What does the future hold for choirs?

Richard Morrison wrote an excellent article in The Times on 4 June which draws attention very well to the situation facing 2 million choristers in British Choirs.

This is the first and only article I’ve come across – so far, but I know that many choirs have linked to this article on their web and facebook pages and it’s prompted a lot of positive discussion about the future for choirs.

Last week, friend and local singer Judy Mackerras, drew my attention to some work being done by Jackie Cassell (singer, epidemiologist and Deputy Director of the Brighton & Sussex Medical School) who is researching how and where choirs rehearse, with a view to aiding a recovery. As MD of 4 choirs myself, I’ve added my name to the Facebook page, filled in a questionnaire and hope to be able to add my voice to the research.

Like everyone else, I don’t really have much idea of what the future holds medium term. I’m anticipating that the Lewes Singers trip to Ripon Cathedral at the end of August will be cancelled. I have no news for the East Sussex Community Choir – a choir of 100 singers who rehearse in a room just about big enough for 100 people – so no social distancing there but I remain optimistic about us meeting in September. The Lewes Chamber Choir and the Brighton Singers are much smaller groups who might feel able to reconvene in September but we’ve not even begun discussing things let alone reaching conclusions. And the New Sussex Opera have pushed their production of Handel: Acis and Galatea that I was due to conduct, to next year.

Then there’s ZOOM! I know that some choirs are meeting using Zoom – an online conference facility. Some have been part of the Self-Isolation Choir rehearsals and performance of Messiah. I know that a few members of my choirs really enjoyed this experience of rehearsing Messiah. Zoom is limited, however, and it’s impossible to achieve ‘live ensemble’, so I think I’ll leave that to the technical experts.

We have had several family quizzes on Zoom. In fact the Houghton Family Quiz (instigated by myself) brought together two couples in Germany, and five in England. Next time I’m hoping, if we do it in the daytime, we might get my daughter Rowena involved – she lives in Broome, Western Australia.

Now here’s a photo from our garden. This Lampranthus Spectabilis lives up to its name – just one of the lovely things we have to enjoy.

Musically, I’ve been playing more of ‘the 48 Preludes and Fugues’ by J.S.Bach than my neighbours would probably like. So yesterday I pulled down some Chopin Nocturnes from my shelf and started one of them. I think it’s fair to describe me as ‘a Chopin virgin’. Not for much longer.

And last week I listened to the opera ‘The Rake’s Progress’ by Igor Stravinsky. I had a ticket to see the Glyndebourne production later in July, but sadly that is no more. So if you have over 2 hours to spare – have a listen (and watch).

I hope you have a nice week. And let’s hope we can all start singing together again quite soon.

best wishes





  1. Have a good week yourself Nick. We have started looking around for good outdoor spaces for small singing gatherings – there’s a little theatre-like area in front of the new Lewes Library that’s never been used much but might be quite suitable as it backs onto All Saints and the Friends’ Meeting House. When more than six are allowed to meet up perhaps socially distanced a capella groups will be feasible.

  2. Singing in the open air would be a great first step. My daughter belongs to a choir which does that all the time. How about Friends’ Meeting House garden? It is lovely and is open for anyone to come and sit at the moment so definit
    ely worth a thought.
    I like ‘meeting’ you and music stuff like this, given the lack of ‘normal’ stuff. I’m interested that you are thinking of the Community Choir rehearsal space being too small (not that I’ve ever been there – yet) whereas my own thinking/anxieties are more around ‘Will enough people be happy to come, to make it viable?’ I’m guessing that people will be more frightened to sing in groups than to undertake most activities. I suppose the Chamber Choir could function on a singing level so long as we had one or two people per part – but I can’t see that working financially . As for me, I’ll be there – call me reckless if you like!!!

  3. I still have Hamsey in my diary in a hopeful sort of way… A couple of other choirs I sing in are talking about outdoor meetings. But then suddenly the weather becomes very important! And of course we have to wait until groups bigger than 6 are allowed to meet, etc.
    I find I am not really enjoying opera or theatre online, possibly because my laptop/aux speaker were not bought with anything so ambitious in mind! I loved Vanessa when I saw it at Glyndebourne 2 years ago, but last night I sat looking at the intro screen with my finger hovering over Play, and just thought no, I’ll leave it in my memory.
    I am so glad to hear NSO will be doing Acis and Galatea in 2021 – I have been longing to see it!

  4. Glad to hear that you’re keeping well Nick. I hope you managed to find some more reading material following your last email. I’ve just finished reading Michael Rosen’s memoir which was interesting.
    I do hope the community choir might be able to meet somehow in September. In the meantime I’ve been singing with Gareth Malone as part of his Home Chorus. We sang Vivaldi’s opening Gloria piece a couple of weeks ago. The TV programme airs next Tuesday at 9pm on BBC2!
    Hope your dahlias are doing as well as your spectacular and colourful plant in the photo.

Leave a Reply