Professional brass players play ‘Ode to Joy’ outside UK parliament to protest Brexit


11 October 2019, 16:20

Yesterday, over 50 musicians congregated in Westminster’s Parliament Square in a musical protest against Brexit.

Over 50 professional UK brass players met in Westminster yesterday (10 October) to protest against Brexit.

The ‘Brass Against Brexit’ ensemble, led by English National Opera’s principal conductor Martyn Brabbins, played an adapted version of Beethoven’s famous anthem to freedom, ‘Ode to Joy’ – also known as the EU anthem.

British trumpet virtuoso Alison Balsom was among the musicians playing:

“One of our most precious assets which makes our country relevant on the International stage is our legacy in arts and culture,” she said after the performance.

“Almost nothing has been said about how we will manage the devastating loss of tens of thousands of top ambassadors – musicians – being able to travel freely across Europe and create harmony with people from other societies and of all nationalities.”

Read more: British musicians travelling to the EU face £1,000 bill and more red tape with a no-deal Brexit >

Balsom, who has also been outspoken about the music crisis in UK schools, continued: “I’ve always been so proud to be British – especially when in other countries in Europe.

“I want to show the rest of Europe that me and my fellow musicians here today do not support this situation – and you’d be hard pressed to find a musician who does.”

‘Ode to Joy’, the great choral section from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, has become contentious over the last few months.

In July, Brexit Party MEPs turned their backs on Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ during the EU Parliament’s opening ceremony, in a protest against the European Union.

Just a week later, the Guardian reported that a Brexiteer called for a boycott of the Midlands’ Three Choirs Festival, because they had programmed ‘Ode to Joy’ for their finale.

Read more: Brexit Party MEPs turn their backs on Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ in protest against EU >

In August, the Incorporated Society of Musicians addressed predictions of the costs British musicians will be faced with in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The society calculated that musicians who travel to the EU27 and carry an instrument will incur additional costs of up to £1,000 per year in a no-deal Brexit.

Yesterday’s musical protest is far from the first of its kind. On 8 October, 60 young people from Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Folk Ensemble travelled to the European Parliament to play music in protest against the UK leaving the European Union.


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