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Lockdown interview with Catherine Beddison

Social distancing isn't easy for anyone. For musicians that perform in or lead groups, one of the biggest challenges that comes with the cancellation of gigs, performances and competitions - over and above financial concerns - is the sense of disappointment. If we can't perform or lead our groups, what is all that hard work really for?

Now, with a prolonged period of social distancing under our belts - something that no-one could have anticipated or planned for, I asked one of our Corra Sound singers and choral leader, Catherine Beddison, how it was impacting her.

What does it feel like not being able to physically see, rehearse, engage and interact with your choirs every week?

It feels very strange not to be at school every day and not to be taking my choir practices in the normal way, rather like the summer holidays have arrived early, as I am used to an extended break at that stage. Then I remember that everything ended suddenly and very unsatisfactorily...

We had to cancel the Choral Society concert after they had completed their whole term's work on the Handel Coronation Anthems. The school Chamber Choir (Cranleigh) were withdrawn from the national final of the Barnardo's Choral Competition due to the virus risk in London. Our CD recording session has been postponed and the House Singing Competition and ABRSM exams were cancelled.

When I think about it, I am still really disappointing after all the hard work, yet in full agreement that these steps were necessary. It creates a weird internal conflict.

Have you found online programmes enabling choral singing and interaction a useful and practical replacement?

No, not really. People are searching for something to replicate the live experience and it isn't possible to recreate the energy of the rehearsal room or class of children and doesn't allow for the subtleties of moulding and shaping the sound in a living way.

I am full of admiration for the ways that people have been attempting to replicate the experience, but they are actually just creating something new and interesting rather than actually managing to recreate a live experience. The technology creates too much of a communication barrier. You can't read the mood of the room or the subtleties of communication, so although it is definitely better than nothing it is still a poor replacement for live interaction.

Has the lockdown affected your job security and income?

I'm fortunate that both my husband and I are employed in salaried roles, so we are both safely at home trying to work whilst keeping sane and trying to tackle home education with our daughter (the absolute hardest job in the world).

For me, my school role is largely redundant at the moment - event organisation, logistics, calendar planning, staff workloads, activity coordination, communication etc. It feels horrid not being able to be useful, creative and busy solving problems all day. I really enjoy the brain work of tackling thorny problems and then making decisions which positively affect people.

I am also aware that at some point there will be a change in policy and schools will be told to return - then I will have a sudden contrast of being incredibly busy and being on a very short timescale to get a lot of things up and running, which is a very daunting prospect that I am completely powerless to control and can't really prepare for.

In the meantime, I spent the Easter holidays stuck at home with nothing especially meaningful or interesting to do, not really enjoying the leisure time because it was forced rather than by choice, and missing all of the lovely people, singing and interaction that keep me sane and feeling alive. I didn't like it, but then this despondency makes me feel guilty when I know there are other people somewhere else that are working in terrifying conditions risking their lives whilst I was sitting at home in the sunshine being fed up and selfish...

About Catherine

Catherine Beddison is Deputy Head (Operational) at Cranleigh School, championing the creative arts subjects, and teaches within the ‘Cranleigh Music 7-18’ Music Department. Catherine is also a trustee for Sing for Pleasure; a choral charity with a mission of inspiring better singing across the country. Find out more about Catherine here.

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