The oldest choral society in the world, the Halifax Choral Society, founded in 1817, has accused the Government of strangling choirs with last-minute “draconian” restrictions as the latest Government guidance bars more than six choristers singing indoors.
This will affect over two million members of England’s 40,000 amateur choirs.
It marked an abrupt U-turn in Government policy which had previously allowed church choirs to perform indoors in groups over six in England from 12th April.
Music directors and choristers have condemned the sudden changes, announced without consultation or advance warning on 18th May, claiming they have been unfairly “singled out”.
Roger Harvey OBE, chairman of Halifax Choral Society, said: “It is just so frustrating; you can go to a pub, have a sing and shout at Wembley but you can’t have a choir of above six in a closed space.
“I think [Culture Minister] Oliver Dowden has been very inconsistent.”
The choristers were forced to cancel their pre-booked performance of Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle at Halifax Minster on 24th June, as they could no longer rehearse with all 80 of their performers.
Tim Hopper, music director of Bournemouth Bach Choir, said the whole “choir community is up in arms”.
“The measures are beyond frustrating. We are just forgotten and unimportant and it doesn’t make sense,” he said.
Hilary Davan Wetton, musical director of the City of London Choir, poured similar scorn on the measures, labelling them “grotesque”.
He said: “This is such contempt for the massive choral tradition which has been one of the major features of British cultural life. I think it’s a disgrace.”
A spokesman for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport commented: “We must take a cautious and phased approach in easing restrictions.
“Changes in step three in line with wider social contact rules mean an amateur choir or performance group of up to six people or two households can now sing indoors, and outdoors in groups of up to 30.
“We understand this is disappointing but are taking decisions based on the advice of our public health experts.”