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Preston choirmaster says ‘rule of six’ frustration remains for city choirs

Posted on - 28th May, 2021 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Arts, Politics, Preston Council, Preston News, What's On in Preston
Joe Martin, Musical Director of ShowChoir NorthWest
Joe Martin, Musical Director of ShowChoir NorthWest

Coronavirus restrictions regarding choirs singing indoors were changed Tuesday 18 May (a day after other restrictions eased) leaving choirs restricted to six people indoors.

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Despite other restrictions allowing larger groups to meet, such as indoor exercise classes or two households meeting indoors, rules for choirs have been changed by the government based on evidence that singing can increase the virus transmission.

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Joe Martin, from Ashton, Musical Director of ShowChoir NorthWest, a group of amateur choirs with 70 members, who regularly perform within Lancashire said: “Scientific research has found that singing releases the droplets and aerosols that facilitate the transmission of the virus, the same research, carried out under the auspices of PHE last summer, found that singing was no more dangerous than shouting or exercising in an enclosed space.

“Moreover, these concerns can easily be mitigated via good social distancing and ventilation. A large, well-ventilated church or hall, with 2 metre’s separation between mask-wearing participants, can be considered a Covid-safe environment.

“Sport received timely notice of new rules, allowing them to continue operating under specific, sensible restrictions. Adult amateur music institutions, however, received their guidance 36 hours late, and are now placed under such heavy restriction as to make all indoor live choral rehearsal impossible.

“Singing appears to have been singled out for exceptional restrictive treatment to the huge detriment of the approximately 2.2 million singers in the UK.”

Much of the disappointment comes from restrictions changing a day after they were eased across the country.

ShowChoir NorthWest, a group of amateur choirs of 70 members who regularly perform in Lancashire. Pic: Joe Martin
ShowChoir NorthWest, a group of amateur choirs of 70 members who regularly perform in Lancashire. Pic: Joe Martin

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The Association of British Choral Directions posted on the website: “We sympathise with the frustrations felt by everyone who had planned their return to singing. We’re extremely concerned that amateur singing has been singled out by DCMS for such unreasonable & unworkable restrictions.

“Without warning, [the guidance] diverges from what we had been led to believe, that non-professional music activity would return, outdoors and indoors in England from 17 May, without limits on numbers other than those dictated by the size of a venue (to allow for social distancing) as was previously the case, and that full guidance would be issued in advance of Step 3.

“Instead, it says indoors only 6 people are allowed to sing together, making it impossible for choirs to rehearse indoors at this step.”

All restrictions are still due to be lifted 21 June if the planned road map goes ahead.

A government spokesperson from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: “We must take a cautious and phased approach in easing restrictions. Changes in step three in line with wider social contact rules mean an amateur choir or performance group of up to six people or two households can now sing indoors, and outdoors in groups of up to 30.

“We understand this is disappointing but are taking decisions based on the advice of our public health experts.”

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