British conductor Matthew Halls has been fired as artistic director of the Oregon Bach Festival, The Telegraph reports. An American woman overheard a joke in which the musician imitated a southern American accent while talking to the African-American singer Reginald Mobley.

The woman reported this to the to the management of the University of Oregon, which runs the festival, and later Halls was told his contract, which was signed until 2020, was being terminated immediately.

The singer Reginald Mobley claims there was nothing racist about the joke, and the whole affair shows the growing sensitivity over race questions in the US.

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