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MU Rejects Use of Recorded Music to Replace Live Orchestra at Northern Ballet

Northern Ballet is replacing musicians in its orchestra with recorded music for some touring productions.

Published: 08 February 2024 | 2:24 PM
Person holding a 'Keep Northern Ballet Live' sign after a rally in late 2023.
The MU has not agreed with Northern Ballet that use of recorded music in some of its productions is an acceptable situation. Image credit: Fleck Fletcher © The MU.

Northern Ballet has announced that it will be replacing musicians in its orchestra with recorded music for some touring productions. The Musicians’ Union (MU) position is that all ballet and opera must have live music at the centre of the productions.

The MU has not agreed with Northern Ballet that use of recorded music in some of its productions is an acceptable situation.

The Musicians’ Union continues to work with Northern Ballet to ensure that their members deliver the live music experience that is an integral part of a quality ballet production.

Audiences deserve the full Northern Ballet experience

MU Orchestras Official Morris Stemp says: “Northern Ballet’s orchestra has brought huge pleasure and the most wonderful ballet experience to tens of thousands of people across the UK.

“Axing the orchestra for recorded music is unacceptable. Audiences deserve the full Northern Ballet experience every time.

“Investment is needed right now from Arts Council England whilst a longer-term funding solution is put together to bring the artform to towns and cities in the form that is vital to the experience – with live music at the heart of the production.

“This should be properly underpinned by investment centrally to make ballet available for all.

“That is what levelling up looks like, not live music if you’re in London and recorded music if you’re anywhere else.”

Add your voice to the call

Ask your MP to put pressure on Arts Council England to come to the table and agree a realistic funding solution that protects jobs and keeps Northern Ballet live:

After you’ve written to your MP, share it on social media using the hashtag #KeepNorthernBalletLive.

What's happening at Northern Ballet?

In October 2023, Northern Ballet announced that it would be forced to axe the orchestra and replace the musicians performing live with recorded music for touring productions due to a real-term funding cut from Arts Council England.

Inflation, increases in energy costs, and stagnant investment from Government via Arts Council England combined with the cost-of-living crisis have left many ballet and opera companies on a cliff edge.

Musicians in the Northern Ballet Sinfonia have been campaigning to protect their touring work and access to live ballet for everyone under the banner  Keep Northern Ballet Live.

Unlike other Northern Ballet workers, the musicians are on freelance contracts and only get paid for the work they do. Some of our members at Northern Ballet are already relying on food banks to survive.

Keep Northern Ballet Live

Close to 15,000 people have signed Northern Ballet Sinfonia’s petition to keep Northern Ballet live.

Musicians around the world have also shared photos and messages of support.

 

Legendary composer Claude-Michel Schönberg has written a letter in support of Northern Ballet Sinfonia. In the letter, published by the MU with permission, Schönberg called for an Arts Council England solution to protect Northern Ballet musicians.

The International Federation of Musicians (FIM) has also written to Arts Council England CEO Darren Henley in support of musicians. FIM is the international organisation for musicians’ unions and equivalent representative organisations with 70 members in 60 countries. Their letter reflects the global significance of UK music and appreciation of Northern Ballet Sinfonia.

To support Northern Ballet and the wider ballet and opera sectors, the Musicians’ Union is further calling on Government to:

Arts funding

Reverse the cuts, fund the arts

Arts Council England has made major cuts in public funding to arts organisations. The UK's music sector needs more investment to keep it world leading and protect the working people at its heart.

Reverse the cuts, fund the arts

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