On Thursday 2nd April, Diocese of Leeds Music hosted a webinar for the Cathedral Organists’ Association and Conference of Catholic Directors of Music: Practical Approaches to Cathedral Choir Rehearsals Online. The webinar explained the technology and teaching methods behind the process of moving an entire choral programme online to continue reaching hundreds of children in after-school choirs and providing singing resources for 53 schools across the Diocese. 

The webinar was attended by over 50 Directors of Music, Choral Directors and Organists from choral foundations around the UK and Ireland such as Gloucester Cathedral, Christ Church Oxford, King’s College Cambridge and St Paul’s Cathedral. Two representatives from the national charity, Friends of Cathedral Music were also present and they will celebrate the online activities of all choral foundations via their website and social media. 

The morning included discussions on safeguarding and communication with parents and schools, and a presentation by Chris McElroy, Director of Music at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, on online theory and aural platforms. Cathedral Choral Director, Lucy Haigh, and Director of the Schools Singing Programme, Tom Leech, then led short choir rehearsals for the delegates to demonstrate fun and effective vocal warm-ups, breathing exercises, and online methods for supporting choristers in more challenging music. The webinar gave everyone present the chance to participate and experience the benefits of online rehearsals from a child’s perspective as well as that of a choir leader.

The afternoon was split into smaller discussion groups to provide an opportunity to ask questions and compare crisis plans with other choral foundations. To continue national progress towards online delivery, these discussions will continue in additional drop-in sessions on Tuesday 8th and Thursday 10th April. The aim of these sessions is to provide support and avoid the feeling of isolation as the transition is made to a new reality and way of working. The feedback following the webinar has been hugely positive and the resulting sense of community and the confidence gained has been felt by all involved:

‘What a great initiative! I do hope this gives choir leaders and directors of music the confidence to keep their choirs singing in these very trying times.’

‘Extremely useful and a much-appreciated gesture that you all took the time to share your experiences with the wider choral community’

‘Great to see the work you’re doing and to think how we might do similar here: thank you for your generosity with all of this. It’s been a real boost.’

‘The session was very useful and has certainly given me much food for thought. I am so impressed with the set up that you have created and I am so pleased that your infrastructure will allow you to operate such a vital programme during this challenging time.’

‘Thank you and your team so much for your inspiring webinar yesterday. It has given me real confidence that we will be able to set up our choir rehearsals online.’