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Socially distanced singing

There is a problem with singing. Our Coronavirus experience has taught us that choral or other group singing is deadly and to be discouraged. As musical participation is one of the key ways that many people relax and recharge their mental wellbeing, the current restrictions and health advice are causing widespread difficulties. We are still waiting to see when we can get back together properly.

For the second time since the beginning of lockdown easing, I met with a small group of singing friends the other day in two adjoining gardens nearby. We separate ourselves by voice part and this means that there are fewer than six people in each garden. We can face each other, but at a considerable distance over the fence: high voices to the west, low to the east.

However, since our first fairly disastrous attempt a few weeks ago in a thunderstorm – when saving the sheet music from turning to pulp and trying not to paddle the grass into a muddy pond were our main priorities – we had sadly forgotten that a side problem was our inability to actually see each other from one garden to the other because we are mostly too short (or maybe I should say the fence is too high).

More than half an hour into our session this time, one of the higher voices piped up in surprise that I (a lower voice in the other garden) was actually present at all. And I never clapped eyes on her at all in the whole proceedings.

Most of us also decided that we should keep our face-coverings on. This is, after all, sensible Surrey. Singing into a face mask isn’t much fun I’ve decided. I ended up quite light-headed in the more energetic numbers, but of course I reassured myself that those are precisely the ones which would result in greatest droplet transmission if performed uncovered. 

So, seven ladies of a certain age, mostly be-masked, several unable to see each other, generally confused about what to sing – although tending initially towards somewhat downbeat religious songs * – and on the verge of passing out. What better way to spend an afternoon you might ask? But we were somehow defiant, and as we filed out carefully along the shared side passage, and locked the gate so the cat could not escape, our group experience was somehow bonding and friendly. 

No idea what the neighbours thought though. I think they were hiding. And I’ve seen no comments on the local WhatsApp group, so we’re either very quiet or at least less offensive than the recent spate of mystery – or possibly imaginary – bonfires.

*did not help my current two-day personal misery-fest tbh.

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