MUCH has changed at Glasgow University Music Club since respected teacher and academic Professor Fred Rimmer set it up on the Gilmorehill campus in 1954.

The fortnightly, Friday evening concerts have been replaced by bigger affairs held three times a year; rehearsals have moved from the tiny University Gardens HQ to a more spacious concert hall in the main building (a necessity, given there are now more than 150 members); and you would be hard-pushed to find an annual subscription for anything for as little as 25 pence today.

Some things have not changed in the last 70 years, however.

GUMC, the oldest music society at the university, is a vibrant and flourishing club where students from all faculties and walks of life get together to perform, discuss, live and breathe music.

“It’s a really inclusive, welcoming place, for anyone who wants to come and play music in a relaxed setting,” says current president and percussionist Hannah Kirkwood, warmly.

The Herald: Hannah KirkwoodHannah Kirkwood (Image: Robert Perry/Newsquest)

“We hold three concerts each year, which I think appeals to people because we have something to work towards, and we can show off everything we have been working on.”

The 22-year-old, who is in her final year of a Masters degree in astronomy and physics, adds: “The standard is incredibly high and we’re really proud of that.”

Hannah started percussion lessons at primary school.

The Herald: The percussion ensemble rehearsingThe percussion ensemble rehearsing (Image: Robert Perry/Newsquest)

“I was really inspired and encouraged by my teacher, Lesley Mair," she says. “When I came to university, I was looking for a place to keep playing, and I found the club. It’s a real privilege to be the president.”

Hannah, who is from Dunfermline, adds: “Everyone is unbelievably committed, which makes my job easy.  The energy at rehearsals is brilliant.”

GUMC encompasses nine of its own groups - a 70-strong wind band, a choir, brass, percussion and saxophone ensembles, a flute choir, a piping group, chamber choir and a composition group - and one affiliated group, the strings ensemble.

The Herald: Professor Fred Rimmer, right, who set up the clubProfessor Fred Rimmer, right, who set up the club (Image: Glasgow University Archives)

Other ensembles, such as traditional and jazz groups, have grown so much they have set up as societies in their own right.

This year’s spring concert, on Friday, March 22, will kick off the 70th anniversary celebrations.

“We are hoping some former members will come along and sing and play with us,” says Hannah. “We’re also planning a display of old programmes and photos, and we’d love to hear from anyone who would like to get involved.”

At a Monday night rehearsal, the concert hall is crammed with people, while instruments and cases take up almost every inch of floor space.

The percussion ensemble, accompanied by a brass quartet, is being put through its paces by conductor Linzi Brain, while Hannah, vice-president Freya Nankivell and treasurer Archie Wallace are deep in conversation with Olivia McLean, the club’s social media convener.

The Herald: Olivia McLeanOlivia McLean (Image: Robert Perry/Newsquest)

Olivia, 21, who is from Edinburgh, has played the cello since she was seven years old, inspired to take it up because her brother played, and she “liked the sound it made.”

Recently, Olivia has been chosen as one of the instrumental ambassadors for the Nicola Benedetti Foundation, a music education charity dedicated to widening participation, set up by the world-famous Scottish violinist.

“I feel really lucky to be part of GUMC, and to get the chance to play alongside so many talented people,” says Olivia. “It’s an amazing experience.”

Music student Anne Hornman was born in the Netherlands, grew up in Germany and Portugal, and now lives in Glasgow’s west end.

The 22-year-old is the club’s secretary and one of the wind band conductors. She is hoping to pursue a career in orchestral conducting.

“It’s crazy to think this club has been going for so long, and that so many people before us have made it happen,” she says. “It feels really important to all of us to keep that going.

“There have been lots of challenges for us in recent years, with things like the pandemic and the lecturers’ strikes, but hopefully we can keep working with the university to keep things going.”

The Herald: Brass musicians rehearsingBrass musicians rehearsing (Image: Robert Perry/Newsquest)

She adds, smiling: “Because it’s just really fun. To get the opportunity to lead something this big, to work with like-minded people, who share the same passion for music, is the best thing.

“It's about the bonds we have made too. It's really special. We all just want to make music, all the time.”

Eva Moreda Rodriguez, who is head of music at the University of Glasgow, says the club is an important part of university life.

“It is impressive to see how GUMC has grown over the years, reflecting the diverse range of interests of its members,” she says. “We’re proud to support the club and I’m always impressed by how professional they are.”

She adds: “As we move out of Covid, it is really great music-making has returned on campus because many students face challenges, and music is known to help improve mental health and wellbeing.

“Particularly for those students not based in Glasgow, for example, this is their community.”

Former members Professor Marjorie Rycroft and Dr Warwick Edwards have fond memories of being part of GUMC.

“It was a lively club, with active participation from students and staff of other university departments and disciplines,” says former music lecturer Professor Rycroft, who joined in 1975.

“All music department staff contributed by performing in ensembles with students and we also shared the responsibility of organising and curating programmes.”

There are some photos, “rather of poor quality,” she says, apologetically, of Professor Rycroft playing timpani with her colleague Dr Stuart Campbell on drums, sometime in the 1980s.

“We were out of our comfort zones, as none of us was used to playing percussion,” she says, smiling. “I am a cellist, and was at that time a member of the Scottish Early Music Consort, directed by Warwick Edwards, playing medieval fiddle, viols [an early stringed instrument] and baroque cello.”

Dr Edwards recalls the constitution of the club ruled that the “music” in its title meant “chamber music”.

“That was sorely tested when the students wanted to found an orchestra and attempted to circumvent the rules by calling it a chamber orchestra,” he says. “The students won in the end, egged on, I confess, by a little injudicious encouragement from junior faculty members.”

The Herald: Mary Troup, club secretary in the 1970sMary Troup, club secretary in the 1970s (Image: Robert Perry/Newsquest)

Music and drama student Mary Troup joined in 1969. Her peers at the club included John Kitchen, the celebrated Edinburgh City organist, conductor and early music scholar; and writer, broadcaster and musician Gillean McDougall.

“I was the secretary of the organising committee from 1971 to 1973 and it was huge fun,” says Mary, smiling. “We had a great time. The club was our second home.”

She adds, unwittingly echoing the words of the current secretary: “We all just loved making music, all the time.”

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Mary, who plays oboe and piano, recently retired from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland where she lectured in community music, but she still works as a musician and storyteller around Scotland.

“I learned a lot by being part of GUMC,” she says. “It was a big responsibility. We had support from the music department, of course, although I’m sure we must have been absolute pests at times.

“But being part of GUMC really did set me up for a lot of the things I have done in my career since.”

If you are a former member, or have any archive material you would like to share, email the president, Hannah Kirkwood on