Fallout Continues Over Disbanding BBC Singers

By Chris Ruel

The fallout of the BBC’s decision to disband the 100-year-old vocal ensemble isn’t quieting. If anything it’s getting louder.

700 composers have written to Tim Davie, the BBC General Director, stating in no undertain terms their feelings on the matter. In an open letter, the composers state, “You say you are looking for agility and flexibility in your future choral provision: you already have it. No other UK ensemble can match this amount and breadth of activity across the spectrum of choral styles and genres, not acheive stunning results so quickly in any situation.”

The ensemble has played a key role in bringing new choral works forward. The group takes on music few could tackle without months of rehearsals, whereas the BBC singers can be ready in a matter of weeks. Among the signatories are composer Nico Muhly, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and Kaija Saariaho.

In a separate letter from the prestigious Ivors Academy, composer Lloyd Coleman, Chair of the Academy’s Classical Council and Associate Music Director of Paraorchestra, stated, “As a community of composers, we unequivocally support our colleagues at the BBC affected by the proposed cuts. As world-class musicians they hold a unique place in our cultural life and underpin the careers of so many composers, allowing us to bring new music to audiences across the UK and internationally. Their loss would be deep and long-lasting, and we call on the BBC to re-think this decision.”

The Ivors Academy letter garnered 462 signatories from composers and musicians. According to a press statement from Ivors, Royal Coronation composer Shirley J Thompson OBE, Fellow of The Ivors Academy Julian Joseph, composer and conductor Sir James MacMillan, Ivor Novello winning composer Robin Haigh, Ivor Novello Lifetime Achievement winner Erika Fox, award winning composer Raymond Yiu and Ivor Novello nominated composer Anne Dudley have signed the letter.

Coleman wrote, “On behalf of colleagues represented by The Ivors Academy I urge the decision makers at the BBC to think again. Your decisions will profoundly affect not only your loyal workforce of highly-trained, dedicated musicians, but have damaging consequences now and long into the future for composers, creatives, our music sector and culture.”

A petition on Change.org has garnered nearly 130,000 signatures as of this writing.