The LSO drops a TV conductor

The LSO drops a TV conductor


norman lebrecht

June 28, 2022

Parents of children in the London Symphony Orchestra Discovery Choir have been notified abruptly of its conductor’s departure.

The letter, signed by Sophia Lyons, the LSO’s choral and schools projects coordinator, states:

After nearly ten years at the helm of the LSO Discovery Senior Choir, David Lawrence has agreed to step down from this position. David and the LSO recognise that there is a need to explore opportunities to bring in new vocal leaders drawn from different and diverse ethnic, cultural and musical backgrounds, in order to support the necessary changes in the Music sector to tackle issues of diversity, racism, and representation. We will be advertising for a new conductor of the Senior Choir and will update on the process of recruitment.

Read that again, slowly: …to bring in new vocal leaders drawn from different and diverse ethnic, cultural and musical backgrounds.

It reads as if the excellent David Lawrence (pictured) has been ethnically cleansed.

Whatever the case, parents are furious. One of them tells ‘This email, following directly on from a very successful concert involving David and London Community Gospel Choir made us all very upset. There was a huge amount of concern from parents and a special meeting took place earlier today (Monday) to try to explain the decision.’

Let’s wait and see how the LSO managed to explain this.

From David Lawrence’s biography: For over twenty years David has conducted for BBC’s Songs of Praise, and he is a well known conductor of ‘big sing’ events, such as the 700-voice Spem in Alium he conducted for BBC Four.  He has directed large scale education projects for many of the UK’s orchestras and opera companies, and as Principal Conductor of Young Voices, a position he has held for 23 years, David directs massed choirs in an annual series of concerts, with some choirs incorporating more than 8,000 singers.


See also: LSSO in conductor sacking revolt


  • Helen says:

    So, risk alienating people who demonstrate interest and commitment in the hope of attracting people who are least likely to do so. That should work.

    Even a brief examination of the audience for the recent Trafalgar Square concerts would provide a clue as to how successful this is likely to be. Or were the entrances to Trafalgar Square policed by racist bouncers?

  • Paul Dawson says:

    This certainly smacks of ethnic cleansing. How stupid of Sophia Lyons to attempt to make a virtue out of this.

  • Maria says:

    Don’t apply if you’re white!

  • Colin says:

    This is positive discrimination.

    • Harry Collier says:

      Discrimination is discrimination. No such thing as “positive discrimination”. What if my building had a “positive discrimination” in favour of white, Europeans?

      • Barry Guerrero says:

        I would guess that ‘Colin’ meant to type “positively”. But that’s just a likely guess.

        • Colin says:

          You are right, Barry. I will expand my comment. What I meant was this appears to be positive discrimination against the conductor for not being a person of colour, which is in fact discrimination against a white person. In future, I will write my thoughts in full to avoid ambiguity.

    • Helen says:

      All racial discrimination is “positive” for somebody.

    • V.Lind says:

      That should read “This is positively discrimination.”

      • Hugo Preuß says:

        Nope, it should not. “Positive discrimination” is a legal term in the US that has been around for decades. Apparently not used in the UK, but definitely in the US legal language.

  • Come on now... says:

    Even if the sentiment is positive and David Lawrence is completely behind the change in direction, this extract from the letter is very short-sighted and poorly worded.

    One could just have said ‘we want to open up the choir to working with a variety of choral conductors to bring new and unique perspectives to our talented young singers’. Even if you are ringfencing a position to broaden the diversity of talent with whom you’re working, you don’t have to publicise it (and thus devalue it) on every occasion.

  • SVM says:

    To my mind, the wording “has agreed to step down from this position” implies “has agreed to resign to avoid being sacked or made redundant”. It it had been truly voluntary, they would have said “has stepped down from his position” (NB: “his” not “this”). The rest of the message does indeed suggest that some kind of positive discrimination might be planned… then again, is it possible that the LSO may have wanted to reduce the remuneration for that position, and the incumbent may not have been prepared to accept a pay-cut (which would be perfectly understandable, especially in view of nearly ten years’ service and the current rate of inflation in the UK)?

  • Rob Keeley says:

    The march through the institutions has become a sprint.

  • Peter Feltham says:

    This is quite frightening,I really don’t think we can smugly point a finger at 1930s Germany any longer.

  • christopher storey says:

    Not only is this undesirable , it is blatantly racial discrimination, and it may even constitute a criminal offence. Whoever is responsible may be able to look forward to a day or two in the Crown Court, and a nice relaxing stay as a guest of Her Majesty!

  • Ivan says:

    You can not choose a choral voice based on their ethnicity, or (under-) privileged group, but only on the voice quality they bring into the group. All this “diversity” and “PC-bullsh..” should be abolished and put a stop to in art. Music (and art in general) is a universal language, and artists themselves never make that distiction. It’s the managements’ of artistic groups (especially in music and theater) that bring these issues into foreground. Don’t make it an isse! Let art(ist)s chose their path and the best collaborators for the group.