BBC Orchestras and Singers

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BBC Orchestras and Singers refers collectively to a number of orchestras, choirs and other musical ensembles, maintained by the BBC.

Current operation[edit]

All of the BBC’s Orchestras and Singers record performances primarily for BBC Radio 3, with the exception of the BBC Concert Orchestra which also has a dual role shared with BBC Radio 2. Recordings are either taken from one of around 400 live concerts each year with an audience,[1] or from studio sessions.

Unusually for BBC departments, all of the ensembles also take part in a number of non-broadcast activities, including festival appearances and international touring, and in education work within their regional communities.

The ensembles managed in England report to the Controller of Radio 3[2] with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra reporting to BBC Cymru Wales[3] and BBC Scotland respectively.

In 2012, John Myerscough was commissioned to report on potential financial savings of the BBC’s Orchestras and Singers. He recommended no more than 10% budget cuts, highlighting the ensembles' successful range of work.[4]

The two choruses, BBC Symphony Chorus and BBC National Chorus of Wales, are volunteer choristers and are not paid a salary. The BBC Singers are the UK’s only full-time professional chamber choir, and along with the five orchestras, they are full-time salaried musicians whose pay is negotiated with the Musicians' Union (United Kingdom).

In March 2021, it was announced that the BBC Concert Orchestra would relocate to a new city "outside of the M25",[5] as part of wider BBC announcements redistributing hundreds of jobs outside of London.[6][7]

Current list of ensembles[edit]

Disbanded BBC ensembles[edit]

  • BBC Northern Singers (became The Britten Singers in 1991)
  • BBC Midland Light Orchestra[8]
  • BBC Northern Dance Orchestra
  • BBC Northern Ireland Orchestra (absorbed by the Ulster Orchestra)[9]
  • BBC Opera Orchestra (formed 1949, disbanded and reformed as the BBC Concert Orchestra, 1952)
  • BBC Radio Orchestra (1964-1991)
  • BBC Revue Orchestra
  • BBC Scottish Radio Orchestra
  • BBC Television Orchestra (1936–39, disbanded but reformed as the BBC Revue Orchestra, amalgamated with The BBC Variety Orchestra into the BBC Radio Orchestra, 1964)
  • BBC Theatre Orchestra (formed 1931, became the BBC Opera Orchestra in 1949)
  • BBC Variety Orchestra (1935-1964)
  • BBC West of England Light orchestra (1950-1960)
  • BBC West of England Players (1960-1965)
  • The New BBC Orchestra (founded 1966, renamed the BBC Training Orchestra in 1968, and then the Academy of the BBC in 1974 - disbanded 1977)[10]
  • BBC Chorus


  1. ^ "BBC National Orchestra of Wales to Tour China with Principal Guest Conductor Xian Zhang | British Council". Retrieved 2020-06-22.
  2. ^ "Alan Davey". Retrieved 2020-06-22.
  3. ^ "Orchestra Director, National Orchestra of Wales | Jobs and careers with BBC". Retrieved 2020-06-22.
  4. ^ "Review of the BBC's Performing Groups". BBC. 2012-06-18. Retrieved 2020-06-22.
  5. ^ "BBC Concert Orchestra relocating to a new location outside the M25". Classical Music. Retrieved 2021-03-22.
  6. ^ "BBC to move key jobs and programmes out of London". BBC News. 2021-03-18. Retrieved 2021-03-22.
  7. ^ "BBC to move 400 jobs out of London". The Independent. 2021-03-18. Retrieved 2021-03-22.
  8. ^ Howard Leader: The BBC Midland Light Orchestra (radio documentary
  9. ^ The BBC Northern Ireland Orchestra at Masters of Melody
  10. ^ Radio Times, 10 February 1966, p 3

External links[edit]