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450+ composers criticise proposed cuts to BBC’s orchestras and choir

By | Published on Thursday 16 March 2023


More than 450 composers and music creators have signed a letter in support of performers affected by proposed cutbacks at the BBC’s in-house performing groups, ie both its orchestras and choir. The letter has been organised by composer Lloyd Coleman, who is chair of the Classical Council at The Ivors Academy.

The BBC recently announced a big revamp of its classical music output. Among other things, that includes a plan to cut the number of salaried roles within the broadcaster’s in-house orchestras in England by 20%, while the BBC Singers chamber choir will be phased out entirely.

Coleman’s letter addresses the affected performers, stating: “The BBC’s new strategy for classical music has been met with dismay not only by you, as employees directly affected, but also by us composers and music creators”.

“The BBC is by some distance the largest commissioner of contemporary classical music in the UK, and the performing groups perform our work faultlessly in concert halls, schools and on live broadcasts across the country”, he goes on. “Only last year, The Ivors Academy commissioned a report that found 62% of Ivors Composer Awards past winners and nominees had been commissioned by the BBC or a BBC ensemble”.

“This commitment is epitomised by the BBC Singers”, he adds, “who have delivered world-class performances of new music for almost a century. They occupy a unique place not only within the BBC, but in our national musical life as a whole, as the UK’s only full-time choir”.

“While the complete disbanding of the BBC Singers is understandably the focus of headlines”, he then says, “the proposed 20% reduction in the salaried workforce of three of the BBC’s world-renowned performing ensembles causes further concern”.

“Like their counterparts in the BBC Singers, musicians in the orchestras play a huge amount of new music with precision and verve. From the Symphony Orchestra’s excellent Total Immersion series, to the Scottish Symphony’s cutting edge Tectonics festival, the BBC ensembles serve composers in a way most other ensembles do not”.

“Against the context of previous cuts to arts and music programming on BBC television and radio, the cutback of salaried performers threatens to undermine the consistent volume and quality of new music performances by these groups”.

Coleman then concludes: “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”.

You can see the long list of composers supporting Coleman’s letter here.

Both the Musicians’ Union and the Independent Society Of Musicians are also actively campaigning against the proposed cuts at the BBC. Both are urging their members to confirm their opposition to the cuts to their local MPs, with template letters available for MU members here and ISM members here. Meanwhile conductor Jack Apperley has set up an online petition here.

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