Retrieved 18 September 2012.
  4. ^ Oakeley, Edward Murray (1904). The Life of Sir Herbert Stanley Oakeley (1st ed.). General Books LLC. ISBN 0217800548.
  5. ^ "Music society celebrates anniversary on high note". The Scotsman Newspaper. 27 November 2007. Retrieved 26 September 2011.
  6. ^ "Conductors – EUMS". Archived from the original on 1 September 2018. Retrieved 1 September 2018.
  7. ^ "EUMS - Symphony Orchestra biography". Edinburgh University Music Society. 30 March 2011. Archived from the original on 12 November 2011. Retrieved 26 September 2011.
  8. ^ "The Big Sing 2012 - Bethany Christian Trust". Bethany Christian Trust. Archived from the original on 16 November 2012. Retrieved 11 November 2012.
  9. ^ "Drake Music Scotland Supporters". Drake Music Scotland. Retrieved 29 October 2014.