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Public invited to sing with BBC Singers in virtual performance

Posted on 13 May 2024

Members of the public are invited to sing alongside the BBC Singers in a virtual performance.

The world-famous BBC Singers. Photo credit Mark Allan

The recorded performance will form part of a newly commissioned piece composed by Roderick Williams, which receives its world premiere at the BBC Singers centenary concert later this year.

The virtual event is a collaboration between the University of York, BBC Singers, and BBC Research and Development, as part of a project designing technical approaches to creating inclusive and immersive musical experiences. The project aims to improve access to group singing so people can experience the benefits no matter where they are in the world.

Members of the public are invited to join the virtual singing workshop on 21 May via a new app that can be downloaded for free to a mobile device. The app will provide the experience of singing live with members of the BBC Singers, who will be singing from Maida Vale. 

Professional choir 

Users of the app will be able to pick a view of the choir section that they would like to join - soprano, alto, tenor or bass - so their virtual experience reflects what it’s like to sing in the UK’s only full time professional choir. 

The performance will be recorded and the virtual singers will be played alongside a live performance at the BBC Singers centenary concert at the Barbican on 2 October. Singers of all abilities are invited to join the performance. 

The project will be the first output of the CoStar LiveLAB, a brand new state-of-the-art research and development facility at Production Park in Wakefield, led by experts at the University of York.  The lab, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, leverages virtual production technologies including computer generated imagery (CGI), spatial audio, motion capture and extended reality (XR) to create novel live performance experiences. 


Professor Gavin Kearney, Director of LiveLab, said: “This is a truly exciting partnership that will give members of the public a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of a world-renowned choir in a performance that will be available to millions of people at the end of this year. 

“For us as researchers, we can test this new technology as well as the experiences that people have using it, to see if this could be a way forward for opening up musical experiences to people who might not otherwise have access to it.”

Research into virtual singing environments has already shown that virtual choirs provided a lifeline for many people during the pandemic by maintaining social connections, but that there was a unanimous sense of loss of the collective process of making music in real time due to the technical limitations of the internet.  

Fully immersed

Experts at the University of York addressed this challenge by developing a virtual environment to allow participants to feel fully immersed within the sound of the choir and trialled the technology in care homes and at a National Trust exhibition, to positive responses from users.

Professor Helena Daffern, Co-Director of LiveLab, said: “This new project with the BBC Singers will take our work into virtual singing experiences to another level.  We know that virtual choirs can provide a way of reaching people who have barriers to taking part in these social events, but we need more evidence to understand if virtual performances could have the same health and wellbeing impacts as they do in real life.

“Most importantly, however, for this new project, we hope that people enjoy the experience of feeling immersed in the performance of this incredible choir in real-time and being created by such a renowned composer; it should be something that singers of all abilities will remember for a long time to come.”

Renowned composer

Composer and Baritone Rodderick Williams OBE is Composer in Association of the BBC Singers, Artistic Director of the St Endellion Summer Festival, and Artist in Residence at the Aldeburgh Festival. Commissions include a major work, World without End, for the RIAS Kammerchor and BBC Singers, as well as a commission to celebrate the centenary of the RAF. He also performed at the Coronation of King Charles III in 2023.

Jonathan Manners, Producer, BBC Singers said: “I am thrilled that in the year we are celebrating 100 years of the BBC Singers, members of the public will have the unique opportunity to sing alongside us, virtually, through the Saffire app. 

“I know from experience that singing is a powerful way to build connections and community and I cannot wait to see it all come together at our centenary concert at the Barbican on 2 October. For those unable to join us in the concert Hall, it will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and on BBC Sounds.”

To find out more and join the BBC Singers visit the website: 

Further information:

The CoSTAR Live Lab is part of the Convergent Screen Technologies And performance in Realtime (CoSTAR) programme, which is the UK R&D network for creative technology. Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation, and with support from ESRC Impact Acceleration Accounts, CoSTAR will help to shape the future of the UK’s creative industries by catalysing world-class R&D in screen and performance. Formed of five distinct labs, the CoSTAR network will support the design, development and creation of state-of-the-art facilities, resources and expertise in screen and performance R&D.

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