Assuming that Lockdown ends on 2nd December as Boris has decreed, what does it all mean for those who were planning to organise some Christmas carol sessions?
Firstly, I must point out that the views and ideas here are my own interpretation of what is sometimes vague guidance, and that anyone considering playing over the festive period must get their own advice as things may change and circumstances and restrictions may differ over the country.
So, having got the legal bit out of the way we can consider what is possible. Well, those of us who are fortunate to be in tier 1 restrictions will have the most freedom. As this stood before lockdown we could certainly do something but it would take a bit of effort to be able to do so.
As they stood before the current lockdown, restrictions allowed for 6 people from different households meeting outside. It would obviously be difficult to organise a full band to do this but there are certainly options for small groups. As far as music is concerned the widely used Salvation Army Christmas Praise books are ideal and they are flexible in their instrumentation and so long as you have the minimum harmony parts they work well. There is also a good selection of tunes from traditional Christmas carols to more popular Christmas tunes like “I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus” and “Mary’s boy child”. Other publishers are also supplying flexible ensemble music and I had a email only yesterday from Pennine music offering pdf downloads of Christmas music and some free backing tracks so that is also worth a look.
So, the music is sorted, where to play comes next?
Ok this may be trickier, many of the venues such as supermarkets and shopping centres may not be keen for groups to come on site when members of the public are around and they are having to worry about crowd control anyway. It is also worth bearing in mind the any potential listeners will also need to be 2 metres away from the players. But there are community locations that may be possible. One of the Christmas events I do regularly is a carol service on a local village green, which is fun in the dark without any lights apart from music stand lights, but it is a big area where social distancing certainly wouldn’t be a problem, for players or audience. We are also planning to work with a couple of community organisations where playing can be outside with a rather attractive proposition of residents standing in their doorways singing carols.
Players probably won’t be a problem, the evidence from all over is that given the opportunity there are plenty of people who are desperate to get out and play again. Granted, there will be those who are not keen but my experience is that there will probably be enough takers to make it worth the effort. There are the logistical problems of course, notably the need to undertake a risk assessment which is not too difficult to write but does carry a degree of responsibility to get it right. There are some organisations that offer templates or guidance for this purpose. The one thing that does concern members though, particularly committees, is that the organisation takes full responsibility for the safety of the event, and although it will probably be ok so long as all the advice is observed it is not clear what the penalties are if something did go wrong. The safest course, other than not doing it, is to take advice, particularly from insurance companies, about the risks and implications. Plenty of professional organisations, Brass Bands England, Making Music etc., also offer guidance for their members. There may also need to be a bit of rationing of course if those willing to play at a particular event number more than 6, but with careful management it can be shared out if there are enough events.
Of course, this may all change if the Lockdown doesn’t end on 2nd December, one of our events on December 1st has had to be cancelled, but hopefully this will work for us after that and we can at least offer some festive cheer.