BBC suspends proposed closure of the BBC Singers

The BBC has suspended its proposal to close the BBC Singers choir while it explores alternative funding models.

The broadcaster said it has agreed with the Musicians Union (MU) that it will suspend the cut while it looks at funding solutions offered by a number of organisations which, if viable, could secure the future of the ensemble.

It also confirmed the in-house chamber choir will appear at the BBC Proms this year.

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The BBC Singers will appear at the Proms this year (Mark Allan/BBC/PA)

A statement from the BBC said: “We know that the BBC Singers are much loved across the classical community and their professionalism, quality and standing has never been in question.

“We have said throughout these were difficult decisions.

“Therefore, we want to fully explore the options that have been brought to us to see if there is another way forward.

“The BBC still needs to make savings and still plans to invest more widely in the future of choral singing across the UK.”

The plans to scrap the choir came shortly before members were set to celebrate its 100th anniversary and sparked a backlash, with over 140,000 signing a petition urging the BBC to reverse its decision.

In the previous announcement, the BBC also said it was going to reduce salaried orchestral posts across the BBC English Orchestras by around 20%.

The proposals are part of a new strategy for classical music which the broadcaster said “prioritises quality, agility and impact”.

On Friday, the corporation said it will continue to engage with the MU and other unions about the proposals on the BBC’s English Orchestras.

A statement added: “We are committed to meaningful consultation and to avoiding compulsory redundancies, wherever possible.”

The MU also confirmed the BBC’s in-house chamber choir will not be scrapped on September 30 and it will continue to consult with the corporation to ensure the group has a “secure and extremely bright future”.

Jo Laverty, MU national organiser of orchestras, said: “The weeks since the BBC’s announcement have impacted all the individuals affected in the most brutal way.

“We are right behind every member affected, and as we enter negotiation we will be consulting our members in the Singers and BBC orchestras to ensure the outcome is as positive as possible for them all.”

Naomi Pohl, MU general secretary, added that the support shown to the BBC Singers and orchestras after the announcement had been “incredible” and she hopes the broadcaster recognises the “quality and value” the groups bring to the UK’s music industry and BBC licence fee payers.

The Independent Society of Musicians said the BBC’s decision is a “positive step” but there are “other issues” to resolve.

Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the UK’s body for musicians, said: “We are delighted and relieved that the BBC Singers are not facing immediate closure. This is the right decision and we thank the BBC for listening to the sector.

“The international outrage over the decision shows just how popular the BBC Singers are across the globe. We are concerned about the proposal to look at new models of funding and urge the BBC to find a solution that secures the long-term future of the group.

“There are also other issues to resolve, including the decision to cut the three English BBC orchestras by 20%, which the BBC’s own previous reports have shown to be unviable, but this is a positive step.

“We thank all the organisations and musicians and audience members who have taken the time to stand alongside the ISM and help to save the much-loved Singers.”