Feb 16, 2024 2 min read

"Sustainable plan" to save BBC Singers supported by The VOCES8 Foundation

The future of the BBC’s in-house chamber choir - which was facing the axe last year - has been guaranteed via a partnership with the The VOCES8 Foundation. In a joint statement, the BBC and Musicians’ Union said, "We are pleased that we have a strategy which secures the future of the BBC Singers”

"Sustainable plan" to save BBC Singers supported by The VOCES8 Foundation
Photo credit: BBC / Crux Productions / Rowan Moss

The BBC has announced what it calls a "sustainable plan" for the future of its in-house chamber choir BBC Singers. That plan, it says, draws on support from The VOCES8 Foundation

"Following an exploration of options", the broadcaster said yesterday, the new plan “will draw on The VOCES8 Foundation’s considerable experience and expertise across music education and community engagement. BBC Singers staff will continue to be employed by the BBC, with a strong artistic identity, and remain core to BBC Radio 3 and the BBC Proms". 

The VOCES8 Foundation describes itself as “a vocal music education charity” that employs “innovative business and music education models". It operates a number of ensembles and festivals, and also has teams working in recordings, film-making and music publishing. 

The BBC announced a major overhaul of its classical music output in March 2023. With cost savings one of the aims of that plan, BBC bosses said that the changes would include a reduction in the number of salaried positions in its in-house orchestras and the phasing out entirely of the BBC Singers, which was first launched in 1924. 

Amid a major backlash to that plan, the closure of the BBC Singers was put on hold, with the broadcaster revealing that it had received approaches from a number of organisations suggesting alternative funding models that it would consider in liaison with the Musicians' Union. That ultimately led to the decision to work with The VOCES8 Foundation.

In a joint statement yesterday, the BBC and MU said they had "engaged in constructive talks over recent months". They then added, "We are pleased that we have a strategy which secures the future of the BBC Singers, and we look forward to celebrating their centenary year". 

"We agree that artistic excellence, having a growing impact in music education, partnerships and operating on a financially stable footing are central to a long term, sustainable future for all of the BBC’s performing groups", the statement continues. "We are committed to working together to deliver these objectives and will continue constructive discussions with the review of terms and conditions". 

Confirming their involvement in the BBC Singers moving forward, Paul Smith and Barnaby Smith from The VOCES8 Foundation added, “As a global, artist-led charity, dedicated to inspiring people through choral music, The VOCES8 Foundation was committed to a positive outcome for the future of the BBC Singers. It is an honour and a privilege to have been able to work alongside the BBC towards this news and through it, to continue the Foundation’s commitment to finding innovative ways to extend learning and participation, and serve and grow global audiences for the artform". 

The BBC also provided an update on changes to its orchestras. It said, "Over the past months the BBC has also been working closely with the Musicians’ Union to consider opportunities for the BBC’s orchestras. In maintaining all of the BBC’s distinctive orchestras, we will consider the resourcing levels which support each ensemble as their work develops across broadcast, education and commercial activity". 

"This will be a gradual process in which we will work closely with the unions and our musicians", it added, "alongside a review to modernise terms and conditions making sure these are aligned with the BBC’s principles of fairness and transparency".

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