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18 November 2021, 16:34 | Updated: 18 November 2021, 19:04
As memories of UK lockdowns fade, and the festive season approaches, many are beginning to ask: what will school Christmas concerts be like this year?
For many parents across the country, watching a host of primary school-aged children perform Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer in a school hall, is one of the iconic moments of the Christmas season.
The same can be said for chorally-inclined students, who view learning the descant to Hark the Herald Angels as a right of passage, with budding-choristers rising to the challenge of the top ‘A’ no matter their voice type.
But this year, the reality of gathering hundreds of audience members together to celebrate the holiday season, just isn’t possible for every school.
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Many schools across the UK are having to make the difficult decision about whether or not to cancel their Christmas concerts this year, due to COVID-19. For schools in Scotland, due to current government covid guidance, parents are “effectively banned from attending Christmas concerts”, according to Scottish newspaper, The Herald.
ClassicFM.com spoke to primary and secondary school music teachers, who reported they were being led by COVID-19 cases in their area and school, when it came to being able to go ahead with their school’s concert.
One secondary school teacher based in England explained, “we’ve been allowed to go ahead with this year’s concert because COVID-19 numbers are low in our school. But it’s also because instead of a school hall, we’re staging the concert in our local church.
“The church is big, and well-ventilated, so there will be no issue of social-distancing between people. As it’s not on school premises, we haven’t had to worry about creating our own COVID-19 policy for non-school attendees at the concert; we can just follow those already in place at the external venue.”
Thanks to technological adaptations during the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, some schools have found alternative options to completely cancelling their Christmas concerts.
One primary school teacher told us that their school concert had been filmed in advance, and would be streamed for parents and student’s family at the end of term via their school’s website.
But for other schools, it’s not as simple as finding new ways to put on their performance, as it’s the performers who are missing.
As school policies have been modified post-lockdown to advise against a mixing of school groups, school run orchestras and choirs have diminished in size, with some being unable to rehearse entirely.
“In my school, to avoid year group mixing, our lunchtime has been split into two”, explains one secondary school teacher, “the year 7-9s have their lunchtime first, followed by a later period for the older years.
“But this means that the orchestra, which involves students from across all the years, can no longer rehearse during lunchtimes.”
This unfortunately means that some schools have had to abandon extracurriculars, as new policy means students can’t stay after school either, due to regulations against mixing.
So sadly, many school music groups are simply not ready for the season's traditional Christmas concerts.
But whatever your Christmas plans look like this year, we're happy to report that good music at home is assured.
Classic FM is once again The Home of Christmas Music – you can listen to our Christmas playlist now, and also make sure you join us for Classic FM's More Music Breakfast's when Tim Lihoreau will be switching on the Sound of Christmas at 8am, on the 1st December.