Europe’s choirs hurl protest at the BBC

Europe’s choirs hurl protest at the BBC


norman lebrecht

March 22, 2023

The following letter has been sent to us by the conductors of Europe’s surviving radio choirs, most of them in Germany.

To Tim Davie, Charlotte Moore, Lorna Clarke and Simon Webb:
We, the chief conductors of the European radio choirs, write to express our astonishment and deep concern at the proposal to shut down the BBC Singers.

Across the whole of Europe and beyond, the BBC Singers’ name stands for virtuosity, flexibility, and the very highest standards in professional choral music-making.

The choir’s exceptional level of musicianship inspires all conductors, singers and instrumentalists who perform with them, and the many composers who write for them, to raise their own standard. Many young professional singers aspire to be BBC Singers, and see joining the choir as a career pinnacle, representing the highest level of achievement in their field.

The BBC Singers’ reputation in contemporary music is world-beating. Since their inception they have been dedicated to commissioning and performing new choral works, and their expertise here is peerless. The choir has led the way in its commitment to championing music by women composers, long before this became mainstream or popular.

Astonishing flexibility is another hallmark of the BBC Singers’ work. While many choirs excel in specific repertoire, the BBC Singers demonstrate each week that they are able to perform to the highest standard whatever music is put in front of them. This is an invaluable resource to have on call from a house ensemble within the broadcasting system, and it should be cherished.

Full-time radio choirs are in a unique position to give time and expertise to education and community projects, providing conductor workshops, academy schemes for aspiring singers, and countless other activities beyond the concert platform that feed and support the wider choral ecosystem. We have seen the BBC Singers perform these activities with the same dedication, passion and professionalism that they show on stage and in the studio.

To close down a choir with nearly 100 years of history is to destroy not only the current ensemble, but with them the ensemble’s heritage. It lays waste to that rich trove of expertise and style grown from cumulative experience and passed from one generation of BBC Singer to the next. This is a priceless and fragile phenomenon: once lost, it can never be rebuilt.
We understand that there was limited consultation with external choral experts on this proposed move. Therefore we are writing to you now with our view.

We urge you to reconsider this decision. For all the reasons mentioned above, the BBC Singers are an inspiration to us and to our own ensembles. Their loss would be a tragedy for choral music.

Philipp Ahmann – Chief conductor, Leipzig Radio Choir
Martina Batič – Chief conductor-designate, DR Vokalensemblet
Marcus Creed – Chief conductor, DR Vokalensemblet
Peter Dijkstra – Chief conductor, Bavarian Radio Choir
Justin Doyle – Chief conductor, RIAS Chamber Choir
Nicolas Fink – Chief conductor, West German Radio Choir
Benjamin Goodson (pictured) – Chief conductor, Netherlands Radio Choir
Sigvards Klava – Chief conductor, Latvian Radio Choir
Gijs Leenaars – Chief conductor, Berlin Radio Choir
Zoltán Pad – Chief conductor, Hungarian Radio Choir
Kaspars Putniņš – Chief conductor, Swedish Radio Choir
Lionel Sow – Chief conductor, French Radio Choir
Klaas Stok – Chief conductor, NDR Vocal Ensemble
Bart van Reyn – Chief conductor, Flemish Radio Choir
Yuval Weinberg – Chief conductor, Stuttgart Radio Choir


  • Robin Blick says:

    EU Latvia, population 1.9 million, even with its expanded military spending, can afford a full time radio choir, but Brexit Britain, with a population of 67 million, and a shrinking military budget, cannot. But a London football club can spend £15 million in one year on a failed manager.

    • Helen says:

      Being an EU net recipient might help?

    • Andy R says:

      We can afford one easily enough. I doubt if the BBC will actually save a penny if they hold to their promises on education/outreach/recording and broadcasting other choirs (which of course they won’t)

  • Emma says:

    Makes me want to move to Germany…