The BBC Singers bill themselves as Britain's only full-time, fully professional choir. It was founded at the same time the British Broadcasting Corporation created its Symphony Orchestra, and for the same purpose: to be available for broadcast work of a wide range of musical repertory. In its early days, it was known as the Wireless Chorus and sang for the Daily Service broadcast (from 1929 until 1994). Other broadcasts included premieres of new choral music and revivals of great British music from the Renaissance through the age of Purcell. It has sung world premieres of such notable works as Britten's A Boy Was Born and Hymn to St. Cecilia, Poulenc's Figure humaine, Henze's Orpheus Behind the Wire, and Magnus Lindberg's untitled, a piece thought to be too difficult to perform.
The ensemble began touring abroad in the 1940s, going as far as Japan and Mexico in the 2000s. It is also heard at a number of festivals in the United Kingdom and Europe, and at special events, such as the funeral for Diana, Princess of Wales.
It always had its own chief conductor, but often works with guest conductors, which have included Stravinsky, Milhaud, Beecham, and more recently, Bo Holten, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Pierre Boulez, and many others. Over the years, the ensemble assumed various sizes and names -- including the Wireless Singers and the BBC Chorus -- but in 1971 the name BBC Singers was affixed permanently, and the current size of 24 voices was set under conductor Simon Joly in the 1980s. With conductor Stephen Cleobury it made numerous recordings, including works of Charles Ives and Richard Strauss, and became the first choir to sing an a cappella selection as a part of one of the traditional Proms Concerts. David Hill became chief conductor in 2006. The BBC Singers continue to make distinguished recordings, appearing primarily on the Signum label, but also on Naxos, Chandos, and others.