Singer dismissed from festival after 'impersonating Hitler in front of German choir'

16 September 2014, 12:08 | Updated: 17 September 2014, 14:03

David Barclay has been excluded from the Three Choirs Festival in Worcester after reportedly making a joke about the Holocaust and impersonating Adolf Hitler during a rehearsal with the Chemnitz Opera.

A witness claimed that Barclay made reference to gas chambers and the Nazi party while his choir rehearsed A Foreign Field by Torsten Rasch - a piece specially commissioned for the festival - with the German choir.

Members of the German choir reportedly criticised their English colleagues' ability to sing in German. A witness told The Daily Telegraph that Barclay reacted to the Germans' complaints by "talking of 'removing their clothes and showering with them'". Barclay is said to have "mocked them by pretending to be Hitler". A witness said Barclay was making a point about the Germans not to be too critical of the English singers but it got out of hand.

Barclay has since been dismissed from the festival. The Very Reverend Peter Atkinson, Dean of Worcester, said: "A member of the Three Choirs Festival chorus was dismissed from the festival after highly offensive remarks were reported."

Barclay himself has also issued an apology, but will still face disciplinary action. In his statement, he said: "I'm very sorry for any offence I caused during the Three Choirs Festival. I completely understand why what happened was inappropriate."

"I have apologised to the festival organisers and to the Cathedral and would like to offer my heartfelt apologies to all those who were present."

A festival spokesperson told Classic FM that Barclay had not made his comments directly to the Chemnitz choir members. She explained that although the comments were “unacceptable”, they were made only to choir members in his immediate vicinity who, on hearing them, asked him to stop. 

Dominic Jewel, General Manager of the Three Choirs Festival, said: "The Three Choirs Festival is proud of its collaborative international projects and long history of social action and condemns any form of racism. It is partly to stand against racism that this project was conceived. 

"Mr Barclay has been disciplined by us and the Cathedral for his careless comment, and expressed his sincere remorse. I trust that our audiences will be able to look beyond this unfortunate incident to the positive underlying message of friendship behind what was a very successful project."

The Three Choirs Festival is in its 287th year and brings together the choirs of Worcester, Gloucester and Hereford.