The latest DCMS guidance has put paid to Barbara Eifler's brass band's preparations for life in the 'new normal'. She tells us more.
It was going so well. Covid cases and deaths were falling, restrictions were gradually being lifted, and the band had appointed one of the committee – supported by a sub-committee – to study all the research and resources on the Making Music website and come up with a risk management plan, initially for groups of six players to meet in outside spaces.
The sub-committee did sterling work and the Covid appointee produced a document, circulated to all and gone through in detail on the weekly Zoom meeting, touching on everything from social distancing to toilets, music stands to refreshments, and more. Three pages long – not saying too long, just detailed!
Some of us prefer harmonies to beer, playing music to playing football together, exercising our musical as well as our cycling muscles.
Someone from each section volunteered to coordinate such groups of six and find ‘venues’ (e.g. back gardens) and dates for such meetups. Tentative enquiries with my neighbours met – unexpectedly – with great enthusiasm. We were all set to hear some harmonies again, and not just on lockdown videos!
Then the DCMS published its guidance on 9 July which permits professionals to return to rehearsals and performing, but not amateurs. Groups with non-professional participants are strictly forbidden from singing, or playing wind or brass instruments, and only allowed to meet in groups of six if playing other instruments. And outside.
The next day was probably the most dejected I have seen everybody since the start of the lockdown. There was not just disappointment, there was bewilderment – why were amateurs being singled out in this way? How is it safe to have a barbecue with 30 people in your back garden, go to the gym, have a tattoo and play football, but not to sing in small groups at a safe distance from each other on a hillside?
Some of us prefer harmonies to beer, playing music to playing football together, exercising our musical as well as our cycling muscles. So I for one have written to my MP about this, asking that amateurs be allowed just what the professionals can do – which is onerous and limited enough, hardly a return to normality.
Making Music is calling on the government to #BringBackMyBand / #BringBackMyChoir and allow amateur music groups to meet under the same guidlines as professional musicians. Find out more