Historical performance

It 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.

Workshops and masterclasses

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.

Perform with our Baroque Orchestra

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 Charpentier's Les Arts Florissants.

Elect to explore Historical Performance

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.

Perform with our 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).


Find out more about the audition process and requirements for the Historical Performance department.

Tutorial staff

We have a variety of tutors covering a wide range of instruments who provide specialist teaching and advice within the Historical Performance department.

Tutorial staff


The Historical Performance Department shares many projects, classes and workshops with the Conservatoire Recorder Department.


Historical keyboard

The Conservatoire offers places for students of harpsichord, fortepiano and allied early keyboard instruments within the Keyboard department.


Staff spotlight

Martin Perkins is both Head of Historical Performance and Lecturer and Instrument Curator.

As a harpsichordist and continuo player Martin is active in the Midlands and London performing with many different groups.

Music courses

We offer a wide range of music performance degree courses and programmes at Birmingham Conservatoire at undergraduate, postgraduate and short course level.

More music courses

Open Days

When possible, the best way to explore what's on offer is to come and see us in person, and we host a number of Open Days throughout the year. Come and be taught by our trailblazing academics and study in our innovative facilities.

Open Days


We give our students lots of opportunities to develop their performance skills in front of a public audience.

Come along to an RBC performance to see our current students in action, alongside some of the biggest names in classical and contemporary music.

See upcoming performances

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