Xmas 2020 reflections

Our compilation of seasonal images and happier times singing together replaces what would usually flag up our upcoming concert. Not so, at least not in person, a YouTube virtual offering is in hand and Live streaming is on the cards for 2021.

What a year for NCS and so many other choirs! We were thrilled to resume live rehearsals in September and managed 7 sessions in accordance with the Government guidance, before restrictions set in and we reverted to weekly Zoom sessions. Nothing can compare to singing alongside others, even whilst wearing a face covering, so we hope for better things in 2021.

In the meantime NCS wishes our supporters as good a Festive time as is possible. Keep safe and we hope to see you in 2021.

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‘Not so’ Normal Service has resumed!

Good news! WE ARE BACK! NCS started their 2020-21 rehearsals on 14th September, only one week behind the normal start date. Given the amount of time spent keeping up with Government and DCMS guidance, supported all the way by the amazing team at Making Music, lobbying our MPs to lend weight to the argument for resuming amateur music making, preparing risk assessments to accord with those of our Covid Secure rehearsal venue, etc, that’s a good effort. But of course, local restrictions and ever changing guidance meant we moved two steps forward and one back, bit like the Hokey Cokey!

Canvassing our members too, to see who was ready to start the new season, Yes, No, Maybe Later. Understandably, some were wary of starting back straight away but thankfully we got enough ‘Yes’s’ to take up the much reduced seating capacity at our rehearsal venue, due to social distancing measures. Less than half the full NCS contingent ,but what we lack in numbers, we make up for in resolve to keep on singing and to adapt to the new ‘normal’.

We are feeling our way at the minute, getting used to singing wearing a face covering as is required now. Definitely a different experience sitting so far apart, warmly wrapped up as the requirements are for well ventilated spaces, and the rehearsal time reduced by half to meet current recommendations. However as a number of the YES’s have said ‘It is so wonderful to be meeting and singing together’,..’Came away the last time revived and refreshed, it was so good – thank you to everyone.

You can view our Newcastle Choral Society Risk Assessment here

What’s on the Horizon?

Blended rehearsals, live streaming, Zoom sessions and believe it or not, we are recruiting! Please contact enquiries@newcastlechoralsociety.org.uk

Can this be real?

Rehearsal Nr 1

Masks ahoy!

Rehearsal Nr 2

Not the usual garb for a Musical Director!

Not quite the usual outfit for our Musical Director

Rehearsal Nr 2

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#Bring back my Choir #Bring back my Band

This is a major campaign launched by Making Music. Working on behalf of amateur musicians in the UK, they are extremely proactive in representations to Government for a route back to performance.

‘Government guidance on reopening the performing arts published on 9 July has caused widespread disappointment, prohibiting amateur groups or groups with amateur participants – unlike professionals – to play or sing together, except in the numbers of people currently allowed to meet in public. 

It goes further to say that singing and playing wind and brass instruments isn’t even allowed in those numbers.

The guidance (England only) will only be reviewed when the results of just commissioned research into droplet and aerosol transmission of Covid-19 are available. The devolved administrations are expected to issue similar guidance shortly (Wales: this week, Scotland: next two weeks, NI: n/a).

Many groups, before the guidance came out, were looking forward to meeting again, even with strict risk management measures, and were already hard at work creating a new normal, just as pubs, hairdressers and gyms are doing – considering small sectionals outside, inventing new ways of making music together in socially distanced ways, planning some sort of future. Now, not even groups of 6 outside are permitted if you are singers or wind or brass players; and still only groups of 6 outside if you play anything else.

There is no explanation why amateurs are being treated differently to professionals in this guidance.’ Extract from Making Music’s campaign.

The music industry is currently being significantly supported by amateur musicians. Newcastle Choral Society along with many other local choirs, employs freelance professional music teachers, many professional singers, pays rent and purchases performance materials, as well as hiring concert halls and other venues. 

So until things change significantly, we must rely on our Zoom sessions on Monday nights. We had a surprise guest recently! Will Todd popped into give us a quick run through of Benedictus from his Mass In Blue. What a treat!

Our great achievement this year while in Lockdown was our 2 videos released on YouTube https://youtu.be/BWrFwA-0dEs and https://youtu.be/TxbOUeBSiGs Views exceeded 3000 over the 2 clips. Members of NCS and the Hertfordshire Chorus sang excerpts from James McCarthy’s Codebreaker which we would have sung in Sage Gateshead on 3.5.20 but now rescheduled for 16.5.21. All fingers crossed for that performance.

The second video released on the day of VE75, featured footage of the ‘Forces sweetheart’ Vera Lynn who died recently aged 103!  Poignant wartime images as a backdrop to the hauntingly beautiful ‘Sing me at Morn’.

Both videos featured recently on Star & Shadow Radio(https://www.starandshadow.org.uk) Star & Shadow Cinema is an entirely volunteer run community arts organisation supporting local artists, minority groups and disadvantaged people. It has recently moved online into the radio world.

One of our members is a volunteer there and recently co-presented a  programme called ‘Virtual Music-Making in a Virtual World’ about virtual music performances in the northeast. It featured NCS/HC performing Codebreaker and an interview with Mark Anyan our Musical Director.You can listen again here. It featured on 7th July 2020.
The programme also included contributions from several local bands and another choir, as well as interviews with Mark and other directors and performers.
Part of the purpose was to encourage other groups in the northeast to step into the virtual world themselves.
This may be the only choice while the guidance on Amateur performance is awaited!


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