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In praise of experts

There is a certain irony in the fact that at the very moment the April issue of Choir & Organ – which included David Hill’s interview with Sofi Jeannin – was in the process of being printed, the BBC announced the disbanding of the BBC Singers. The widespread outrage that greeted this bombshell (see News, p.6) must surely have played a significant part in persuading the national broadcaster to think again and enter discussions with the Musicians’ Union about possible alternative funding models that would avert the necessity of closing the UK’s only full-time professional chamber choir. The danger is not yet past, but at least there may be some signs of hope.

In the meantime, I was in Paris for one of two 30th anniversary concerts by the French chamber choir Accentus (see News, p.8). Founder-director Laurence Equilbey had already conducted the first of the concerts two days earlier in a packed Philharmonie; yet the repeat performance only half an hour from the centre of the French capital, in the swish new La Seine Musicale concert complex created less than a decade ago from a defunct Renault factory, attracted a near-capacity audience again in its 1,200-seater Auditorium Patrick Devedjian. And what a rousing reception the performers received at the end – cheering, footstamping and coordinated hand-clapping, and this in a country not known for its choral tradition. As Equilbey said, they have had to fight for this.

The UK is justifiably proud of its amateur choral tradition, which stretches back hundreds of years and has seen a recent resurgence in the growing popularity of community choirs. But as Equilbey pointed out, ‘It’s not the big amateur tradition that builds the top.’

In the weeks leading up to the 2016 referendum, pro-Brexit MP Michael Gove notoriously said, ‘This country has had enough of experts’– though I very much doubt he lives by that maxim when in need of a dentist. Of course we need experts in all fields of our national and global life that are valued; how else can standards be raised, knowledge and skills be shared, and groups and individuals be inspired to stretch themselves and do better? Without the experts, the top professionals, we would petrify. Without the unique contribution of the BBC Singers, our national musical life would be immeasurably impoverished. This is not just about musical matters, though. What lies behind the cuts is a persistent attempt by government, through financial means, to weaken the BBC as an independent broadcaster that, in addition to presenting top quality documentary, current affairs, drama, sports, entertainment, arts and music programmes, also scrutinises the ruling classes and is not afraid of critically analysing how we are governed. No government, of whatever political hue, likes to be challenged about their policies and will try to silence opposition. So, as Equilbey said, we have to fight, to kick back and keep up the pressure for the good things in life to be valued, preserved, and shielded from mindless vandalism.

Choir & Organ shines a global spotlight on two distinctive fields of creativity, celebrating inventiveness and excellence in all their forms.

We aim to inspire our readers through giving a platform to conductors, organists, composers, and choirs of every kind; and by showcasing the imaginative craft of pipe organ building across the centuries, critiquing new organs and tackling ethics in restoring historic instruments.

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Choir & Organ is an invitation to engage with two unique areas of music – to explore the new, and look afresh at the familiar.



The Choir of King’s College London


University of St Andrews Music Centre


PRS for music

Orgelfestival Holland

BBC Singers

National Youth Choirs of Great Britain

Saint Thomas, Fifth Avenue Three Choirs Festival

Association of British Choral Directors

St John’s College, Cambridge Royal Canadian

College of Organists

European Cities of Historic Organs

St Albans International Organ Festival

International Federation for Choral Music

ASSOCIATES American Guild of Organists American Institute of Organbuilders Association of Canadian Choral Conductors Chorus America Cornell University International Society of Organbuilders Leicester Chorale Mount Royal University Oberlin College Conservatory Thornton School of Music USC

St Paul’s Cathedral

Clare College, Cambridge

Merton College, Oxford

Canadian International Organ Competition

Royal Holloway University of London

Southbank Centre

Oundle for Organists

Royal College of Organists

Salisbury Cathedral

Longwood Gardens International Organ Competition

European Choral AssociationEuropa Cantat

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