AMATEUR musicians across the region are calling on the Government to treat them in the same way as professionals when it comes to the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions.

Jane Shuttleworth, founder of the classical and jazz listings website Music in Durham, has written to City of Durham MP Mary Foy, calling on her to challenge the government in a bid to prevent the prospect of a “festive season of silent nights”.

Signatories include members of Durham Choral Society, Orchestra North East, Northern Spirit Singers, Durham Singers, the Department of Music at Durham University Durham Scratch Choir and the Cobweb Orchestra, as well as individual musicians.

Earlier this month, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport announced that outdoor performances and indoor rehearsals can now take place, with appropriate social distancing measures in place – but the new rules apply only to professional musicians.

Making Music, an umbrella group for amateur music ensembles, has called it “disappointing and unjustifiable”.

Ms Shuttleworth, who was inspired by Making Music to write the letter, said: “While we accept that there are risks associated with group music, particularly for singers, wind and brass players, there is absolutely no reason why measures that are deemed safe for professionals (eg 3m social distancing) should not also be safe for us.

“Making Music have clearly set out the general case for allowing the resumption of amateur music.

"Last year, my website Music in Durham listed 128 events in Durham, of which 68 involved amateur performers from 36 different groups.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg as it does not include groups who perform popular and folk music,community groups who don’t give performances, or church choirs.”

Ms Shuttleworth said amateur music groups spend tens of thousands of pounds each year in Durham, paying concert hire fees to venues including Durham Cathedral, the Gala Theatre and Ushaw College as well as fees to countless churches, community centres and schools.

She added: “Time is pressing. Even if the rules were changed today, it would probably be too late for many groups to take advantage of summer to put on outdoor concerts.

“However, the question of Christmas is already looming as preparations for concerts and carol services usually begin in September. The prospect of a Christmas without live music is bleak indeed.”