About The Bach Choir
Over a century of song
Founded in 1876, The Bach Choir is recognised as one of the world’s leading choruses, building upon a tradition that combines musical excellence with creativity and innovation. From the first performance in Britain of Bach’s Mass in B minor to the soundtrack for the Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order video game, our musical heritage is as rich as it is diverse. Directed by David Hill MBE, one of the country’s most eminent conductors, we regularly perform and record across London and the UK in prestigious venues, from the Southbank Centre and Royal Albert Hall to Abbey Road Studios.
A unique collective voice
“I can’t imagine a professional choir giving a more perfect and passionate performance” wrote the Independent in February 2020 of the Choir’s performance of Bach’s Mass in B minor. We value the freedom that our independence brings, allowing us to work with the very best conductors, orchestras, and soloists, and to choose the music we perform. To date we have sung over 400 works in more than 120 venues, and continue to share our work with audiences around the world.
A distinctive, challenging repertoire
From oratorio to film scores and from St Paul’s Cathedral to Sydney Opera House, our repertoire – which covers works from the 16th century to the present day – celebrates the power that music has to connect us, to take us beyond ourselves, and to spark our imagination. Our work has an emotional intensity that only a large choir can evoke.
Under David Hill we have specialised in recordings of English music by Howells, Vaughan Williams, Delius, Stanford, David Matthews, and Dyson, the most recent being an acclaimed recording of Howells’ Missa Sabrinensis, described by Gramophone Magazine as “an electrifying performance”.
We regularly commission music and have given many world premiere performances, the most recent being Roxanna Panufnik’s Four Choral Seasons in October 2019. During the COVID-19 pandemic we commissioned a new work from Gabriel Jackson – The Promise – which receives its world premiere in October 2021, and six works from a diverse group of composers in response to chorales from Bach’s St Matthew Passion, a work which we perform annually in London, just before Easter. These six works have been recorded and will be released in February 2022.
A list of notable names
It is our people who define us. Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Sir David Willcocks: these are just a few of the eminent musicians that have played a part in our history and created the musical pedigree that we build upon today. With HRH The Prince of Wales as our Patron, John Rutter as our President, and David Hill as our Musical Director, our performances and recordings go from strength to strength. Our Accompanist/Assistant Conductor is Philip Scriven, who is widely regarded as one of the finest organists of his generation, and highly respected as a conductor.
A choir for the 21st-century
The Bach Choir has always been and continues to be characterised by the commitment of its members. With over 240 talented singers coming from all walks of life and a community engagement programme that, for the past ten years, has taken our passion for music into inner-city schools, we are an active community performing, recording and sharing music for everyone to enjoy, whatever their age or background.
THE BACH CHOIR – DIVERSITY STATEMENT
The Board of Trustees of The Bach Choir recognises the importance of promoting diversity in The Bach Choir and understands that it has much work to do in this area, particularly in extending its reach to a more diverse range of singing members, composers, soloists, and audience. We have decided to begin by focusing on cultural and ethnic diversity, but it is our intention to go on to examine whether there are other barriers to membership – facing singers with disabilities, for example – and, if so, to try to identify ways to overcome these barriers.
At September 2021, more than half of the Board of Trustees is female, and this includes the Chair. One (of 14 – 7%) of our Trustees identifies as black African and, whilst this does not make for an ethnically diverse Board, this is a significantly higher percentage of ethnic diversity than is represented amongst the singing membership as a whole (approx. 1%).
As a first step towards addressing this, Trustees are attending a training course in November 2021 on unconscious bias, anti-racism and diversity and inclusion. Following this, training will be made available to our small staff team and to singing members who would like it. Materials, including videos and written articles, are already available to members in a section of the members’ website specifically devoted to promoting diversity and inclusion.
Our singing membership already spans a wide age range, from 20 to 80, with 30% of our singers currently under the age of 35. In addition, we have a policy that no-one should be prevented from singing in The Bach Choir for financial reasons alone, and this policy is supported by an active bursary programme, funded largely by Trusts and Foundations, which offers greatly reduced subscriptions to students and those for whom financial means would otherwise be a barrier to them joining.
We have much more work to do to increase ethnic diversity amongst our singing membership and we are actively seeking to address this by:
- Collecting and monitoring data from applicants for audition in respect of their age, ethnicity, gender and any disability;
- Matching this against successful auditionees and examining and analysing any disparities;
- Working on ways to promote membership of The Bach Choir amongst currently underrepresented ethnicities and socio-economic groups, and to dismantle any barriers to membership facing these groups;
- Continuing to offer singing workshops in schools where there are high percentages of children from disadvantaged backgrounds, receiving free school meals, receiving the pupil premium, and having English as their second language; inviting children from those schools to attend selected rehearsals and sing with The Bach Choir; and promoting a summer concert in which the children can showcase what they have learnt during the workshops;
- Embarking on a project to refresh our public website, to enhance its appeal to people from diverse ethnicities and cultural backgrounds.
The Bach Choir’s aim is to perform choral works of excellence ‘of various schools’, regardless of the gender or ethnicity of the composer. The Choir acknowledges that the standard choral repertory lacks diversity in both the gender and ethnicity of composers represented and is actively seeking to change this by:
- Commissioning new music from an ethnically and culturally diverse range of composers and from female composers. In the 2020-21 season, the Choir commissioned eight ethnically and culturally diverse composers, three of whom are female;
- Including music from a diverse range of composers in the Choir’s future artistic planning;
- Seeking to work with orchestras and soloists from diverse backgrounds.
The Bach Choir does not have its own dedicated venue and consequently we do not have as full a picture as we would like of the ethnicity, age and cultural background of our audiences. Visual evidence from concerts before the COVID-19 pandemic suggests that there is significant underrepresentation of young people, and those from black and ethnically diverse backgrounds, in our audiences. We are working to address this by:
- Actively seeking ways to market our performances and Come and Sing days to as wide and diverse a range of people as possible;
- Treating our community engagement work as part of our core programme, and inviting parents and teachers of children participating in our Vocalise! workshops to attend the end of year concert as our guests;
- Seeking feedback, through post-concert questionnaires, from audiences at Vocalise! and other concerts;
- Continuing to promote online choral workshops which can be accessed free of charge by all;
- Refreshing and updating the photography on our website so that it appeals to a wider range of ages and ethnicities.