The Sun sets on Chineke!

The Sun sets on Chineke!


norman lebrecht

October 12, 2022

Last with the news and never crediting its source, the Sun newspaper has joined the howl of criticism of the British diversity youth orchestra that was prevented by its founder, Chi-Chi Nwanoku, from playing the National Anthem during mourning for Queen Elizabeth.

Here’s the Sun.

And here’s something else.

This was Chi-chi loyally accepting an honour from the Empire she purports to despise.

She looks at life from both sides now.




  • Mick the Knife says:

    It’s an orchestra founded on reverse racism isn’t it? The thought process that preferentially gives a position to people of color is racist. Why do intelligent people pretend it isn’t. Same with Sphinx.

  • Industry Insider says:

    Misleading title – I thought the orchestra had disbanded!

    For those griping about Chineke! being a ‘reverse racist’ or discriminatory organisation… the whole reason for the orchestra’s creation was to challenge the proliferate racist and discriminatory practices in the classical music industry which were preventing talented Black performers from getting work.

    In an ideal world it wouldn’t need to exist – this is what almost all Black-led arts organisations believe – but we are not at that point yet.

    As for Chi-chi, she’s messed up and she is now working to the detriment of the orchestra that she created. Keep the gongs but announce that you’re bowing out following a protracted succession appointment process (1-year).

    • Industry Insider says:


    • Guest Principal says:

      UK BAME orchestral musicians have experienced positive discrimination for the last 25 years at least. Your assertion that there were ‘proliferate racist and discriminatory practices in the classical music industry which were preventing talented Black performers from getting work’ at the time Chineke was founded is simply false.

      • Industry Insider says:

        BS on overdrive. Show your working!!!

        Schemes and programmes have existed to encourage diversification of orchestras since 2002. Ones that even considered targeted positive discrimination have on paper been in existence since 2008 (with very limited results) – a whole decade after Sphinx ensemble started in the US.

        You need only speak to any instrumentalists from non-White backgrounds who applied for positions during this time to hear about the actual racism they experienced and how widespread and debilitating it was. The attitudes and behaviour of a minority of people working in orchestral management in the early 2000s actually led to several giving up the profession entirely.

        I am trying very hard to keep to NL’s renewed commenting standards, but I would ask that you refrain from asserting as fact things that you think or feel without evidence.

      • Althea Talbot-Howard says:

        Have they? In what way?

        Every piece of work I received as a performer I earned through hard work and perseverance, not positive discrimination: and that included Third Prize in an international competition in Paris; and trials with major orchestras (including BBCSO & Covent Garden), where nobody was given anything for free, and where other musicians were ultimately awarded the job.

        You’ve got a nerve, to say such a thing: especially anonymously.

        I refute utterly your allegation that I received preferential orchestral treatment. Because if you are not saying it about me and a tiny handful of other players, about whom do you speak?



        • Ellie says:

          Althea I know your work and know your career has been founded on talent alone. It must feel awful to be attacked like this.
          There’s been an increase in EDI awareness and now targeted development schemes to address inequalities at the early career stage but – positive discrimination in the workplace – total nonsense!!

  • Robin Smith says:

    The Telegraph have also picked up on this issue (an article behind the paywall a day or two ago) – presumably from this source.

    • Armchair Bard says:

      * behind the paywall *

      OK, here is what must surely be the tech tip of the year. Want to read an article that’s behind a paywall, in (as it might be) the Telegraph, Times or LRB? Too poor/principled/pushed for time?

      Copy the article URL, go to , paste in URL, hit save.

      The article will usually come up straightaway; if however your screen starts filling up green, be not dismayed, just (in my experience) be patient.

    • La plus belle voix says:


  • Rodger says:

    I’m just catching up on this little tabloid-driven scandal now.

    As an American, I couldn’t agree with Ms. Nwanoku more: The royal family is a ridiculous farce and there should be no obligation to grovel and bow down before it (literally or musically). Good for her for not towing the party line as so many others in the UK seem willing to do.

    • Zelda Macnamara says:

      I think you have missed the point about her hypocrisy – refusing to play the national anthem on the one hand, gushing about receiving an honour from the queen on the other. There are many honest and honourable people who have refused to accept such honours, and she could have done the same.

      • watching the blowhards says:

        Let’s hope the ironies continue. She accepts royal honors for telling the truth about the utter vulgarity of Britain’s racially informed classism. We should also note that this racially informed classism is one of the worst poisons the USA inherited from Britain. It is a positive development that the UK now has far less influence on the EU. Goodbye and good riddance.

    • Paul Carlile says:

      Anyone towing the party line should be toad away….

    • Mr Marlow says:

      She grovelled enough to accept an honour from the Queen and £1 million!

    • La plus belle voix says:

      To toe the line, as any fule kno.

