The Hallé has taken its award-winning Workplace Choir Programme virtual, promising isolated home workers a unique opportunity for human connection through collaborative music.
The Manchester-based Hallé Orchestra has run the programme in businesses across the North of England for nine years, but started delivering the programme virtually for the first time in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Choirs have risen in popularity in recent years, with advocates trumpeting the mental health benefits of group singing.
And with 10 million people thought to need new or additional mental health support as a direct result of the pandemic, there has been a welcomed rise in opportunities for people to connect with each other remotely.
Kerry Lyons from NHS Bolton’s Our Voice Choir said: “Singing just lifts you up; it is something for you, an hour just for you, and you can come together and have fun, and not take it too seriously.
“Sometimes we come into our sessions on a low ebb feeling emotional or stressed, but you never feel like that afterwards.
“It has become a highlight in our week: we look forward to it and feel better after it.”
Although the move to a virtual programme was born from necessity, the new remote format has attracted a whole new group of workplace choirs from across the UK due to the increased flexibility and accessibility.
Veterinary Defence Society Choir member Jo Stonehewer said: “As a company with team members spread across the length and breadth of the UK, the virtual nature of the programme this year has meant we were able to invite everyone in the company to come together to learn a new skill and have fun.
“The hour’s rehearsal each week helped build bridges between individuals and departments and gave us an opportunity to escape the strangeness of the year.”
In the programme’s original format, choirs joined together at a performance at Hallé St Peter’s to compete for the honour of performing alongside the Hallé at The Bridgewater Hall.
In 2020, the usual competition was replaced by the workplace choirs coming together to record a newly-commissioned piece by composer Ollie Lambert, called ‘Hope’, with lyrics taken from the poem by Emily Dickinson.
The Hallé plans to continue to deliver the Workplace Choir programme virtually in the long-term, alongside the original in-person format which will resume when COVID-19 restrictions allow.
Main photo: The Hallé Choir performing pre-Covid