There has been widespread reaction to the news that the BBC is to disband the BBC Singers.


As we reported yesterday, the BBC has released a new strategy for classical music, which aims 'to strengthen the BBC's public purpose for classical music, delivering the best music to a wider audience, with a significant new investment in music education'.

The most significant changes announced were the closure of the BBC Singers (pictured), meaning that around 20 full-time posts will be made redundant.

Based at BBC Maida Vale Studios in London, the BBC Singers is one of the six BBC Performing Groups and features in live concerts, radio transmissions, recordings and education workshops, including annual appearances at the BBC Proms. It is due to celebrate its centenary in 2024.

The strategy also included a planned reduction in salaried posts across the BBC's three English Orchestras, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Concert Orchestra and BBC Philharmonic. There will be a reduction of around 20 per cent of these salaried posts, made through a voluntary redundancy programme, with a greater focus on employing freelance players.

Both decisions have already provoked considerable reaction across the music community.

A petition on, demanding that the BBC reverse its decision to close the BBC Singers, already has more than 19,000 signatures.

Elsewhere, many prominent figures in UK classical music have taken to Twitter to give their views on both the disbanding of BBC Singers and the cuts to the three English BBC orchestras.

Sakari Oramo, chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, said that he was 'disgusted' by the announcements, calling the axing of BBC Singers 'blatant vandalism'. The orchestra redundancies, said Oramo, amounted to 'a slap to the face of Britain's orchestra culture and the devoted work of our excellent musicians.'

Mezzo-soprano Dame Sarah Connolly labelled the announcement a 'tragic day' for BBC Singers, just a year shy of the choir's centenary year in 2024. She called the decision 'another attack on the Arts'.

Organist, conductor and broadcaster Anna Lapwood posted that she felt 'devastated and furious' at the decision to scrap the BBC Singers. 'How many singers / composers / conductors have they supported & nurtured? What message does this send to young people considering a career in music? No words.'

And Bob Chilcott, composer and former member of the King's Singers, called the decision to close the BBC Singers 'shameful'.

The Independent Society of Musicians (ISM) also reacted to the news. Chief executive Deborah Annetts said ‘Today’s announcement to disband BBC Singers and severely cut the number of salaried positions in the BBC Orchestras will be devastating for the BBC, musicians, and classical music in this country.

'It is difficult to see how this strategy is well thought out. Taking away jobs from singers and orchestral musicians is deeply destructive in these already difficult times, when much of the music sector and those working in it are struggling for survival. Let us not forget that this announcement follows Arts Council England’s funding decisions from November 2022, which have also harmed many music organisations.

'All these decisions fly in the face of the Government’s commitment to put the creative industries at the heart of economic growth in this country. We call urgently for the BBC to consult with the ISM on not only these cuts but also its plans around a music education offer.’

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The Musicians' Union (MU), the UK's trade union for musicians, also lamented the changes and revealed that it was in urgent talks with the BBC to save musicians' jobs following the announcements.

MU General Secretary Naomi Pohl said: 'The BBC is the biggest employer and engager of musicians in the UK and it plays a unique role in the eco-system of our music industry. From Glastonbury to the Proms, from Jools Holland to BBC Radio, its coverage, support and promotion of UK musical talent nationally and internationally is unrivalled. It is because we appreciate the BBC's role so much that these proposed cuts are so utterly devastating.'

'The BBC Performing Groups are vital to the BBC. They are busy, they perform a wide range of roles across numerous high-profile programmes and events, and they also already contribute to music education.

'The hundreds of singers and musicians the BBC employs will be very concerned about their futures today. We will support them and stand with them to push back against these proposals.

'We will fight for every job. This will mean working with the BBC to look at alternative measures, representing affected individuals, and also calling on the Government to step in with more support.

'Musicians have suffered greatly during the pandemic and with the rising cost-of-living. As a profession and as an industry, we remain in crisis. The Government could protect organisations and jobs in the short term by extending the increased rate of orchestral tax relief beyond April.


'Going forward, they must also increase funding so that organisations can preserve jobs and continue to deliver the world-class music that Britain is renowned for.'


Steve Wright
Steve WrightMulti-Platform Content Producer, BBC Music Magazine

Steve has been an avid listener of classical music since childhood, and now contributes a variety of features to BBC Music’s magazine and website. He started writing about music as Arts Editor of an Oxford University student newspaper and has continued ever since, serving as Arts Editor on various magazines.