We are home to a wide range of ensembles of all shapes and sizes, styles and traditions. Any member of the University is welcome to get involved.

Choral ensembles

The University Choir welcomes members from both inside and outside the University and was formed over 50 years ago. The choir aims to provide a cultural hub within York and to collaborate with groups such as the Royal Northern Sinfonia and Yorkshire Baroque Soloists. The choir performs repertoire from the late Baroque period through to the 20th century.

  • Musical director: Robert Hollingworth
  • Rehearsals times: Monday evenings during University term time in Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall
  • Membership cost: Spring/Summer term subscriptions are £55 for staff and external members, £20 for students and free for music students. Buy your membership online.
  • Questions can be addressed to Membership secretary, Catherine Duncan at university-choir@york.ac.uk or alternatively call (01904) 322445.

The 24 is a small choir of around 24 singers chosen by audition. They perform repertoire from the 15th to the 21st century, including premieres of student works. Performances have been features on BBC Radio 3’s The Choir and In Tune.

  • Musical director: Robert Hollingworth
  • Rehearsal times: Mondays 3.45-6pm and Fridays 2-4pm in Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall.
  • Membership: All students can audition in week 1 of the Autumn term (26-30 September 2022), please email Rachel Singer (rms574@york.ac.uk) beforehand with your voice type, your year and what are you studying.

The Zamar Gospel Choir was established in 2003 and performs songs from musicals, worship music and of course traditional gospel music too. The name 'Zamar' translated means 'praise' in Hebrew. The choir welcomes all students, and you do not need to study music to be able to join.

Vox is the department's acapella ensemble. They are a 15-person auditioned ensemble and they perform in the Music Society's Lunchtime Concert Series.

Animas is a student-run mixed choir who sing a diverse repertoire of music.

  • Student-led ensemble.
  • Membership: Auditions take place on Wednesday 19 April 12pm - 2pm.
  • For further information contact Animas on Facebook.

Instrumental ensembles

The University of York Symphony Orchestra (UYSO) is the University's largest instrumental ensemble. The music performed includes established masterpieces of the classical and romantic orchestral repertoire, as well as lesser-known works and modern compositions; in recent years it has included works by Mendelssohn, Sibelius, Kaija Saariaho and Alma Mahler. Each year students can audition for the opportunity to perform a concerto with the orchestra.

The University Chamber Orchestra performs a variety of repertoire and regularly premieres student commissions.

The Chamber Orchestra has toured extensively, including trips to France, Vienna, Venice, Berlin, and within the UK. The group often takes part in high-profile events. These include the first ever online orchestra coaching session with players from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the BBC Symphony Orchestra and performances of Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante for wind, joined by players from the Scottish Chamber and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestras.

The University Baroque Ensemble brings together undergraduate and postgraduate performers to explore the historically-informed performance style - rediscovering ideas from the Baroque and Classical period about how this music was intended to be performed, with guidance from experts in historical performance. Members don't need any special instruments or equipment, though string players may choose to use Baroque bows. The ensemble performs throughout the year, including the prestigious York Early Music Festival each summer.

  • Directors: Lucy Russell, Rachel Gray and Jennifer Cohen
  • Rehearsal times: Thursday afternoons from 1.30pm
  • Membership: Auditions take place between 2-5pm on Thursday 29 September. Prepare a piece of Baroque music, no more than 5 minutes. There will be no accompaniment while you play and this will be followed by some sight reading. To book an audition please email Rachel Gray (rachel.gray@york.ac.uk).

The University Jazz Orchestra is a single-seat, auditioned jazz orchestra playing contemporary arrangements for big band. The orchestra plays classics of the jazz repertoire and more recent compositions by Kenny Wheeler, Maria Schneider, John Taylor and others.

  • Rehearsal times: Mondays 4-6.30pm.
  • Membership: Please submit a 3-5 minute video performing a piece of your choice. Musicians who are comfortable improvising, please include some footage of this, either over a jazz standard or freely. Also, ensure to include a couple of sentences with any relevant information such as sight-reading skills, past experience playing in big bands etc. For any queries regarding the audition process please email James Mainwaring (james.mainwaring@york.ac.uk).
  • Director: James Mainwaring
  • For further information please contact music@york.ac.uk.

Gamelan music originated on the islands of Java and Bali, in Indonesia. It is played by an ensemble (also called a Gamelan) predominantly comprising bronze gongs and metallophones, with bamboo flutes, strings and other percussion. The University of York instruments - named ‘Sekar Petak’ (‘White Flower’) in honour of Yorkshire’s white rose symbol - was the first purpose-built Javanese gamelan in a British university. The instruments were first assembled and played in 1981, having been commissioned by the Department of Music's Dr Neil Sorrell from master craftsman Bapak Tentrem Sarwanto.  On 22 November each year, the anniversary of the Gamelan is marked by an informal playing session at which it is presented with flowers and fruit. 

