In these challenging times, choral singing is regarded as particularly risky in terms of spreading COVID-19 via potentially virus containing droplets propelled into the atmosphere when we sing. But is it the act of singing which has spread the virus through choirs? Or is it just the meeting and greeting, chatting and touching which goes on at every rehearsal as we share our pleasure at being together doing something we love? There is no clear agreement among scientists as to just how great these dangers are. But the majority view in government is that it is the singing which is harmful with the depressing consequence that there is little prospect of choirs being able to rehearse and perform any time soon.
We need to do all we can to ensure that the government doesn’t settle for the easy option of just banning singing in groups altogether. We were encouraged to write to our MPs reminding them of the unquestioned mental and physical health benefits of singing, and asking them to put pressure on the government to keep the blanket ban under review.
As a result, I was delighted to receive an invitation from my MP, Fleur Anderson (Labour, Putney), to attend a Zoom Meeting with the Shadow Minister for the Creative Industries, Tracy Brabin (Labour, Batley and Spen). Most of the people at the meeting were young professionals in the Arts – singers, writers, TV producers – but I did get a chance to speak up for us amateurs for whom choral singing is such an important part of our lives.
Tracy and Fleur both took on board the need to keep in mind this aspect of the devastation caused by the virus and promised to write a letter to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. The stories some of the young professionals told were heartbreaking – contracts cancelled with no compensation, freelancers who do not meet the criteria for receiving help: a bleak future for them.
I would encourage all choral singers to do all they can to make sure our sector of the "creative industries" does not get forgotten.