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Radio 3 chief joins survey of orchestras

RADIO 3's reforming controller, Nicholas Kenyon, is to join forces with the Arts Council in a survey of live and broadcast orchestral music in Britain, in the first joint project by the nation's two biggest funders of orchestras.

It means that the BBC's continued running of its own orchestras is placed on the same national agenda as the future of the London orchestras and highly successful regional groups such as the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

There has often been a competitive edge to relations between the two groups. In Manchester, the Halle and the BBC Philharmonic have taken it in turns to be in favour with the concert-going public. The London Symphony Orchestra and the London Philharmonic have developed close links with the main concert halls in the capital, while away from the Proms, the BBC Symphony Orchestra has struggled to find audiences.

Some orchestras have believed that the BBC's patronage, covering salaries and studio time, gives its own players an unfair advantage in bidding for work from regional promoters.

The joint survey will look at where the orchestras are based, the artistic balance of their programmes, their arrangements for broadcasting and the management structure of the BBC orchestras.

Two nominees from each organisation will complete the survey. As well as Mr Kenyon, they include Kenneth Baird, music director of the Arts Council; Jane Glover, the conductor and a BBC governor; and Clare Mulholland, director of programmes for the Independent Television Commission and a member of the Arts Council.

Mr Kenyon said yesterday that the aim of the survey was to look at the function of the orchestras within Britain.

'The purpose is not to try to get all of them to work in the same way. We need to look at venues too, and at the quite considerable area which is under-provided. It will mean working closely with local authorities, whose support adds up to a substantial third force in orchestral funding.

'I hope it will show that nobody now wants to say there are too many orchestras in Britain,' Mr Kenyon said.

Mr Baird said that relocation of an orchestra 'could be one of the logical consequences of this exercise'. Smaller and specialised orchestras will be included in the survey, as well as the main symphony orchestras, 'but I think we won't actually go and talk face to face with every single orchestra', he said. The interests of the audience also had to be considered.

In broadly welcoming the survey, Libby MacNamara of the Association of British Orchestras said that it hoped a comprehensive study would consider the full range of orchestras' activities.

As well as traditional concert- giving, this now includes education, working with young conductors and composers and commissioning new music.