COVID-19: Working with amateur choirs and music groups

Below we have provided guidance for music professionals working with amateur choirs and music groups during COVID-19 in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Be aware some areas of the UK will have localised restrictions. Make sure you check the details on your government and local council pages.

England

Last updated 15 October 2020

The DCMS has confirmed that amateur choirs and groups can go ahead in England in a COVID-19 secure venue or public outdoor place where this is planned activity, alongside ‘rule of six’ regulations, as long as they are in line with the performing arts guidance and if they can do so in a way that ensures that there is no interaction between groups of more than six at any time. Note performing arts guidelines only apply to areas in COVID Alert Level 1 (medium). Those in other area should find links through our local lockdown page to information on their area.

The advice states: ‘If an amateur group is not able to ensure that no mingling takes place between these sub-groups of no more than 6 (including when arriving at or leaving activity or in any breaks or socialising) then such non-professional activity should not take place.’

It was confirmed on 24 September that the above guidance still applies to amateur choirs and groups, despite confusion arising from the range of new restrictions brought in by the UK government on 22 September.

Both professionals and non-professionals can now engage in singing, wind and brass.

Contact tracing and app

As part of continuing efforts to manage COVID-19 through contact tracing, new legal regulations in England require many businesses to maintain records of their customers. In addition, these businesses are required to have a QR code for display so people with the NHS Test and Trace app can scan it if they wish. The process is simple (it takes no more than a couple of minutes).

Not all types of device can use the QR code, so you must make sure you are keeping good records of pupils, lessons, and timetables, including registers for ensembles and choirs, in another format, should you be contacted as part of the track and trace process. Your usual administration of lessons should provide the requisite information about students and the times and dates of their attendance for lessons.

Northern Ireland

Last updated 22 October 2020

We have revised this guidance in line with the announcement on new restrictions from the NI Executive. You can read further details about what these changes mean here.

The Arts Council Northern Ireland document In the Bubble of Our Making: Reopening the Arts in Northern Ireland states on page 3:

'Non-professionals (meaning those participating in performing arts other than for work purposes), or groups which include non-professionals, may refer to this guidance for their activities, but must at all times do so in line with government legislation and guidance on meeting people outside your household.'

Current government guidance on meeting others from outside your household means the following applies from 16 October for four weeks:

In a private home:

  • Indoors: households are no longer allowed to mix indoors in private homes. Therefore individuals cannot meet to rehearse or perform in a private home.
  • Outdoors: up to six people from no more than two households can meet up outdoors in a private garden to rehearse, subject to social distancing.

Indoor and outdoor gatherings (excluding private dwellings, weddings and funerals)

  • Indoors: Up to 15 people can meet indoors, except in someone’s home or in a static caravan or self-catering holiday home.
  • Outdoors: Up to 15 people can meet outdoors, but you should maintain social distancing by being at least two metres apart, as well as good hand and respiratory hygiene practices.

NB. the provisions above do not include brass, woodwind or singing. You should not undertake these activities at the moment.

Contact tracing and app

The StopCOVID app in Northern Ireland uses proximity based technology and operates in parallel with the Contact Tracing Service (CTS). You can find a full set of FAQs on the CTS on the Northern Ireland Executive website. It states ‘In the vast majority of cases, the positive case will have a landline, mobile or email address for their close contacts.’ As such, we encourage that you make sure your records and registers up to date to aid the process if required.

Scotland

Last updated 1 October 2020

The Scottish government announced new restrictions on meeting people from other households on 23 September, as follows:
Meeting people from any other households in your home or another person’s home is not permitted.

  • You can continue to meet a maximum of six people from two households in outdoor spaces. You must maintain a two metre distance and abide by local restrictions.

    What you can do:


    The Scottish Government's guidance for the performing arts updated on 17 September includes the following guidance for non-professional groups (under the heading 'Playing music'), which distinguishes between ‘organised’ activities and others:
  • Non-professional music groups (including singing and wind and brass instrumentalists) participating in an organised outdoor activity managed by an organisation - including a business, charity or club – can meet outdoors from 24 August. Organisers must comply with 2 metre physical distancing, hygiene measures, risk assessment processes and all other relevant guidance for the performing arts sector including events guidance.

  • Other non-professional musicians may sing or play in groups outdoors, but group size should be limited to that permitted by social gathering guidance (Staying safe and protecting others) i.e. a maximum of six people from two households in outdoor spaces. You must maintain a 2m distance and abide by any local restrictions.

    No indoor activities can be organised for non-professionals.

    Please also see the Playing Music section of the guidance for the performing arts and venues for further information on health and safety steps needed.
  • Contact tracing and app

    The Protect Scotland app uses proximity based technology rather than using QR codes for people to check into businesses. However, you must keep good records of your pupils and attendance at music groups you run to help facilitate test and protect in Scotland. The performing art guidance states ‘You should keep a record of name, date, time and a mobile number or email address for all staff, customers and contractors for a period of 21 days to support customers and staff being contact traced in the event someone linked to the event contracts COVID-19.’ Full guidelines on managing this data is on the Scottish government website.

    Wales

    Updated 22 October 2020

    During the period of the 'fire-break' in Wales (from 6pm on Friday 23 October to Monday 9 November), amateur ensembles, choirs and bands must not meet to rehearse or perform.

    Contact tracing and app

    The use of the NHS app in Wales is not compulsory, but is encouraged. Some types of businesses are compelled by law to keep customers details for 21 days. Although music tuition is not one of the stated ‘close contact’ businesses, it is advisable to make sure you maintain good records of your pupils and registers of music ensemble attendees. Your usual administration for these purposes should suffice. You can read more about the requirements for contact tracing in Wales in the Welsh Government website and also get a QR code poster.

    If you are an ISM member, you can seek advice from our legal team on your personal situation by contacting [email protected].