In these difficult times, people’s mental health and morale is being truly stretched and tested. The reality of working from home has affected a huge number of people, many of whom are now more isolated because of the pandemic.
The need for the Arts to bringing joy, relief and hope, as well as a sense of community, has never been so great. The award-winning Hallé Workplace Choir programme, which has been running across the North of England for the past ten years, offers a tangible solution. Experts in HR are heralding the programme as a tried and tested way to help engage, entertain and support staff working in difficult conditions.
Kerry Lyons, member of the NHS Bolton Our Voice Choir says: "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."
In 2020, necessity forced the programme to move online. The usual competition was replaced with the Hallé’s family of workplace choirs coming together to record a newly-commissioned piece by composer Ollie Lambert, aptly entitled ‘Hope’.
The success of these virtual choirs – increasing accessibility, offering flexibility and allowing colleagues to stay connected all whilst experiencing the mental and physical benefits of singing – has attracted a whole new group of workplace choirs from across the UK. This has led to plans being developed to continue to deliver a virtual Workplace Choir programme into 2021 and beyond, ideally working in parallel with the original format.
In the programme’s original format, each choir was paired with a professional choral conductor for rehearsals. The programme culminated each November with a competition at Hallé St Peter’s where entrant choirs rehearsed and performed two songs. The prize was a unique opportunity to perform alongside the Hallé, one of the world’s greatest orchestras, at The Bridgewater Hall: the winning choir honoured with an exclusive performance whilst all workplace choir singers were invited to join the Hallé’s Massed Choir.
Members of Hallé Workplace choirs have consistently reported how rehearsals have helped them to manage stress, increase productivity and bring fun and energy to their day.
Gary Provis, member of the Siemens Choir: "The benefits of having a workplace choir are astronomical. From the point of view of your own company it helps you to build better, more integrated teams, which can even be across different sites … From an individual point of view there are benefits in well-being and general physical and mental health."
Aileen Wiswell, MBE, Whitehall Campus Programme Lead, Cabinet Office and member of the Hallé Board:
"Music not only provides a source of pleasure but has recorded psychological benefits. A passionate and powerful medium that can lift your spirits, engage your mind reduce stress and improve your memory … It is recognised as being beneficial to both emotional and physical wellbeing."
Jo Stonehewer, member of the Veterinary Defence Society Choir: “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."
For more information, including ways your organisation can be involved in this programme, please contact Susanna Caudwell, Hallé Corporate Partnerships Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hallé is offering a free taster session for companies interested in starting a Workplace Choir in 2021. Please contact us before 15 February to take up this offer.