A leading island singing teacher is urging the Government to address why high-intensity outdoor sport activities have been allowed to resume, whereas singing - with safety measures in place - has not.
Imogen Nicholls MBE, the director of the award-winning Musical Originals choir, says she has until now remained silent on the singing debate, but felt that last week’s announcement that Jersey Reds have been given permission to attend fixtures and that sport in groups of up to 35 can resume was the “last straw”.
Concerned about the impact of not being able to attend rehearsals is having on the progress and mental health on her 15-plus group of young female singers, she wrote to the Children and Education Minister on Friday to express frustrations at what she describes as a "parity" issue.
"In our choir rehearsals, we are socially distanced, wear specially designed singers' masks and abide by all the covid-19 rules and protocols including adequate ventilation, sanitising of hands and surfaces and shorter rehearsal times," Ms Nicholls wrote.
Pictured: Singers' masks - which are used by Musical Originals - tend to have more space around the mouth area. (Ser Amantio di Nicolao)
"We moved last year to rehearsing in the Town Hall, one of the biggest rooms in St. Helier, to enhance our safety procedures.
"I fail to see how 15 grown men huffing and puffing in a rugby scrum is deemed a safe activity when my choir of 15-plus socially distanced teenagers is not and I would like to know please, in the next 48 hours, the reasons why the one is permitted by the Government of Jersey and the other is not so that I may plan the choir's activities for the coming weeks."
During Friday's press conference, the Chief Minister confirmed that singing is included in the island's 'reconnection' strategy. However, no specific date was provided, nor any details about what rules may be in place when singing and music-making resume after around a year.
The Jersey Music Association (JMA) this morning added to calls for clarity.
Video: Queen's College Oxford using specialised masks for singing.
"The Government initially made a commitment back in November to engage with us to secure a return to singing. It has taken some time to get there, but we are grateful that this has now happened and that we were recently able to meet representatives from Public Health," Aureole choir's Nicki Kennedy said on behalf of the JMA.
"There nevertheless remains a good deal of confusion and frustration amongst the Island's musicians about the Government's plans and the relative delay compared to other sectors. Other sectors have already been afforded the opportunity to open up, taking appropriate measures to mitigate risk. Why cannot music be afforded that same trust? The wearing of masks, physical distancing, contract tracing and group sizes are all measures that can be applied equally well to the rehearsal room as to hospitality and sport."
Annette Blanchet, also from the Association, added: "It was good to hear recognition of singing by the Chief Minister, although only in the context of a community activity. Singing - and music generally - are an integral part both of education and the economy: there are many individuals whose businesses and livelihoods depend upon it. The benefits of singing to people's health and wellbeing have also been recognised. We trust the Government will take all of this into account as it incorporates a return to singing in its strategy."
Dear Deputy Maçon,
Pictured top: Imogen Nicholls MBE, and her Musical Originals choir during a previous performance.
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