In recent times, Collegium Musicum refers to a university ensemble dedicated to
the study and performance of Western European music from the Medieval,
Renaissance, and Baroque eras played on period instruments. But it is an old
term, borrowed from 16th century Germany music history, referring to a kind of
musical society that arose in German and German-Swiss towns, and that thrived
well into the mid-18th century.
These societies performed both vocal and instrumental music for pleasure and
were composed of highly skilled amateur musicians, although a collegium
frequently included professional musicians to fill out and strengthen the
ensemble, and admitted non-members to listen to performances. Groups often
provided music for church, state and academic occasions and gained the
patronage of leading citizens. Starting in the 1660s, their activities constituted the
emergence of public subscription concerts in Germany. Probably the most well
known historical collegium was in Leipzig in the early 18th century. Consisting
mostly of university students, it enjoyed a succession of particularly illustrious
directors, including Telemann and Bach.
Our modern-day Collegium Musicum here at UCR explores a different early
music repertoire each year and is made up of students who can already sing or
play modern instruments. Technique often transfers easily to early instruments:
piano to harpsichord, clarinet and flute to recorder and crumhorn, cello to bass
viola da gamba, guitar to Renaissance lute, trombone to sackbut, and violin and
flute to their Baroque counterparts. Most players are able to learn to play several
instruments because of the related techniques within the families of winds,
strings, brass and keyboards. And often instrumentalists sing and singers learn
to play an instrument. The UCR Music Department owns a large number of early
instruments, all of which are available for student use in the ensemble.
Collegium experience helps broaden and develop general musical skills.
Rehearsals emphasize sight-reading, one-to-a-part playing, refining intonation,
and decoding rhythmic and metric complexities. Other elements of early music
introduce new skills to the repertoire of modern performers, including
ornamentation, improvisation, varied articulation, new fingerings and bowing
styles, and reading from original notation.
Although expertise on a historical instrument is not a requirement to register for
Collegium Musicum, students must demonstrate skills on a modern wind, string
or keyboard instrument, or have experience as a vocalist.
Students interested in joining the ensemble should contact Dr. Beazley at