Make a cup of tea to drink while reading this email. I’m afraid it is another long one!
It was great to see almost everyone again last Friday – The first time we have sung all tighter in church since March. Fantastic singing and well done for mostly following the Risk Assessment mitigation measures put in place. We need to do better though at the end of the rehearsal. I was not policing what was happening in the vestry where I am told there was a bottle neck with people stopping to talk by the pigeon holes instead of leaving. I will let people out in smaller batches in future and have somebody monitoring the flow out. I realise that we were wearing face coverings to exit but please can people follow the risk assessment by just putting the music into the pigeon hole and leaving straight away without socialising? Also there were several antibacterial wipes that were left around afterwards for me to clear away. That’s not really fair – I shall try and remind people but please at the end can you wipe down your place and dispose of your own wipe safely in the bins provided?
At last night’s CSG we have agreed to modify our approach further to mitigating risk in response to rising rates of COVID infection locally, regionally and nationally. Although the ‘rule of six regulations’ do not apply to COVID secure venues including places of worship, educational groups or acts of worship it seems proportionate and appropriate to mitigate the current increasing risk further. So from this Friday and going forward for all rehearsals and services in 2021 the full choir will not be meeting together. We shall half the numbers, rearranging the choir into two half-sized equally balanced choirs. Choir members from same household and same schools will be grouped together in the same half-choir to provide increased resilience. If one of the choirs should have to go into self-isolation (positive case in the choir) or fail for numbers (due to a school or families going into self-isolation) we should still have another choir able to support music in worship standing by in the wings. We shall still need to give as strong a lead as possible despite reduced forces in services/recordings and I will adjust the repertoire to make the best use of our resources. As long as regulations allow we would like to keep meeting together to make/rehearse/learn/record music for worship rather than reverting to online activities alone. Reducing the choir size and singing alternate weeks gives us the best chance of doing this. There are some advantages of working in smaller groups for a while to work on specific issues in more detail. I appreciate that individuals may well feel more exposed with fewer people around them but actually this can help everyone’s development.
The latest rather woolly guidance which was released yesterday in an effort to provide some further ‘clarification’ to the ‘rule of six’ stresses that the choir must not ‘mingle’ in groups of more than six (although under 18s are excluded) so that reinforces the need to follow the risk assessment rules especially when entering and leaving the church. Please follow the one-way system, keep moving and do not stop to socialise.
Regulations are likely to keep changing and choir will be creative and flexible in response to the changes. I am liaising with Tracy and also Chris Mann. Chris has discussed plans with me for streaming services starting with Harvest Festival on October 4th and making a recording of carols for Christmas. It is difficult to make guarantees at the moment but we shall endeavour to keep the choir going and actively supporting whatever happens!
If we have to move to smaller groups than the planned ‘half choirs’ (about 16 singers including up to 8 adults) it would make four-part singing in an inclusive way no longer viable and we shall look to two or one part music or possibly small instrumental ensembles. The CSG would not support the formation of an elite small group of singers as this would risk some choir members feeling excluded and could exacerbate the disruption of choir cohesion at a time when people are already feeling vulnerable and dispersed.
Attached is the rehearsal schedule (starting with Decani Choir this Friday) and the schedule of ‘live’ services starting with Harvest Evensong on 27th September for Decani Choir. Harvest festival on 4th October will then be for Cantoris Choir. Please note which Fridays and Sundays you are singing. Please let me know if you can’t make it as numbers are already thin! I am aiming to not mix the two choirs as much as possible. Decani have an extra rehearsal compared to Cantoris – I am aware of this – it is to help cover the music quickly for the Choral Evensong in September. Cantoris will catch up in December…
This schedule will be subject to change depending on circumstances. We are hoping to launch a choir website (to link seamlessly from the church website) designed by Oscar soon. One of the aims of this is that it should help me coordinate things and give choir members a central reference for information about choir without having to dig out emails and documents.
I am aware that I need to listen to some of the younger back rows to decide whether you will sing tenor or bass so let me know if you want to sing a different part from what I have put you on below – that is not a problem. I am hearing that some are struggling with reaching the dizzy heights of singing tenor .
I have asked Matthew to step up in his role of Choirmaster’s Assistant (CMA) to take on most of the directing of Decani Choir. As well as supporting his development in his final year with the choir this will allow me to sing a bit more as required.
So here is the line up for the two ‘half-choirs’ (essentially how Lucy arranged you last Friday as I guessed this was the way things would go):
Laura Jarvis (HC)
Oscar Qualter (HC)
Molly Burrows (HC)
It was great to see former and retiring choristers on Friday. Rachel and I are in fact taking Lucy down to Plymouth University this Friday so I am leaving Matthew and John LeGrove in charge of the Decani Choir rehearsal.
Timings of rehearsals remain 6.30pm Trebles, 7.30pm Full Choir, 8.30pm finish. Younger trebles may leave at 8pm.
If you have any questions then please do contact me by email.
Thanks everyone for your support and patience. Thank you to CSG as well – they have met twice in very quick succession to review guidelines. I think we have a strategy that will allow us to move forward flexibly and creatively without having to reconvene. I’m guessing this will not be my final long email of the term!
Director of Music, St.Thomas’ Church, Mellor.