So the news we’ve all been waiting for has come. Restrictions on choral singing will cease with the move to Step 4 of the Road Map out of lockdown on 19th July. This was first mentioned in Sajid Javid’s speech in the House of Commons on Monday 5th July, and then followed up by a short video on Twitter on Tuesday 6th by Oliver Dowden, confirming that choirs could return to normal. This remains subject to the government confirming the move to Step 4 on 12th July.
This is a huge milestone following weeks of campaigning and many months of compromise and invention from the ever creative choral leaders around the country.
There is however caution in the air. Numbers of cases continue to rise at a steady rate, and the all-important ‘R’ number remains above 1. From restrictive guidance, we now found ourselves in almost the opposite situation with freedom to go about our business as usual in the context of becoming accustomed to living with Covid on a longer term. It is now up to choir leaders and choir committees to decide, in consultation with their members, what the best road to return will look like. What is worth remembering is that the demographic of amateur choirs will largely have been fully vaccinated, and that the rise in cases is largely in those under the age of 25.
The timing of the announcement has been criticised by some. It falls just before the summer break for many choirs, so even though a return is permitted, a good number will be waiting until September in any case which could cause further frustration for singers. However, this break does give choirs a chance to fully think through the way forward for them and protocols that they may want to keep in place to ensure that members feel safe when they attend rehearsals.
This is still cause for celebration. The prospect of many thousands of choirs returning and enriching the lives of their members is a truly heartening thought, whether they dive straight back in or take a steadier approach to a full return.
It’s been said before, and will be said many, many more times as Project Get Singing now shifts its focus on to reaching out to more and more people to spread the simple fact, that singing is for all: it can inspire, in can console, it enhances learning, it has endless benefits to health and wellbeing, and it brings communities together in a way nothing else truly can.