Harrogate choir say Covid rules force it to rehearse in car park even if lockdown eases

Harrogate’s Vocalis Choir, pictured before the Covid pandemic hit, were unable to rehearse indoors. (Photo by Ian Hill)

The 40-member Vocalis choir were set to resume singing together indoors when stage three of the government’s roadmap was introduced last week.

But, despite being ready to go, the choir had to abandon their first session together for months when they learned that according to the latest government guidelines, amateurs can only sing indoors in groups. of up to six people.

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Vocalis secretary Christine Murphy said: “We were supposed to rehearse at St Wilfrid’s Church but had to zoom in instead.

“It seems that indoor singing for amateurs is not allowed after all, at least not in groups of more than six people.

“We desperately want to get back to singing together. Last night we had to rehearse in the parking lot.

“We had all the safety measures in place, were ready to rehearse socially and had asked members to do a lateral flow test within 24 hours before showing up.

“We have assessed everything to a minimum and only a few of our members are unvaccinated. It’s so disheartening.

Vocalis also wrote with the choir’s complaints to MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough Andrew Jones

In the letter, Christine Murphy wrote, “Our 40-member choir was ready to start singing together indoors again tonight as the country moved into Stage 3.

“All major music industry organizations (such as Making Music, Association of British Choral Directors etc.) had already been advised that indoor singing would be possible for amateurs in groups of up to 30, within naturally strict limits such as social distancing, social bubbles remaining a separate, well-ventilated space and so on.

“But then the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport released ‘COVID-19: Guidance for the safe use of multi-use community facilities’ without notice, stating that fans may not sing outside. indoors only in groups of no more than six people.

“When the DCMS was pressed about it, they confirmed it.

“An estimated two million people sing in choirs in the UK. Scientific studies have shown the huge benefits of singing on respiratory and mental health, not to mention social cohesion – all things we badly need in this moment.

“Solid research has been done on how to mitigate the risks of covid-19 associated with singing, and yet the new guidelines represent a step backwards in terms of our freedoms to sing, at a time when almost everything else is s is opening significantly, supported by the rollout of vaccination.”

Vocalis were first formed in 1974 as the Harrogate Chamber Singers and gained a reputation for choral excellence under the leadership of Dr Clive McLelland, who is now Associate Professor of Music at the University’s School of Music of Leeds.

The current musical director is the talented young conductor Alexander Kyle and the choir is going from strength to strength under his direction.

The choir thinks the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has had bad Covid when it comes to the arts.

He argues that Culture Minister Oliver Dowden’s support measures have neglected the thousands of fans and that support for the arts has been uneven and inadequate.

Christine Murphy said: ‘I despair at the government’s lack of interest in the arts as a whole. It is estimated that two million people sing in choirs in the UK.

“It’s good to give some theatres/groups a decent cultural stimulus grant through the Arts Council, but that support is very far from universal in the arts and it doesn’t allow the arts to reopen or continue. ”

Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones said he was concerned about the fate of the Vocalis Choir and had raised the issue of community choirs in Parliament earlier this week.

Mr Jones said: “Choirs are an important part of the social fabric of our communities. Like so many other parts of our lives, choirs have been affected by Covid restrictions.

“I raised this issue on the floor of the House of Commons with the Minister for Vaccines because I wanted his assurance that we are doing everything we can to get life back to normal safely for choirs and to other parts of our lives, as soon as possible. ”

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