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BUMS celebrate 10th anniversary of Symphonic Winds ensemble

On its 10th year of activity, Epigram takes a retrospective look at the history of BUMS' Symphonic Winds ensemble: marked with an eclectic selection of symphonies from alumni and student musicians alike.

By Megan FoulkSecond Year, English Literature

One of Bristol SU's biggest societies, Bristol University Music Society (BUMS) recently celebrated the ten-year anniversary of their Symphonic Winds ensemble, with a free concert in the Victoria Rooms on Friday the 3rd of May. Marking the milestone with the society’s first ever alumni event, BUMS showcased the importance of society evolvement, with the support of generations of Bristol graduates.  

Founded during the 70's, consisting of only a Chamber Orchestra at first, over five decades BUMS has grown into a vast network, with nine current ensembles and a tenth, the Clarinet Choir, set to be introduced next academic year. An auditioned ensemble, Symphonic Winds was founded by students Emily Singh and Laureen Hodge in 2014, ‘with the vision to create opportunities for talented wind and percussion players, as well as to perform challenging and original wind band repertoire'. 

First performing in a shared concert with the University of Bristol’s Brass Band in December 2014, in the ten years since the ensemble's conception, it has only continued to grow and prosper. Conducted this year by final year Music student, Jasmine Law, with ensemble manager Nicole Chiang, a final year Biology student, the anniversary concert boasted a diverse and lively programme, in just an hour of performance time.  

BUMS Symphonic Winds @ Victoria Rooms | @b_u_m_s_

Opening with Jeremy Bell’s Wind Racers, a short, yet lively piece illustrating ‘a journey in the air, surrounded by landscapes and creatures’, the energy for the evening was confidently established, before transitioning into Gustav Holst’s acclaimed, Hammersmith. Commissioned for the BBC military band in 1930, as an ode to Holst’s much-loved London borough of Hammersmith, the fourteen-minute work is the only of Holst’s catalogue composed specifically for military band. A staple in wind band repertoire, Symphonic Winds performance articulated the intricacies of the composition with precision and vibrancy.  

 The evening continued with James Clifton Williams’ Symphonic Suite; a five-movement composition providing each section of the ensemble with an opportunity to showcase their individual qualities. Bookended by trumpet solos, the performance was dynamic and triumphant, preparing the audience for the concert finale: Stephen Bulla’s high impact James Bond medley, Bond … James Bond. Including well-known themes to ‘Goldfinger’, ‘Nobody Does it Better’, ‘Skyfall’ and ‘Live and Let Die’, the notably fun arrangement was enjoyed by audience and performers alike and provided the perfect climax to a concise, yet hugely energetic, evening of music.  

BUMS Symphonic Winds @ Victoria Rooms | Megan Foulk

Returning with an unexpected encore of Randy Newman: Highlights from Toy Story 4, arranged for concert band by Johnnie Vinson, the closing sentiment of the infamous ‘You’ve Got a Friend in Me’ proved the perfect earworm to accompany audience members on the short walk from the Victoria Rooms, to Racks, where an enjoyable evening of alumni celebration commenced.   

An amazing showcase of the society's evolution and talented musicianship, the society’s president, Matthew Starcher said of the evening ‘I’m really proud of Symphonic Winds and BUMS as a whole this year, the society’s success is a testament to the hard work of our entire committee’. To watch a recording of Symphonic Winds Anniversary Concert, visit Bristol University Music Society’s YouTube channel. Alternatively, pack a picnic and invite your housemates to Royal Fort Gardens on Saturday the 8th of June at 2pm, for a relaxed summer’s afternoon, soundtracked by performances from all BUMS ensembles.  

Featured Image: Megan Foulk

What has your favourite performed composition from BUMS' Symphonic Winds Example been?