Early Music


RBC Early Music Department at Aston Hall, 2019It is increasingly important for all musicians to be aware of the issues surrounding historically informed performance as these are embraced by the classical music world at large.

Since then we have maintained a strong commitment to Historical Performance through an innovative programme of cross-departmental activities. All of our students have the opportunity to study a period instrument or to have stylistic awareness lessons with specialist tutors and advanced performers can audition for Birmingham’s renowned Ex Cathedra Choir and Orchestra

Two Corton-Hyde Scholarships support talented students wishing to further their studies in Historical Performance at undergraduate or postgraduate level. Awards are available for continuo students (keyboards, bowed and plucked strings) and for instrumental/vocal students.

Take part in workshops and masterclasses led by field specialists

Regular workshops and rehearsals are taken by leading specialists in the field of period performance. Recent visits by Wilbert Hazelzet, Anneke Boeke, Dan Laurin, Piers Adams and other leading musicians have enabled students to experience first-hand issues currently being explored by professional orchestras on both modern and period instruments.

Participate in regular performances with our period instrument Baroque Orchestra and Ensembles

Our full period instrument Baroque orchestra performs on average once a term, exploring a rich variety of music, from large-scale works such as Charpentier’s Actéon and JS Bach’s Christmas Oratorio to smaller repertoire including Handel and Corelli Purcell theatre music and Bach cantatas. Every two years Capelle joins forces with the Vocal & Operatic Department to produce one or two fully staged Baroque operas. Recent productions have included Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and Monteverdi's 8th Book of MadrigalsIn recent years, the Early Music Department has collaborated with many external organisations bringing the music of the past to historic venues and heritage properties in the region. Recent performances have included Jacobean masque music at Birmingham's 17th-century mansion, Aston Hall, Viva Vivaldi at Weston Park, and reconstructing 17th-century Evensong at Worcester Cathedral with sackbuts and cornetts. 

Perform with our all student ensemble, the Baroque Oboe Band

Run by Gail Hennessey, our oboe band is one of the only ‘all-student’ ensembles in the country. Repertoire stretches from the Baroque era to the 20th century and the band performs frequently within the Conservatoire and at external engagements. Members have the opportunity to perform on the different period instruments including oboe da caccia, tenor oboe, Baroque oboe and bassoon and Jingling Jonnys.

Focus on Early Brass

As part of the BMus course, most brass players receive tuition on their equivalent early instruments, forming a dedicated Sackbut and Cornett ensemble and Natural Trumpet , directed by Susan Addison (sackbut and early trombone), David Blackadder (natural trumpet) and Richard Thomas (cornett and natural trumpet). 

Elect to explore Historical Performance and expand your knowledge

Offered as a weekly elective to all students, Historical Performance Studies explores a wide range of music and performance-practice issues from Mediaeval to Classical periods, in practical and theoretical classes. Recent topics have included Baroque dance, keyboard temperament, rhetoric and Renaissance ornamentation. Visiting specialists have included William Lyons, Rebecca Austen-Brown, David Hatcher, Andrew Parrott, and Oliver Webber.