Why are UK orchestras silent on Ukraine?

Why are UK orchestras silent on Ukraine?


norman lebrecht

April 07, 2022

The major French orchestras have united to welcome Ukrainian refugees into their ranks.

Seven leading German concert halls have organized a national tour for the Kyiv Symphony Orchestra.

And the UK?

Not a peep. (Except from the LPO’s new artistic director.)

Why is that?


  • Allen says:

    Perhaps because they’re ….. orchestras?

    Is Putin living in fear of what the LSO will do next?

  • Mark Pemberton says:

    Actually, lots of UK orchestras have been playing the Ukrainian national anthem and Ukrainian repertoire. But in terms of welcoming in Ukrainian musicians, please blame the UK government and its onerous visa rules.

  • Christopher Clift says:

    Probably the same approach as the Government has had to the ‘welcome’ for Ukrainian refugees!!

  • double standards says:

    Why should they speak on Ukraine when they’ve not done anything for any other countries at war – and you’ve not expected them to? Frankly I find the hypocrisy and racism of only acting when it’s a white majority country affected (as per LPO and its fundraising concert for Ukraine while banning players from even speaking about Israel-Palestine, for one example) harder to take in some ways than consistent inaction. Either they should speak out against all violence and suffering – and fundraise to help all countries facing it – or say/do nothing.

  • Richard Cheese says:

    Very good point. Orchestras need to be weighing in on all societal issues. It’s vitally important part of the music for orchestras to be progressive.

  • Symphony musician says:

    “UK orchestras silent on Ukraine”. Well, no. Most of them have played some Ukrainian music, or contributed to the Ukrainian national anthem recording, or issued statements, or all three.
    Should they do more? If they can, then ýes. Aggravating factors that might make it more difficult are as follows:
    Much lower public funding than France or Germany means virtually no spare cash for orchestras, concert halls and promoters;
    Negative and expensive consequences of Brexit and the pandemic;
    A large community of UK freelance musicians who need the work with orchestras. As far as I recall, about 50% of freelance musicians received not one penny of public financial support during the pandemic. Orchestras depend on their availability over the long-term and freelance players depend on the work.

    I’m sure plenty of positive and affordable ideas will crop up in these comments, but simply expressing indignation at a perceived lack of action is not helpful.

  • Kenny says:

    At the serious risk of being flamed out of existence… And I read a lot of this stuff daily and do digest it, not skim, but (naïvely?) still don’t understand why it’s an arts organization’s responsibility or obligation to take a stance on politics or current events. I thought art was to raise our spirits or aspirations or reflect on the past or intrigue us or something. (And my favorite pieces are Mahler 9, Schoenberg Op.31 and Moses und Aron, and Wozzeck.) I don’t want to continue my daily obsession with news when I go into the concert hall.

    So why do they in particular have to weigh in? “Because” social media or “optics”?

    Full disclosure, I worked at one for 35 years. Only job I ever had. We never thought this “woke” way about anything to do with getting the show onto the stage and the curtain up 7 times a week. Were we complicit somehow?

    • music lover says:

      It´s about humanity.Not politics.Your argumentation is more or less the same my families heard 80 years ago,having driven out of their homes,sent to concentration camps,or narrowingly escaping from Germany and Czechoslovakia to the US,England,Switzerland,and Uruguay.Killing people is not politics.It´s inhumanity,plain and simple.

    • will says:

      Hear, hear, Kenny.

  • Anonymous says:

    There’s not enough work for the existing UK musicians, let alone having more from the Ukraine! You’ll find several UK orchestras and ad hoc scratch bands, have organised very successful concerts to raise funds. Don’t tarnish the UK musicians, who are indeed generous with a good social conscience.

  • Harpo says:

    Did they do anything when 1000s of Syrians were bombed and systematically gassed. Did we fly the Syrian flag. Play Syrian folk songs. Oh but wait. Of course. They’re not as close as Ukraine.

    • MuddyBoots says:

      The problems in Syria were extremely complex and confusing– it was several internal conflicts between the Syrian government and various political and ethnic groups. Then outside interests–particularly Russia, but also US, Turkey, Hezbollah and ISIL–entered the conflict supporting various sides… which were also fighting each other. No comparison to Ukraine, a sovereign nation, which was invaded by Russia.
      Also: Flying the Syrian flag, of a government controlled by the murderous Bashar al-Assad, would have been an appalling move. I suggest learning about a situation before posting so you do spout nonsense about conflicts you obviously do not understand.

    • corrupt maniacs unite says:

      I don’t remember anyone from Syria having the automatic right to have visa free 90 work and travel in the EU, and being a country that literally has borders with the black sea, and other EU countries.

      I also don’t remember the Syrians ever having a maidan or kicking out Assad to be replaced democratically with another better leader.

      Perhaps you forgot who was doing the bombing and gassing of the Syrians? It was the syrian butchers in government fully supported and helped by Putin’s airforce and his Wagner group hired assassins.

  • Larry says:

    Probably the same reason my plumber was silent on Ukraine.

  • Adrian says:

    Probably because of the compromising Russian funds donated ‘for a good cause.’

  • Hmus says:

    The UK ruling class, and London in particular, having been long-time enablers of Russian oligarchs and profiting by laundering their ill-gotten gains, find themselves in a difficult position.

    While UK arts organizations are, thankfully, not nearly so dependent on wealthy donors as those in the US, still it is hard to gainsay the influences to which they are subject. Finding a ‘good look’ in this situation is not an easy task.

  • music lover says:

    Actually,they played a lot of Ukrainian music on short notice.LSO,LPO,BBC SO,Philharmonia,Northern Sinfonia,Bournemouth,Liverpool,CBSO,Halle BBC PO, BBC SSO,BBC NOW,Royal Scottish National Orchestra,they all did.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      That is no great contribution to the real needs of Ukrainian musicians.

      • music lover says:

        Maybe.But the truth is,there is actually very little you can do for Ukrainian musicians other than raising benefits,or letting them participate in good will projects….You can´t employ them regularly,or full time,in a symphony orchestra,without vacancies,auditions,and the required extra capacities, possibilities and financial means…It is really,really complicated….We are just counseling what we can do on short noticw…..

  • Peter Feltham says:

    Perhaps it’s because they want to play music,not politics.