The BBC Suspended the Proposed Closure of the BBC Singers
The BBC are reconsidering their intial decision to scrap the group, following a significant offer of funding from a private organization
On March 7, 2023, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) announced that they were planning to scrap the BBC Singers — the United Kingdom's only full-time professional choir, which has been serving the public since 1924. The proposed cuts threatened the equivalent of twenty full-time jobs, including both singers and administrative staff.
The move came as part of wider cuts in the BBC's classical music sector, including a 20% reduction in salaried posts at the BBC's three orchestras (the London-based BBC Symphony and Concert Orchestras, and the Manchester-based Philharmonic).
"We are looking to reset our relationship between salaried and freelance musicians," Simon Webb, the BBC's Head of Orchestras and Choirs, said at the time.
The proposed axing of the choir elicited a strong response from supporters of the BBC Singers all over the world. A petition, organized by the London-based freelance choral conductor Jack Apperley, received over 150,000 signatures. A number of high-profile musicians also made their feelings known, such as Sir John Eliot Gardiner and Julian Lloyd Webber. Sir Simon Rattle even threatened to boycott the Proms in response to the cuts.
In protest of the BBC's decision, the Musicians' Union (MU) — which represents and supports over 30,000 musicians in the United Kingdom — began to plan strike action. MU's general secretary, Naomi Pohl, told the Telegraph that every possible option would be considered, including a strike that would see musicians refusing to perform at the coronation of King Charles III on May 6.
On March 24, the BBC announced that it had suspended the proposed closure of the BBC singers — after a number of private organizations came forward to offer alternative funding. In this scenario, the choir would retain its name, but would become independent of the BBC and would no longer be reliant on funding from the BBC's license fees. The BBC declined to name the organization that had offered the funding.
"I am confident that this [decision] does secure their future," said Simon Webb, the BBC's head of orchestras and choirs.
"But this has all happened just in the last few days — and what we're looking for now is a little bit of time to quietly, confidentially have conversations with these external partners."
"The outpouring of love for the BBC Singers and orchestras over the past few weeks has been incredible and we know our members are hugely grateful for all the support they've received," said Naomi Pohl, the General Secretary of the Musicians' Union. "We hope the BBC recognises the real quality and value they bring to the UK’s music industry, international music makers and fans and BBC licence fee payers who will be keener than ever to see them in action live and via broadcast," she continued.
"The work they do in music education is also crucial. They are frankly irreplaceable."
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