Choirs in Crisis – Soundbites of Singing through the first year of COVID-19

Author(s):*Listed Alphabetically
McLewin A

Year of Publication:

Angus McLewin Associates (AMA)

Publication Type:


As an independent adjunct to an online survey investigating singing group leaders’ experiences of online singing sessions during the COVID-19 pandemic, undertaken by the Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health, these five cases by Angus McLewin Associates capture some of the ways that community singing groups and choirs managed to keep singing through the first year of COVID-19, from February 2020 to March 2021.

Brighton & Hove in the South East of England was chosen as it has such a rich cultural and participatory arts sector and because on 6th February, Brighton and Hove was the third place in the country to identify cases of COVID-19, with Steve Walsh, a businessman from Hove, who after recently returning from Singapore on 28th January, was quickly identified and thought to have infected eleven people – five of whom lived in the city.

The choirs represented from the Brighton and Hove area are an ad hoc cross section of the wide range of community singing groups in and around the city but do reflect some of the groups of people that come together regularly to share their time – and vocal cords. The first conversations were in June 2020, a few months in from the first lockdown in March, and the second follow ups were at the end of February 2021, so overall covering the first year of the UK’s experience of COVID-19.

What emerged from conversations with these singing group leaders and organisers are stories of passion and perseverance, care and commitment. Passion for their art form; perseverance through what turned out to be three lockdowns in the first year; real care for their choir members and commitment to do their best for them using their art form to support their health and wellbeing. After the follow up conversations almost a year on,  a number of themes and issues were clarified:

  • Use of churches as available, accessible, affordable and safe spaces
  • Ubiquitous use of Zoom to keep the singing sessions going over the last year
  • Making the most of the large local parks during the times for permitted outdoor gatherings
  • Teamwork needed to keep everyone practically safe and meet the health regulations as they developed and changed
  • Online support networks of supplementary musical tuition
  • Use of social media to keep everyone in touch with each other
  • Facing unprecedented challenges with determination but often with no outside support
  • Acknowledging their own shortcomings and loss of leadership energy or focus at times
  • Surprise and enjoyment of the unexpected – spontaneity in some of the Zoom sessions
  • Fun and laughter throughout the adversity
  • Realising they were really contributing to developing and keeping these singing communities closer together.

Evidence Type: Case Study

Main Focus: Wellbeing / Quality of life

Research Purpose: Discussion / Debate

Context: Community

Participant Group: Adults

Art Forms: Music

Access Type: Free Download

APA Citation:

McLewin, A. (2021). Choirs in crisis: Soundbites of Singing through the first year of COVID-19. Kent: Angus McLewin Associates (AMA)