Diocese of Leeds Music’s expertise on their innovative approach to taking choir rehearsals online during the current ‘lock-down’ is being sought by some of the world’s most renowned music institutions.
King’s College Cambridge, St Paul’s Cathedral, Christ Church Oxford, Rugby School and Gloucester Cathedral were just a few of more than fifty Directors of Music, Choral Directors and Organists, as well as representatives from the national charity Friends of Cathedral Music, attending a day-long webinar the Leeds team gave on behalf of the Cathedral Organists’ Association and Conference of Catholic Directors of Music.
Ben Saunders, Tom Leech and Lucy Haigh explained the technology and teaching methods behind the process of moving an entire choral programme online. They detailed the steps swiftly taken by the whole Diocese of Leeds Music team to continue reaching thousands of children in the wake of the Coronavirus ‘lock-down’: online organ and music theory lessons, rehearsals for the auditioned choirs, and continuing to provide singing resources for fifty-three schools across the Diocese – and all following the usual schedule to keep up the children’s route and sense of engagement.
The morning session included discussions on safeguarding and communication with parents and schools, and a presentation by Chris McElroy, Director of Music at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, on online theory and aural platforms. Leeds Cathedral Choral Director, Lucy Haigh, and Director of the Diocese of Leeds Schools Singing Programme, Tom Leech, then led a short choir rehearsal demonstrating fun and effective vocal warm-ups, exercises, suitable repertoire and the limitations in teaching choristers more challenging music; giving attendees the chance to participate and experience for themselves the benefits of online rehearsals from a chorister’s perspective.
The afternoon was split into smaller discussion groups to provide an opportunity to ask questions and compare crisis plans with other choral foundations. To continue national progress towards online delivery, these discussions will continue in additional drop-in sessions on Tuesday 8 and Thursday 10 April. The aim of these sessions is to provide support and avoid the feeling of isolation as the transition is made to a new reality and new ways of working.
Feedback following the webinar has been hugely positive and the resulting sense of community and confidence gained has been felt by all involved:
‘What a great initiative! I do hope this gives choir leaders and directors of music the confidence to keep their choirs singing in these very trying times.’
‘Extremely useful and a much-appreciated gesture that you all took the time to share your experiences with the wider choral community’
‘Great to see the work you’re doing and to think how we might do similar here: thank you for your generosity with all of this. It’s been a real boost.’
‘The session was very useful and has certainly given me much food for thought. I am so impressed with the set up that you have created and I am so pleased that your infrastructure will allow you to operate such a vital programme during this challenging time.’
‘Thank you and your team so much for your inspiring webinar yesterday. It has given me real confidence that we will be able to set up our choir rehearsals online.’