Gamelan Sekar Petak is played regularly by an inter-departmental student group and a thriving youth ensemble. Gamelan also forms a key part of the University's community music programmes and the instruments are used regularly in outreach activity with local schools, youth groups and community partners. Gamelan Sekar Petak has toured extensively across the UK and has played internationally in Italy and Ireland, as well as making appearances on children's TV programmes for BBC and ITV. The ensemble gives an annual concert as part of the YorkConcerts series.

  • Student led-ensemble
  • Rehearsal times: Fridays 2-5pm.
  • Membership: Sign up by emailing the director Emily Crossland (emily.crossland@york.ac.uk). 

The Chimera Ensemble is one of the country's most active student-run new music ensembles. The group provides a public forum for new undergraduate and postgraduate compositions and also gives students the opportunity to perform challenging contemporary repertoire. Recent performances have included music by Julius Eastman, Catherine Lamb, Kaija Saariaho and Tōru Takemitsu, as well as numerous premieres of student compositions.

  • Membership: This is a flexible group, so ensembles are formed based around the pieces to be played each term. Email chimerachair@gmail.com if you're interested in playing.
  • Rehearsal times: Thursdays, slots between 4 and 9pm.

The Piano Ensemble performs music for multiple pianos (mostly 2-6 players at 2-6 instruments). We focus on recent pieces written especially for this unusual line-up, but we do also sometimes play arrangements of older repertoire. Recent repertoire includes pieces by Graham Fitkin, Eleanor Alberga and David Lang, as well as student commissions.

  • Membership: The ensemble is open to all, but spaces are limited, so priority is given to music students who are first-study pianists. Contact Mark Hutchinson if you are interested in joining.

The Assembled is a group of musicians dedicated to working in an experimental, exploratory manner. There is no fixed line-up, and the music is devised collaboratively through structured exploration, sometimes starting from scores (of all kinds), sometimes from focused improvisation exercises.

  • Membership: Numbers are limited, but any music student can apply by contacting Catherine Laws.

The Viol Consort provides students with the unique opportunity to learn how to play the viol - a stringed instrument popular amongst English aristocrats in the 16th and 17th centuries. No previous experience with the instrument is necessary as the group is coached by Susanna Pell, one of the world's leading viol performers. The University owns a full set of six viols, making up a 'consort'. Elizabethan composers such as William Byrd and Orlando Gibbons wrote some of their finest ensemble music for this line-up. Come and experience the sound of a different century!

  • Director: Susanna Pell.
  • Rehearsal times: Wednesdays 1-3pm during term time.
  • Membership: No past experience of playing the Viol is required and anyone can join.
  • For further information please contact music@york.ac.uk.

Artists in association

These internationally renowned groups provide collaboration opportunities between professional musicians and students through regular masterclasses, workshops and performances in the concert series.

I Fagiolini is a solo-voice ensemble directed by Robert Hollingworth. They are internationally renowned for putting their own twist on existing music – “The group are musical shapeshifters, following Hollingworth’s giddy, eclectic imagination wherever it leads” (The Spectator). Signature projects include: The Full Monteverdi by John La Bouchardière, Tallis in Wonderland, Simunye, the South African collaboration and How Like An Angel (HLAA), with Australian contemporary group C!RCA.

The group have also travelled across the world, and have performed at the Perth International Arts Festival, in New York and in cathedrals across Europe. Their 2017 performance in Cadogan Hall for Monteverdi's 450 anniversary was featured in the BBC Proms as part of the Edinburgh International Festival.

Quatuor Diotima is a string quartet and one of the world's leading specialist new-music ensembles. Graduates of the Paris National Conservatory created the quartet in 1996. They have worked in close collaboration with Pierre Boulez and Helmut Lachenmann, and commissioned new works from Toshio Hosokawa, Rebecca Saundres, Tristan Murail and many others.

The quartet specialise in bringing together contemporary music and classics of the quartet repertoire, including music by Beethoven, Schubert, Debussy, Ravel and Bartók; their recordings have won numerous awards from the international musical press, including Gramophone (Editor's Choice), The Strad, Classica (Best of the Year) and five Diapasons d'Or from the French magazine Diapason.

YUSU societies

In addition to the School ensembles, the University of York Students' Union (YUSU) runs many great groups, from Opera Society to Samba York and much more!