Since August 2020, we’ve run five in-person sectional rehearsals for KCYO and KYWO and two full days of in-person auditions, along with developing a fantastic online singing offer. It’s taken some creative thinking – and not a little hard work – to make sure we could get back together, but we couldn’t be happier with the outcomes.
We’ve also learned some important lessons along the way…
It pays to be careful
Our biggest priority when planning our events was of course, ensuring that they could be run in a safe and secure way. Luckily, the Kent Music team is a professional and talented bunch and working closely with guidelines from the government, music and health professionals, we have been able to ensure that staff and students alike would be safe and sound.
For our in-person sectional rehearsals, we went all out to ensure that the sessions would be safe and practical. From sending health declarations and guidance to students and staff well in advance of the rehearsals, to arranging the rehearsal spaces with a minimum of two metres between players, ventilation, and thermometer checks, our sectionals were as safe as can be. We even supplied participants with ‘COVID packs’ of sanitised tissues, hand sanitiser, drip pads and bin bags! They may not have been the most enjoyable gift bags, but they were certainly the safest.
Meanwhile, it was decided that, based on the advice we’d received, it wouldn’t be possible to run in-person choir rehearsals. Did that deter us? Not a bit! Working with our colleagues across Kent Music, we developed Kent Music Voices, a 10-week online course for 8-14 year olds, both County Groups choir members and non-members alike. It’s designed to teach singing theory and techniques as well as a little about composers and the pieces they created in a relaxed and friendly environment. Most importantly, it offers young singers the chance to sing together again, something which wouldn’t be possible otherwise.
Kent Music Voices is a part of Kent Music’s Online Music Centre, which is offering a whole host of online ensemble opportunities for musicians of all ages this term.
People are adaptable
Performing, rehearsing or teaching in a new way can feel daunting, especially as it is different for everyone. Larger groups of players had particular challenges – how to ensure people could stay safe while having a fun and fulfilling experience?
As it happens, Kent Music’s students and staff are more than capable of adapting to meet the guidelines. When you have an enthusiastic group of people set on making music, anything is possible!
Our staff have been hard at work ensuring that they the digital and physical spaces where rehearsals and lessons take place are suitable and welcoming. They’ve adapted teaching methods, prepared new ways of working with orchestral and choir music, and adapted their delivery amazingly to the new guidelines.
Participants, meanwhile, have approached the changes with the utmost professionalism. Whether they’re playing in a socially distanced rehearsal hall or singing their hearts out over Zoom, all the young musicians have taken to the new setups with good humour, and, of course, excellent music.
A well-structured and confident approach, backed up by informed guidance and a supportive team, is the best resource when approaching a new way of doing things.
We’re grateful for our colleagues
Running our County Groups orchestras and choirs has always been a team effort, but the past few months have shown just how much a fantastic group of people is really worth. From staff at the Kent Music office putting together guidance and risk assessments, to our talented tutors, to the core County Groups team and more, everyone has pulled together to make sure we keep playing this year!
We’re particularly grateful to:
Our tutors and session leaders Alice Cooper-Hall (KCYO), Avis Perthen (KCYO), Philip White (KCYO and KYWO), Jeremy Shoobridge (KYWO), and Daniel Moulton (Kent Music Voices).
The staff at the venues we’ve worked with at King’s School Rochester, Colyer-Fergusson Hall Canterbury, and Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School Rochester.
Not forgetting, all the students and their parents and carers who’ve attended in-person and online!