Sheffield amateur choirs call for change to 'illogical' Covid guidance pressing pause on their rehearsals

Sheffield amateur singers are calling for “illogical” and “unfair” Government guidance which has pressed pause on their rehearsals to be reviewed.

Wednesday, 2nd June 2021, 4:00 pm
Sheffield Chamber Choir had six people rehearsing indoors and held a planned concert outside on May 22 after the change in guidance

There are more than 30 non professional choirs, not including church choirs, in Sheffield, with around 2,000 people involved.

They excitedly prepared to restart full rehearsals, with social distancing, indoors on May 17 when the latest Covid-19 lockdown easing phase began, allowing indoor hospitality, leisure, sports, and personal care to open for the first time in months.

But on May 18 the guidance was changed without warning and now says amateur singing groups can only rehearse indoors with up to six people, and outdoors with up to 30 people.

Sheffield Chamber Choir's outdoor performance in May

In practice this means that many choirs cannot get together due to their size – but the guidance does not apply to professional choirs.

"It just feels like they are being unfairly targeted”, said Jo Towler, chairman of Classical Sheffield.

"There is a lot of anger and frustration – it just makes no sense at all. People are up in arms about it. I think if there was a logic behind it it would help.

“There have been so many studies that show how beneficial it is to sing together, for mental health and wellbeing, because of that feeling of being part of a community.

Classical Weekend 2019, when 10,000 people visited dozens of live music events in Sheffield.

"You can go to the gym now, you can go to a pub and shout or to a football game and shout, but we can’t sing together.”

Nationally singing groups are calling for any new science behind the change to be made clear . Jo said that last year groups had rehearsed wearing face masks, at least two metres apart, with sanitiser and ventilation as well as other taking other measures.

Jo added: “To date there has been no evidence whatsoever that choirs have had a Covid outbreak.”

Nationally around two million people are in amateur choirs, and a petition calling for the guidance to be rethought has over 52,000 signatures. Visit https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/586559.

A Government spokesman said: "We must take a cautious and phased approach in easing restrictions. We understand this is disappointing but are taking decisions based on advice of our public health experts."