Folk star launches online singing group that is top of the pops with older people during lockdown

  • An award-winning folk singer from the University of Sheffield has launched an online singaround where people can share songs and laughter during the coronavirus lockdown
  • The sessions enable amateur folk singers - many of whom are older people in their 70s and 80s who have been members of folk clubs since the 1960s - to come together, sing and continue to share their love of music with others
  • The virtual events replicate the vital sense of community and friendship that people usually experience through their weekly folk club meetings, which have been postponed due to Covid-19
  • #CovidSings has helped older people use social media and technologies such as Facebook Live and Zoom for the first time

A screenshot from the group showing people singing and listening while in lockdown

A virtual singing group, which is providing thousands of older people from across the UK with a vital sense of community and friendship during the coronavirus lockdown, has been launched by a folk star from the University of Sheffield.

The sessions, led by Dr Fay Hield, a critically-acclaimed folk singer who is also a lecturer in Ethnomusicology and Music Management in the University’s Department of Music, are providing a virtual space in which amateur folk singers can continue to gather, sing songs and make friends following the closure of folk clubs due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Many folk clubs in the UK were initially launched in the 1960s and continue to be popular with many of the same people, now in their 70s and 80s, as well as attracting younger musicians.

With older people already being especially vulnerable to loneliness before the coronavirus lockdown, the regular weekly meetings that folk clubs held were often one of the few chances that many older singers had to meet with friends and share their love of folk music. The social-distancing measures introduced in response to the coronavirus, together with older people being at a higher risk of developing the disease, has meant that some older folk fans have been cut-off from this vital part of their social lives.

Now, the sessions led by Dr Hield, have enabled amateur folk singers to gather virtually through Zoom every Tuesday evening to sing songs together and share folk-related stories.

Launched nearly a month ago, the online singarounds have already attracted over 200 singers, as well as thousands of viewers each week. The sessions have also welcomed amateur folk singers from around the world, including people from countries such as Ireland, the USA and Canada.

Anyone with an interest in folk music is welcome to take part and it is hoped that the weekly sessions will help musicians stay connected and supported during the coronavirus lockdown.

The event uses Zoom for people who want to participate by singing songs, share folk-related stories or simply listen to others and feel part of a club. Each session is also livestreamed and saved on a Facebook page for those who want to tune in, listen and watch as the singers perform some of their favourite folk songs.

Aside from sharing a love of folk music, the sessions have also helped some older people use social media and technologies such as Facebook and Zoom for the first time.

Dr Hield, whose project The Full English won the Best Album and Best Group categories at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2014, said: “It is just beautiful to see people interacting online in much the same way as they did face to face. I wasn’t prepared for the ease of camaraderie we would achieve.

“Due to the time lag of being online we can’t all sing together, and the thought of people joining in chorus songs alone in their own homes at first seemed surreal, but when you see everyone else’s muted mouths going up and down like goldfish, and find yourself singing along at home, there is such a powerful sense of togetherness. It is amazing we are still able to make communal music in these strange circumstances.”

Aside from the sessions on Tuesday evenings, Dr Hield has also published a guide to help music groups who are thinking about launching their own online singarounds to support each other during the lockdown.

The guide is free to access via Dr Hield’s website at: https://fayhield.com/blog/how-to-run-an-online-singaround

The #CovidSings online singaround led by Dr Hield is held every Tuesday evening between 8pm-10pm (BST). To participate, contact Dr Hield via: www.twitter.com/tradsongtues or email f.hield@shef.ac.uk

To watch a livestream of the next folk #CovidSings online singaround on Facebook, visit: https://www.facebook.com/soundpostcommunitynetwork

The first four sessions led by Dr Hield are available to watch on demand via:

Each session is moderated by Dr Hield with support from music graduates from the University of Sheffield.

The format for the online singaround is inspired by @TradSongsTues, a weekly folk music event on Twitter that Dr Hield has been running for almost two years with music graduates from the University of Sheffield.

For more information on the sessions, including how to sign up for their mailing list, visit: http://soundpost.org.uk/events/covid-sings-online

Additional information

Music at the University of Sheffield

The University of Sheffield

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Contact

For further information please contact:

Sean Barton
Media Relations Officer
University of Sheffield
0114 222 9852
s.barton@sheffield.ac.uk