Exclusive: Nightmare continues at the Barbican as conductor is fired

Exclusive: Nightmare continues at the Barbican as conductor is fired


norman lebrecht

October 28, 2021

As if the London arts centre is not headless enough with the departure of its managing director and his replacement by hapless interims, we hear of another upheaval involving one of its resident star attractions.

The London Schools Symphony Orchestra (LSSO) gives three concerts a year at the Barbican. It is run by the Guildhall School of Music & Drama which, as is the fashion at the Barbican, is also under an interim director.

The Guildhall’s interim chief, Jonathan Vaughan, has just fired the LSSO’s artistic director Peter Ash, a first-class coach who has raised the orchestra to exceptional standards over the past twenty years. Ash is respected by kids, parents, and colleagues. For his last concert he commissioned a trumpet concerto from Jamaican-born composer Eleanor Alberga, to be performed in the Barbican, a signal act given that the centre has been accused by its own staff of being ‘institutionally racist’.

The Guildhall has tried to hush up Peter Ash’s departure. The following letter to Guildhall staff has been leaked to slippedisc.com:

Good morning

I am writing to let you know that Peter Ash’s contract as Artistic Director of the LSSO has terminated with immediate effect. We are grateful to Peter for all he has done for the orchestra over the years.

I want to reassure you of Guildhall School’s absolute commitment to the LSSO. The orchestra is something that CYM London and the wider Guildhall Young Artists community can be exceptionally proud of and we look forward to working with you all to ensure that it continues to thrive as the flagship ensemble of the centre and London’s premier youth ensemble. Alison and her team will be working with Geoff to ensure that we put continuity plans in place for this year’s intake and planned concerts, including the upcoming auditions. They will be in touch with you with more information about this in the coming days.

In the meantime, if you receive any enquiries about this, please direct them to Geoff in the first instance.

With best wishes and many thanks,

Jonathan Vaughan
Interim Principal

There has been a swift response from the orchestra’s string tutors, who have written to the Guildhall, demanding an explanation. Parents and children are confused. The next concert might be in jeopardy.The interims are running the asylum.



  • Anon says:

    Peter Ash is an excellent coach for young musicians and is widely respected by all, teachers and students alike. Perhaps he wasn’t a member of a lodge, which is so often the case within the London musical scene nowadays. Sad. Quite disgusting.

  • CA says:

    Are they going to hire for more diversity?

  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    If he as you say has been fired and for no good reason then the law says he is entitled to compensation for wrongful dismissal.

  • Teenager says:

    What a terrible own goal for the Barbican and Guildhall School of Music and Drama. They have just lost one of music’s greatest educators – thousands of kids have had life changing musical experiences under his leadership of the LSSO.

  • Orchestral Player says:

    As usual : totally disingenuous headline …..
    This has NOTHING to do with the Barbican. Norman, we know you are hellbent on rubbishing anything to do with the Barbican or Rattle or the Barbican or the LSO by extension. It’s very boring and very predictable. Change the record…..

    • V. Lind says:

      Yes, as I read that first sentence I thought that the headline seemed unfair. That the group appears at the Barbican three times a year strikes me as incidental to the story. And from what I read, it is an important story.

      I don’t understand the aura of personal animus that seems to permeate certain storylines here.

  • Patrick says:

    All very worrying. Must be another reason…

    • John says:

      Exactly. Sometimes seemingly nice, popular people get fired suddenly. If no explanation has been given to ‘others’ it suggests it to me it was because of wrongdoing. I remember a headteacher was fired, overnight, and no one was told why – everyone was up in arms because he was well liked and good at his job. Eventually it came out that he’d been downloading kid pics on a work computer. I’m not necessarily suggesting that, but it’s an example.
      If the man was discovered to be doing something that was against policy, or worse, and nothing was done about, everyone would be up in arms demanding to know why he hadn’t been sacked.

  • Member of LSSO says:

    Terrible decision, Peter Ash makes the LSSO what it is, and without him it won’t be the same. If you were to ask anyone in the orchestra, or the staff who also help out, none of them would want him to leave, especially not in unexplained circumstances like this.

  • Hamklav says:

    Peter Ash indeed leads the LSSO with great integrity and unswerving committment to the developmental needs of its members. Many many young musicians have benefitted greatly from his insight, support and generosity of spirit. A terrible own goal, as Teenager here says

  • Absolutely ridiculous says:

    Oh that is HORRIBLY upsetting, as Peter is an absolute gem of a person and an excellent musician, mentor, colleague, and friend to so many.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    It really is all about who gets what, after all.

  • Corno di Caccia says:

    What fresh hell is this? I don’t know of the individual – not being London-based – but it is heartening to read such overwhelming support for Mr. Ash. It would amaze me when this sort of thing happens and the new broom speaks as if nothing serious and so disgusting has occurred, but I am too cynical and battle-hardened for that kind of a response. If a good man has been kicked out for no good reason, then that is shameful. The musical lives of young people should not be meddled with in this way, and I agree with Teenager’s comment about it being an ‘own goal’. Is this Masonic revenge or is the Star Chamber still alive and as repulsive? Either way, it stinks of the corruptive attitude of a power-crazed loon.

  • John Soutter says:

    The interims are running the asylum.

  • Kenny says:

    Dick: “The first thing we do, is fire all the artistic directors.”

  • Here comes that invincible, lethal weapon again -RACISM. “Institutionally racist”? Ballet, opera, classical music conveyed by orchestras have been the arts of Europe….now if you don’t have African Americans mixed in these repertoires…..bang!!!….racism hovers in the air. Roles must be earned…achieved…through talents and hard work…not by the colour of one’s skin.

  • Jan Kaznowski says:

    “Barbican conductor…” Well that clickbait probably dropped a few more pennies into SD war chest.

    This site is losing credibility.

  • LSSO ex member says:

    Absolutely shocked – we want to understand why this decision has been made??