    • Roger Iain Mason says:

      This is a little rich coming from an American who espouse’s a presidential system that can elect an idiot like Trump. God Save the King. Proud to have Served.

    • J.B says:

      “As an American, I couldn’t agree with Ms. Nwanoku more”

      Was being American relevant to that statement? I doubt it since the entire thing is irrelevant in missing the point anyway.

    • got says:

      Yet she takes the money and awards from the royal family. Do one or the other.

  • christopher storey says:

    Rodger : when you have learned to speak proper English ( it’s “toeing the line” you will be completely free to describe the British Royal Family as a farce – presumably comparable to your Presidential farce

    • Bone says:

      There is no farce comparable to the presidential farce we’re all enduring now in America. The only farcical part of the monarchy is the inbreeding in the past.

    • Ellie says:

      You are funny! Your post is full of punctuation errors!

    • Rodger says:

      Spell it as you wish (and be sure to close quotes). The U.S. has a great president at the moment who has restored our country’s dignity and stature on the world stage. Not only does the UK lack an elected leader of that status, but it has unelected figureheads who don’t pay taxes while requiring the citizenry to bow down before them and sing silly anthems.

      • Tamino says:

        Trump was bad, but I don’t get the vibe here in Europe, that Biden restored anything in the world. If you look beyond the facades and media strategies and at the facts, the world is in a worse state than ever, and the US does nothing but selfishly serve their interests like a bully. They always might have done primarily that, but at least the “freedom ad democracy” show was more believable in the past, or were an actual win-win for all sides (e.g. in defeating nazi Germany)

      • John Palmer says:

        A great president? Are you joking? A senile old man who was as dumb as a box of rocks even when he was young.

  • SVM says:

    I think there is a distinction to be drawn between Nwanoku herself and Chineke, notwithstanding their close connection.

    Nwanoku is an individual, whose stance on a given issue, such as the monarchy, need not correspond precisely to the stance (or lack thereof) of her orchestra. There is nothing hypocritical in her *orchestra* opting to abstain from paying tribute to a monarch to whom Nwanoku *herself* has paid tribute in a personal capacity in the past. Nwanoku’s decisions or recommendations when acting in the capacity of artistic director of an orchestra may legitimately differ from her personal views. It seems that, when acting in a managerial capacity, Nwanoku gave a lot of weight to the views of members who opposed any kind of special treatment for Elizabeth Windsor (following complaints about a tribute upon the death of her husband, the previous year). I applaud this approach for two reasons: first, because I am a republican; and secondly, because I feel that orchestras should abstain from any political statements unless they have truly unanimous support (in other words, I believe that any member of an orchestra should have the power to veto any proposed political statement).

    To add a tribute to an individual in an orchestral concert is a political act where the person receiving the tribute is a powerful public figure who is not a musician nor otherwise connected directly with the orchestra. Music should seek to unite people despite political differences, so it is reasonable for an orchestra to abstain from any kind of political act or commentary. To many republicans (including me), the idea of paying tribute to woman whose main achievement in life was being born to the right father whilst omitting to pay comparable tribute to the numerous people who have actually achieved something significant on their own merit is extremely offensive and oppressive, and makes a mockery of the ostensible British values of meritocracy and democracy. If even one orchestral player is a republican, then that orchestral player should not have to suffer the indignity of being forced to pay tribute to a hereditary monarch on stage (nor the indignity of “sitting out” for such a tribute). Chineke may have its faults, but it is to be commended in fostering an atmosphere where republican orchestral players feel comfortable in expressing openly their objection to paying tribute to a hereditary monarch.

    • Clive says:

      SVM – What a pile of hot air. Did you actually read what you wrote? You talk about democratic values but insist a single objection should veto a tribute…er that’s not democracy but presumably because it aligns with your views that’s ok.
      Neither is a Constitutional Monarch a political figure. Nor is an orchestral tribute to a public figure necessarily a political act.
      Nor is calling yourself a Republican remotely relevant unless you think everyone is wildly interested in your self-perceptions – the fact is that the UK overwhelmingly supports a Monarchy.

  • watching the blowhards says:

    “A clitoris has nearly 8000 nerve endings, but it’s not nearly as sensitive as conservative white men on the internet.”

    –Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

  • MMcGrath says:

    A racist orchestra and its racist founder take British money and honours and then object to playing the British national anthem. Unless Brits want to be suckered, I say make them refund every penny and the letters after her name.
    And as so often today we see selective ignorance at work. Happy to denounce British history and “imperialism” but apparently the prima donna had no problem with Switzerland as a venue. After all, didn’t this country play quick and slippery with Jewish refugees and their money in WW2? See the film “Das Boot ist voll”, 1981. Not to mention how it was happy to store the Reichsbank’s cash and gold. But facts don’t suit the world’s current batch of racist, entitled loud mouths.

  • Rank and file says:

    Guess whose invite to play at the coronation just got lost in the post.