Despite easing of lockdown, SBBA recommends the status quo for bands

Friday 10 July 2020

As the loosening of Coronavirus lockdown restrictions gathers pace all around us, SBBA has reiterated that its advice at the start of the pandemic remains the same for the time being – that the suspension of brass band rehearsals and engagements should remain in place until Scottish government advice changes to allow public gatherings of numerous people in enclosed spaces without the requirements for physical distancing.

At the moment, the Scottish government has entered Phase 3 of its plan to return to normality which will result in larger numbers of people moving around and coming together across a variety of settings and sectors, both indoors and outdoors.

However, as this will give the virus more opportunities to spread, it is recommending people follow FACTS:

  • Face coverings.
  • Avoid crowded places.
  • Clean hands regularly.
  • Two metre distance.
  • Self isolate and book a test if you have symptoms.

“While it pains me greatly to advise a continuation of a moratorium on face-to-face band get-togethers, the health and safety of our brass community is our overriding concern,” says SBBA president Carrie Boax.

“The Coronavirus is still with us. Ultimately though it is up to the bands themselves to make the decision, depending on local circumstances, as to when they return to regular rehearsals of any kind. As a national organisation, we are not in a position to issue instructions, only encouragement to our members to follow government guidelines.”

The latest statement from the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, in the wake of the announcement of a £1.57 billion rescue package for the arts, culture and heritage sector earlier this week, has declared that performing arts can now take place outdoors from 11 July with a socially distanced audience present.

However, according to the DCMS, singing and playing wind and brass instruments, especially in groups, are considered higher risk activities because of the potential for aerosol production. Consequently it advises: “Non-professionals should currently not engage in singing or playing wind and brass instruments with other people given these activities pose a potentially higher risk of transmission and whilst research is ongoing.”

On this subject, SBBA is working with Prof John Wallace and a Music Education Partnership Group (MPEG) Scotland advisory group on scientific research into this aerosol effect of playing a brass instrument, work which is expected to be reported on by the beginning of August.

“The question of air flow does seem to be important for the resumption of wind instrument teaching and performance, and the scale of flow is usually exaggerated by people with no experience of brass playing,” said John.

There is a video clip on YouTube which demonstrates how the airflow in a brass instrument works. It can be viewed at

Cancellation of this year’s National Championships by Kapitol Promotions is indicative of the seriousness of the situation still facing banding.

“I’m totally devastated for those bands who have worked so hard to qualify for the finals, but it was inevitably the right decision to take,” Carrie comments. “Kapitol had no other choice in the current circumstances.

“My head keeps telling me to take one day at a time and see what it brings, whereas my heart is very heavy for our bands and live performances in general.

“Nevertheless, I remain faithful to my core belief that health has to come first or you have nothing. To those bands that have asked for guidance, all we can do is to ask them to keep in touch with Scottish government guidelines and behave accordingly.”

She added: “Brass banding is about music making that is pleasurable for both players and audiences. All we at SBBA want is for us all to be able to return to our pastime in a calm and measured way that is safe for everyone concerned.”

In the meantime, while it awaits direction from the Scottish government, SBBA is continuing to hold virtual Zoom meetings with executive committee members and trustees on the way forward and future plans, seek scientific advice where appropriate and contribute to research discussions on how to return to banding safely.

A decision on whether the Scottish Festival of Brass, pencilled in for 21 November and the weekend of 28-29 November, will go ahead is expected to be taken by the end of August.

The latest Scottish government advice can be accessed here and the DCMS announcement is available here.


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