Amateur choirs, like many other groups, have struggled enormously during the Covid-19 pandemic. We all had to stop singing and an important part of our lives disappeared.
But Epsom Choral Society, now in its 99th year, was determined to find a way to keep going. For nearly a century we continued to sing through wars and crises, and we were not going to stop now if we could find a way to continue safely.
During lockdown, when choirs were forbidden to meet in person, we held weekly rehearsals online. Something of a challenge for many of our members, but despite having to master this new technology, over 70 members of our choir joined in.
When the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) announced in September that community choirs could meet again, providing they adhered to government guidelines, that was the green light Epsom Choral Society had been waiting for and we sprang into action.
We used to rehearse in St Martin’s church hall but, under the new social distancing rules, that wasn’t possible for a choir of our size. Instead St Martin’s offered us the use of the church itself where we usually perform our concerts and which could accommodate all members who wished to return to group singing, suitably distanced. Our members were so happy to have the chance to sing together again. And for those who were too vulnerable or shielding, we streamed all our rehearsals live so that they could still join in at home. Now during the second lockdown we will go back to online rehearsals but hope we can resume rehearsing in December.
And so, through adversity, Epsom’s longest established choir continues to sing.
Chairman Helen Phillips said: “I can’t tell you how excited we were at the prospect of singing together again. Zooming was invaluable as a way to keep us connected but was like eating dry toast when what you really want is a cream tea. We are so grateful to St Martin’s for helping us get back to the real thing.”
Now ECS are going one step further. We realised that, as we have the ability to live stream into people’s houses, we can put on a live Christmas concert that our loyal audience can watch from the safety of their own home. So on Saturday 19th December at 5pm we will be live streaming our annual Christmas concert from St Martin’s Church. This concert will be streamed directly from our website (www.epsomchoral.org.uk) and free of charge – although we will be inviting people to make donations to help us keep singing in the future. Singing is good for mental health and we hope that our Christmas concert will bring festive cheer for the Epsom community.
We are extremely grateful to Epsom businesses Artifax Software Ltd who have kindly offered to sponsor us, and also to Grayside Insurance. Both Artifax and Grayside have been long term supporters of ECS and we are very appreciative of their continued support during these difficult times.
- Epsom Choral Society is in its 99th season and has over 100 singers. In normal times, we put on at least four concerts each year in Epsom, Cheam, London as well as singing each year in a European town. www.epsomchoral.org.uk
- Epsom Choral Society is a friendly choir and, once the pandemic is over, look forward to welcoming new members again. They do not audition but do aim for high performance standards.
- Rehearsals are on Wednesday evenings, currently in St Martin’s Church, Church Street, Epsom under the artistic direction of conductor, Julian Collings.
- Artifax Software provides Venue and Event Management software to arts organisations world wide – and is based in Epsom. www.artifax.net
- Grayside Insurance, also Epsom based, provide Financial and Insurance services. www.grayside.co.uk