Tuesday, March 07, 2023

Rabble rousing: save the BBC singers


Hello! Melissa Dunphy here, interrupting my usual sluggish newsletter schedule because I woke up this morning to devastating news: the BBC, in its infinite wisdom, is disbanding the BBC Singers.

I'm so upset, I'm practically vibrating. The BBC Singers drew some of my best work out of me last year when they commissioned me to write I am the World (published and due to be released any day now by Edition Peters). They are one of the only professional choirs in the world to truly care about gender equity on their programs—they always have an even split of male and female composers on their programs, and they've commissioned so many works from composers such as Joanna Marsh, Cecilia McDowall, Roxanna Panufnik, Sun Keting, Errollyn Wallen and Roderick Williams. Their impact on choral music in Britain and internationally is immeasurable.

I have to (slightly facetiously) wonder if this announcement was timed to drop after the ACDA conference in Cincinnati last week, when 10,000+ choral directors and singers gathered in Cincinnati (along with Adah and me and our Hulken bag full of scores). Personally if I had known about this, I would have done my utmost to turn the conference into a solidarity protest march, and converted my table at the Composers Fair into a rabble-rousing situation room. While I've seen many British people on social media react with sadness, I'm livid. You know Americans, we have a history of causing impolite trouble; if I lived locally, I would be taking to the streets right now (perhaps the BBC would be forced to censor my sign again, lol).

Anyway, I never know how much good online petitions do, and maybe this is all done and dusted, but if you love choral music as much as I do, consider signing this petition to at the very least tell the BBC how much this sucks:

I mean, if I had known this was coming down the pike, I would have followed my irresponsible impulse last year to hop on a red-eye to London and see one of the three concerts where the BBC Singers programmed my music at the 900-year-old Temple Church or the Barbizon Center, but I foolishly assumed there would be future opportunities, and now I have to regret till my dying day that I'll never see the BBC Singers perform my stuff in person. In the scheme of things, of course I'm more upset on behalf of the singers and others who are directly impacted, but the heartbreak is real.

Here's audio of their premiere of I am the World at Temple Church in case you haven't heard it and want to understand wny I'm so heated right now:

Signing off from Seattle, where I'm currently the Composer-in-Residence at Seattle University, whose choir is performing a bunch of my stuff on Friday night (if you're around, come see!).

But seriously, sign that petition, just in case.

Melissa Dunphy

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