Welcome to the second abcd Choral Leaders’ Festival. Not only is this our second festival but it is also our first Virtual festival and our 35th Annual Convention!
Seven months ago we were merrily planning a live festival in Birmingham when the COVID-19 pandemic suddenly put everything on hold. Then, within two weeks, it was quite clear that there was no way a live festival could go ahead. Like everything else in the arts world our plans were not just on hold, they were completely devastated.
If the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences for the arts have taught us anything it is that we are blessed with some extraordinarily creative musicians. Whether it is choirs creating astonishing performances on YouTube or representative organisations reaching out to support and protect their members, the threat to live performance has had a galvanising effect.
Within abcd the response has included establishing a regular series of webinars on all kinds of subjects. One of our Trustees, Professor Martin Ashley, completed an outstanding project examining the research into the implications of COVID-19 for choir singing. We joined other bodies urging the Government to conduct its own research and produce clear, unambiguous guidelines for the resumption of choral activity – a possibly forlorn wish from a DCMS that told Andrew Lloyd Webber that music theatre could resume but only without singing.
And now, as you will see here, abcd has created its first Virtual Choral Leaders’ Festival, promising to be every bit as good as one of our live conventions. True, it is not as extensive in content as one of our live Conventions. Sadly also, some of the most essential elements of Convention – the opportunity to sing together, eat and drink together, share stories and experience – will be denied. But the challenge of creating a programme appropriate for the circumstances has been triumphantly met. This is thanks to the abcd team – General Secretary Rachel Greaves, Training Manager Elisabeth Brierley, Director of Training Amy Bebbington, Membership Secretary Carol Bowns and our very active and hands-on Trustees, plus the indefatigable John Willetts for his superb technical support.
Above all I must extend my thanks to all the contributors to the Festival who have enthusiastically signed up to participate and help abcd create what promises to be a really stimulating, helpful and inspiring weekend.