Thursday, 1 Jun 2023

King’s Coronation musicians threaten to snub event in reaction to BBC

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King Charles III’s Coronation and the Proms could fall victim to a musicians’ boycott if the BBC carry out proposed cuts, a union has claimed. The broadcaster received an onslaught of backlash after announcing its “new strategy” earlier this month which includes the BBC Singers choir being axed as well as reducing its orchestra by 20 percent. The Musicians’ Union, which represents those whose jobs are currently under threat, has suggested “collective action” could be taken if the BBC continues with its “new strategy” plans.

BBC bosses announced on March 7 that it would be scrapping the BBC Singers — founded in 1924 — meaning 20 job redundancies of those in the choir, as well as job losses among its administrative staff.

The cuts will also reduce the number of players in its Concert, Philharmonic, and Symphony orchestras.

Now, the Musicians’ Union, which supports more than 32,000 musicians across the country, said every option will be considered in attempting to stop the plans from being executed.

Its general secretary, Naomi Pohl, told the Telegraph that the King’s Coronation, which is less than seven weeks away, and the BBC Proms which begin in July, could be targeted by strikes.

Ms Pohl said that the union still had “some form of collective action” if the BBC maintains its position on mass redundancies on the table.

The Coronation, code-named Operation Golden Orb, is set to include a concert held at Windsor Castle that will be staged and broadcast by the BBC.

There will also be a performance by the Coronation Orchestra, conducted by the upcoming London Symphony Orchestra’s chief conductor, Antonio Pappano, at Westminster Abbey.

If strikes by the Musicians’ Union are carried out, they will only involve those affected by the BBC’s “new strategy” plans.

The BBC’s plans have caused widespread controversy, with the axing of the BBC Singers hitting a particularly sore spot.

In the Times, 200 choirs wrote an open letter, signed by 18,000 people, urging the corporation not to “kill off the UK’s leading professional choir”.

A report by the Telegraph claims that senior ministers also back the campaign to save the Singers, with former Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said to have discussed it in a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

Both Labour and Conservative MPs have called for the matter to be debated in the Commons. Penny Mordaunt acknowledged that it is “of concern to many Members as well as many people outside the House”.

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In an interview with the BBC at the weekend the revered conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner, who will be conducting the pre-Coronation service concert, also slammed the decision.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the BBC “big wigs” clearly “don’t give a flying fig” about classical music.

It is said that the axing of the Singers will save the corporation less than £1.5million, around the same figure as Match of the Day pundit Gary Lineker’s salary.

The BBC’s chief content officer Charlotte Moore described the corporation’s new strategy as “bold, ambitious, and good for the sector and for audiences who love classical music”.

The corporation has said it needs to save £400million by 2027 due to the licence fee freeze imposed by the Government.

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