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Disappointment for Grantham choir groups at sudden Covid rule change

Choir groups across Grantham have been left bitterly “disappointed” after tough new Covid rules mean that rehearsals can only take place in groups of six indoors.

Amateur choirs were overjoyed when restrictions on in-person rehearsals were initially relaxed on May 17, at the same time as shops, bars and hairdressers also opened up.

But without warning, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden announced last week that amateur choirs in England could only gather in groups of six people indoors and 30 outdoors while Government scientists gathered further data on the effects of aerosol transmission from singing and wind instruments.

St Wulfram's Church choir. (47596999)
St Wulfram's Church choir. (47596999)

The new rules – published the day after the significant relaxation of Covid restrictions – has been met with anger and confusion.

The Belvoir Wassailers, a popular male voice choir based in the Vale of Belvoir, met for the first time in 14 months last week.

Choir member Christopher Joseph thinks the rules are too stringent.

He said: “Even though we have been singing on Zoom all this time it was just wonderful to see each other again, especially our members who do not use Zoom. We had planned to meet indoors in our special and very expensive masks but all this was disappointingly not allowed by the powers that be.

“The law does seem strange. Many thousands are chanting at football matches and all the shops, cinemas etc are open, but the rules we have to follow are more stringent than ever and we can’t appear at a church funeral.

“We have signed the national petition which has reached over 35,664 names and our MP Alicia Kearns is on the case.”

The petition has been launched to try to persuade the UK government to lift the restrictions for choirs.

St Wulfram’s Church choir also reverted to singing on Zoom during lockdown, with members determined to keep the choir going by singing together online every week.

Throughout lockdown the choir produced 45 virtual anthems and even hosted its first live-streamed Advent carol service in December.

Choristers had just started meeting again in person when the new rules were announced.

Tim Williams, master of the music at St Wulfram’s, has been working hard to ensure that they can continue practising together one way or another.

He said: “While our children’s and youth choirs have been able to continue under guidance with all the Covid-19 secure parameters we have had in place through the pandemic, for our adult choir it has meant that they can only meet, inside, in groups of six.

“We have continued to work with the committed adult singers, though, by offering rehearsals for six singers and Zoom streaming to the rest of the choir, by working with individual sections of the choir more, and we hope - later this week – by rehearsing outdoors at Grantham House, which will be permitted within the guidance. We have also developed a means of creating hybrid or blended choral output, where in-person singers simultaneously sing with virtual singers.

“This will mean that we can film six singers in person, and the rest of the adult members can be part of the same piece, but sing remotely from home.

“Our work with adult singers is an important part of all that we offer, chorally, at St Wulfram’s, and we hope that the guidance will change at least by June 21 to enable them to sing together again.”

To sign the petition, search for ‘Project Get Singing’ petition on www.change.org

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