… or a question of extensions. Plus two weeks and Laudemus! this summer goes ahead as planned. Plus three weeks, and our fate hangs in the balance, dependent on guidelines given by the DCMS and the Church of England. Plus four weeks and existing plans collapse; we go back to the diary and try and reschedule the whole thing for August instead. Some game!
It now seems likely that ‘freedom day’ will be postponed for a fortnight, making 5 July the magic date. So, in theory, Laudemus can go ahead this summer, giving us the opportunity to sing properly together as a choir – something we all need so badly.
There remain a couple of potential difficulties. By back-tracking on allowing choirs to rehearse indoors from 17 May, and refusing to publish the science supposedly behind the u-turn, the DCMS has opened up the possibility that choir singing could remain restricted after lockdown ends. Plenty of high-level lobbying is going on to try to ensure this does not happen.
If restrictions are still recommended, we will be in the hands of the Church of England, and it remains to be seen whether or not individual incumbents will be allowed a degree of discretion as to what takes place in their church buildings. Certainly there was a lot of anger from March 2020 onwards at the C of E’s ‘one size fits all’ attitude, so we can hope that a more flexible approach to risk will be adopted. In the meantime, the Laudemus admin team continues to plan for a wonderful week’s singing.
Not only do we now have singers, delighted at the thought of singing again, but we also have places to sing! This year we look forward to a welcome at churches in Sturminster Newton – an old favourite; Milton Abbey – a repeat visit; Cranborne – not visited for some years; Puddletown – a new experience; and – as ever – Wimborne Minster, dedicated to St Cuthburga who is celebrated in that evening’s anthem. You can find full details on our Tour page. Fervent hopes for no stalling in the government’s roadmap out of lockdown.
The moves to ease restrictions on singing progress achingly slowly. On 30 June the C of E included this sentence in its guidelines for the resumption of public worship: ‘Singing, chanting and playing of brass or woodwind instruments are not recommended, but a further update will follow soon.’
Based on those guidelines, which also stipulate that the advice governing open-air services is exactly the same as for services inside the building (why???), Wimborne Minster has reluctantly decided that our al fresco evensong cannot go ahead within the current guidelines.
But ‘a further update will follow soon’: how soon is soon? From a memo circulated this morning to professional orchestras we learn that the restrictions governing singing and the playing of wind/brass instruments are being eased. What does this mean, and how long will it take the C of E to catch up?
In the meantime, Jeremy is exploring one further option at a ruined abbey in the south-east outskirts of London. We have narrowed the date down to Friday 24 July, and I promise to let you know by Friday 10 July what is happening. This is nail biting stuff: if we cancel and the guidelines change two days later then it would be frustrating in the extreme.
We are glad to report that all the details of churches and music for this year’s tour have finally fallen into place. As in previous years we will range widely across the county, from Weymouth on the south coast up to Fontmell Magna on the way to Shaftesbury. Click on the 2019 Tour tab above for details.
Another wonderful week over – all very successful apart from an uncharacteristic ‘blip’ on Friday. Over the course of five days we coped with ciphers, impossible sight-lines, interesting cantors and challenging organs: all in a day’s singing. Now back to the real world, with Howells’ St Paul’s Service and Wesley’s Ascribe unto the Lord still ringing in our ears from the final service in Wimborne Minster. Huge thanks to our wonderful professional team of Sam Hanson (organ) and Jeremy Jackman (inspirational musical director).