As one of the most active producers of concert music in the world, the British Broadcasting Corporation maintains several popular and classical music ensembles, including a full-time choir and two large symphonic choirs.
The BBC began broadcasting on November 14, 1922, from London, and the next day from Manchester and Birmingham. In January 1923, it broadcast Act I of Mozart's The Magic Flute live from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. The BBC became a corporation under royal charter in 1927.
The various orchestras and choirs run by the BBC were generally quite small, and after 1927 the trend was to reduce them. This policy was reversed in 1930, when the BBC Symphony Orchestra was founded, with Adrian Boult as its permanent conductor. One reason for the founding of this permanent, large (114 players) symphony orchestra was that the BBC had taken over the well-known annual Proms concerts at Queen's Hall, London, when the publishing firm of Chappell & Co. decided that it could no longer afford to support them.
At the symphony's founding, the BBC also organized a choir, the BBC Symphony Chorus, to go with it. This is not a full-time chorus, but it participates in several concerts in the autumn and spring seasons of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, as well as the summer Proms. In 1995 it was given its own annual concert for the first time, the Late Night Prom. On the occasion of the first of these concerts, it premiered a work specially written by composer Judith Bingham, a member of the Symphony Chorus.
In 1934, when the BBC moved into its new facilities at Maida Vale, London, it founded the BBC Singers. This is the BBC's only full-time professional choral ensemble. It is not a large choir, but it has a reputation of solid professionalism. It was an early force in the revival of early British music, especially that of Purcell and earlier.
The BBC from its earliest days had regional musical organizations, including the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra (which has evolved into the BBC Philharmonic) and the BBC Scottish Orchestra. Following BBC and government decisions to emphasize regional music-making, the BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra was renamed the BBC National Orchestra of Wales (BBC NOW) and, in 1983, the BBC established the BBC National Chorus of Wales. Wales being famed for its choral tradition, and the BBC NCW quickly filled its quota of 160 volunteer singers and rapidly became known as one of the best choruses in Britain.
All three of the main BBC choral groups perform regularly on BBC radio broadcasts, at their own concerts, and in the Proms, and frequently tour throughout the United Kingdom and abroad.