BBC Singers: petition to save professional choir explained - will musicians boycott Proms 2023?

The BBC have recently announced plans to disband BBC Singers later this year

The Proms at The Royal Albert Hall
The Proms at The Royal Albert Hall
The Proms at The Royal Albert Hall

A petition has been launched to save the BBC Singers from disbanding after nearly 100 years. The BBC announced plans to close down the BBC Singers choir as part of its cost cutting measures which prompted an angry response across the music industry.

Senior members of the UK choral industry described the proposals as something which sends a “bleak message” to young musicians hoping to break into the profession. The decision has also been labelled as a “huge false economy” and there is even talk of a boycott at the upcoming BBC Proms, according to The Times. But why has the BBC decided to disband the BBC Singers choir and how many people have signed a petition to save the choir?

Here is everything you need to know.

What has the BBC said?

The BBC announced plans to disband the BBC Singers later this year. In an announcement on Tuesday 7 March, The BBC set out its proposals for the future. The statement said: “It is essential that the BBC invests in more broadcast opportunities from a greater range of high-quality ensembles, and therefore the BBC has made the difficult decision to close the BBC Singers and invest resources in a wider pool of choral groups from across the UK.

“Enhancing an enabling emerging and diverse choirs is also key to engaging a wider and a future audience, so the BBC will establish a new nationwide choral development programme.”

What is the BBC Singers?

The BBC Singers are a British chamber choir which were founded in 1924. They are the only full time professional British choir. It is one of the six BBC performing groups and the BBC Singers are based at the Maida Vale Studios in London. Its singers feature in live concerts, radio transmissions and educational workshops.

The BBC Singers regularly perform alongside leading international orchestras and conductors and they have appeared at a range of national events including the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Reaction from the BBC singers

The announcement has attracted widespread attention and criticism from a number of figures including the BBC’s own musical institutions. More than 125,000 people have signed a petition to save the BBC Singers and a letter has been signed by the broadcasters most senior conductors including Sakari Oramo, Ryan Bancroft and Ryan Wigglesworth.

On Twitter, Sakari Oramo posted: “I am disgusted by the BBC’s announcements. The axing of BBC Singers is an action of blatant vandalism.”

Will musicians boycott BBC proms 2023?

A number of musicians have reportedly called for performers to boycott events such as the Proms and the King’s coronation. Roderick Williams, the leading baritone for the King’s coronation claimed the decision must be reversed to axe the BBC Singers but he also added that he did not support calls to boycott key events.

He told iNews: “I would like to be part of efforts to persuade the BBC to change their minds, and truly, profoundly to change their direction, but not to force them.”

He added: “I don’t believe that hammers are required to put that message across. I have very little experience of industrial conflict resolution but my human experience tells me that people double down when threatened.”

How has the BBC responded to criticism?

A BBC spokesperson said: “Since 1922, the BBC has been an integral part of the classical musical ecology in the country and abroad.

“For us to continue to be a leading force in the industry we need to modernise, making some necessary and difficult changes to the way we operate, and many models have been considered over the past few months.”