Saturday, 12 September 2020

Britain, assailed by Coronavirus, has a nation called Wales where old men no longer sing in their Male Choirs

Male voice choirs have long been symbolic of Wales' cultural heritage and epitomise its reputation as a land of song. However, Chris Evans, the Secretary of the Beaufort Male Choir in Ebbw Vale and Secretary of the Welsh Association of Male Choirs has said, referring to the effect of the Coronavirus Pandemic : "It's an existential issue for some. One, the demographics in choirs and in male choirs are quite old. So it means that there will be choristers who don't want to sing again And if you're only a small choir and 50% of you decide they don't want to do it again, that means that existence is a challenge." In other words, the choirs contain a high proportion of old Welshmen who are reluctant to leave home and attend rehearsals for fear of contracting the virus.

In addition, some choirs were struggling for venues in which to practise and choirs have lost money over the summer. Chris' choir rehearsed last week, for the first time since March, in the stand at Ebbw Vale Rugby Club, so that the men could socially distance. During lockdown the choir had been unable to rehearse, but members had been practising at home with recorded instructional videos from its musical director. Chris said rehearsals at the rugby ground had been an emotional reunion and when he first song that they sang last week was the Welsh hymn, 'Gwahoddiad'. He said : "It brought tears to the eyes. It was brilliant to sing again."

The Welsh Association of Male Choirs, of which Chris is also the Secretary, surveyed its members about the pandemic and its report said that :

* almost all choir activity for 2020 ceased in March, while two major concerts of massed choirs in London and Cardiff were postponed
* more than 450 individual concerts have been cancelled, half of which were fundraisers for charities
* 43 choir tours throughout Britain and Europe were cancelled
* there was an estimated loss of almost £140,000 across more than 90 choirs  and the biggest single loss affecting one choir was £15,000

Alun Davies, President of Beaufort Male Choir, wants better guidance on rehearsals that would enable safe indoor practice sessions over the winter and said : "There is nobody here who wants to break rules, and there is nobody here who wants to see people become ill as a consequence of what I am suggesting. But what we are looking at is having an element of normality that will be especially important as we face a winter, and those long dark cold months."

Despite concerns for the future, the WMAC said 50% of the choirs it surveyed had begun booking concerts for 2021. However, some male voice choirs fear, as Chris has suggested, that they will never sing again due to the Coronavirus Pandemic.

In happier days : Chris and the Beaumont All Male Choir singing 'Take me Home' at the Apollo Theatre in 2017.

The sun set in the west over South Wales
And mine and steelworks and factory spilled out their people to the evening and leisure
As the people of the valleys
Colliers and Choristers
Lovers and Lonely alike
Sang out aloud with life

I remember the face of my father
As we walked back home from the mine
He laughed and he'd say
"That's one more day
And it's good to feel the sun shine"
I remember my mother was smiling
As I set out to make my own way
She seemed to know that I had to go
But I'd come back home one day

Take me home
To my family
Take me home
To my friends
Take me home
Where my heart lies
And let me, let me sing again

Take me home
Let me sing again

Take me home
Let me sing again

Take me home
Let me sing again

Take me home
Let me sing again

Take me home

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