BBC Singers celebrate 90

The choir will celebrate with a Radio 3 takeover and two special concerts

The BBC Singers

This month, the BBC Singers turn 90 and they will be celebrating with two special concerts and a takeover of BBC Radio 3 on Wednesday 24 September.

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The choir’s Radio 3 takeover will take place from 6pm and last for four hours. They will be celebrating 90 years in two special concerts, one at St Giles’ Cripplegate and the other at the Barbican Hall, where they will perform the world premiere of Kevin Volans’s The Mountain That Left, written especially for the occasion.

Paul Hughes, general manager of the BBC Singers says, 'The history of the BBC Singers is the history of the BBC and from their beginnings the relationship has been at the heart of music making in this country. It is a privilege to work with them and a pleasure to celebrate this auspicious birthday.'

The choir’s broadcast history includes 66 years performing on the BBC’s Daily Service (then they were known as the Wireless Choir and Wireless Singers), numerous performances of world premieres and regular BBC events.

Many famous soloists have emerged from the ranks of the BBC Singers, not least tenor Peter Pears and soprano Sarah Connolly, who has said: ‘Not only did I have fun as a member of the BBC Singers, but the professionalism and high standards toughened me up for my subsequent career as an opera singer. I am deeply proud to claim that I was a BBC Singer and I owe them so much.’

Find out more about the Singers's 90-year history in the video below.

We have celebrated with a round-up of five fantastic BBC Singers performances from around the web.

1. Gustav Holst: Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda

From the moment they gave their first world premiere – Holst’s The Morning of the Year in 1927 – the BBC Singers have held an unrivalled position at the forefront of contemporary choral performance. And Holst has remained a favourite with the choir. Here’s their 2013 BBC Proms performance of Holst’s Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda, Op. 26.

2. Harrison Birtwistle: The Moth Requiem

The choir's premieres of such significant works as Berg’s Wozzeck and Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress set a precedent for creative relationships with the most important composers and conductors of the 20th and 21st centuries. In 2013, they performed the UK premiere of Sir Harrison Birtwistle’s The Moth Requiem at the Proms with the Nash Ensemble.

3. Gabriel Jackson: In Nomine Domini

As part of the birthday celebrations on September 24, the BBC Singers will dive into their rich back catalogue of commissions in a special 'Singers at Six' concert, conducted by Stephen Cleobury, Bob Chilcott and Paul Brough. The concert will include a focus on their associate composers, Judith Bingham, Edward Cowie and Gabriel Jackson. Below is the choir's 2010 world premiere performance of Jackson’s In Nomine Domini.

4. Felix Mendelssohn: Hear My Prayer

The BBC Singers are also known for their education and outreach programmes. In a 2009 masterclass conductor David Hill explains the nuances of performing Mendelssohn’s Hear My Prayer.

5. George Frideric Handel: Dixit Dominus

Finally, Robert Hollingsworth introduces us to the intricacies of Handel’s Dixit Dominus with the help of the BBC Singers under James O’Donnell.

Peter Wagstaff

Visit www.bbc.co.uk/singers to find out more

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