Latest (June) Government Covid restrictions on choir rehearsals could have devastating impact on mental health - Caroline Redman Lusher

Latest (June) Government Covid restrictions on choir rehearsals could have devastating impact on mental health!

Caroline Redman Lusher Website

The Government issued a recent decision to continue restricting the practicalities and logistics of professional and amateur choirs rehearsing in the room which will have a further detrimental impact on the mental well-being of hundreds of thousands of individuals who would normally take refuge from their personal issues and challenges in their local choral community or singing activity.

Only 6 singers are now allowed to group inside (in England) according to a recent announcement which is more restrictive than last year. However, no new scientific evidence as been published since the PERFORM Study in 2020 which assessed the aerosol generation of singing, speaking and shouting concluding that the impact of singing was no different than shouting.

Group singing is now proven to rectify a multitude of mental and physical ailments and is a natural and extremely popular activity in the UK. The physical act of singing releases endocannabinoids in the brain and creates a natural high even more so than cycling or other exercise. The immediate and long-term impact on the singer is one that positively affects their mental state, creating a sense of joy and a surge of happiness leaving the individual elated, confident and on a stronger platform ready to cope with life’s challenges. The social aspect of group-singing adds to this already very positive platform as friendships are made, support is given and a lively and exciting social life is formed especially in a society where meeting new people is often difficult. Life-long friendships are made through the choral experience of learning, rehearsing and performing together underpinned by the universal experience and joy of music.

As the Creator and Creative Director of Rock Choir, the largest contemporary choir in the UK, I am responsible for 33,000 amateur singers as well as 130 professional Choir Leaders and staff. Rock Choir has offered an exciting, safe and life-changing platform to over 400 communities across the UK and since it began in 2005, the experience has hugely impacted the public, the communities it rehearses in and thousands of charities and organisations.

The business, like so many others, has been at enormous risk but during the last 14 months my team and I have adapted the Rock Choir experience to offer an alternative rehearsal schedule through lockdown leading to alternative performance projects in the bid to distract, care for and look after the well-being of the Rock Choir Members and the general public across England, Scotland and Wales. We created a virtual Rock Choir world allowing everyone to sing, communicate and socialise from the safety of their own homes. My team has been put under immense stress and increased pressure as each change was announced and we were forced to react whilst we watched our Membership withdraw but yet we all battled on to ensure the Members were cared for and that they had Rock Choir, the business, to return to after the pandemic is over. The business is hugely important. It not only underpins the huge operational and creative output which changes lives but is one that has been successful in the Arts and has created long term careers for many musicians and teachers and has increased revenue in the music and performance industry as well as raised millions of pounds for local and national charities. The knock-on and positive impact of Rock Choir reaches far and wide in many different ways.

We had been excited and relieved to know that we were aiming for a return to physical Rock Choir rehearsals from June 21st. Venues are booked and rigorous risk assessments and stringent covid- secure protocols have been put in place. We are counting down the days to be able to bring our Members back together.

However, with the sudden and recent U-turn in rules for choirs and the reduction of singers allowed to rehearse indoors and outdoors, what will this mean for the UK choir community which engages more than 2 million singers? Are there new scientific findings we haven’t seen yet? A crowded pub or a football match where shouting and singing is inevitable will be allowed to take place but not a group of amateur or professional singers in a well-ventilated hall or church? We want to be safe and we certainly don’t want to put anyone at risk but other music industry leaders and choral directors are in agreement with me when we ask, where is the new evidence suggesting singing is now more dangerous than shouting and can this evidence be explained to everyone working in the Performing Arts sector.

I am deeply concerned that we have all been through a shocking and life-changing experience and millions of people will be suffering and will continue to suffer as a result. The nation’s mental health is at its worst and the services and support to combat loneliness, depression and anxiety are in huge demand and oversubscribed. Allowing choirs to reunite will have a tremendous and positive impact and allow a healing process to begin for those who take part. Choirs of all types provide a life-line and this life-line needs to be reinstated as soon as possible. I urge the Government to allow choirs to reunite and rehearse physically.

Caroline Redman Lusher

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