Updated Mar 7, 2023, 4:54pm EST

BBC shutters the BBC Singers, Britain’s only professional chamber choir

BBC Singers and Ensemble Singers rehearse at BBC Maida Vale Studio 1
VocalEssence Ensemble Singers/Wikimedia Commons

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The News

The BBC announced Tuesday that it is shutting down the BBC Singers, nearly 100 years after Britain’s only full-time professional chamber choir was formed.

The broadcaster is also cutting a fifth of its paid orchestral posts as part of a larger shift in the strategy for its classical music program, according to a statement.

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Step Back

The Singers are known for touring around the world and performing difficult classical works, often in partnership with the BBC's five orchestras. According to its website, the group has 21 singers, in addition to conductors and administrators.

They were formed in 1924 as the Wireless Chorus, and over the years have been named the BBC Chorus, the Variety Chorus, Theatre Chorus, and the Kentucky Minstrels. They finally settled on the BBC Singers in 1972.

The group also made annual appearances at the BBC Proms, the summer season of classical music concerts hosted by the BBC at Royal Albert Hall in London. They've also performed at large national events, including the funeral of Princess Diana.

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The BBC said closing the BBC Singers was a “difficult decision” that will allow them to “invest more widely in the future of choral singing across the UK, working with a wide range of choral groups alongside launching a major choral development programme for new talent.”

The company said that it was a time of “very real financial challenges across the orchestral and choral sectors.”

One of the Singers’ mezzo-sopranos, Eleanor Minney, said on Twitter that the news was “utterly devastating.”


“I’m speechless and heartbroken,” she wrote.

Chris Bowen, who was a member of the BBC Singers for 15 years before leaving two years ago, called the group “a linchpin in the British music ecosystem.”

Without them, “it’s going have a big ripple effect within music-making at a time when Arts Council funding is being cut,” he told Semafor, referring to the British government body that funds art programs. “It’s a worry.”