Writing these pieces is beginning to feel a bit like Groundhog Day – we are still hoping that we may be able to get back to some kind of face-to-face activity before too long, even though as I write Government scientists are making noises about delaying any further loosening of restrictions on June 21st. The Culture Secretary’s announcement on May 18th that no more than 6 amateur singers can meet indoors must have come as a blow to many of you – we had, as you know, planned a small, carefully managed workshop with Peter Syrus on May 22nd, which had to be postponed at the eleventh hour (it’s now hoped to run it on June 26th). Our sympathy goes to member Venetia Caine, who had put a great deal of work into organising the event, and we’re grateful too to Peter for being so flexible. Meanwhile I expect that many of you will have signed one of the various petitions about the resumption of choir singing which are doing the rounds.

We’ve enjoyed a number of successful Zoom meetings since the start of the year – David Allinson’s talk in March attracted an audience of over 100, some as far afield as Italy and the USA! We’ve also had excellent talks from members Bruce Saunders, Jacqui Robertson-Wade and Michael Williamson, as well as from talented young trainee viol maker Agnieska Nalazek, plus a couple of sing/playalong sessions at Christmas and Easter. If you have any ideas for such meetings, do let us know – there is an embarrassment of riches available via other EMFs plus the initiatives of various ensembles, so we’re trying to make SWEMF’s offerings a bit different.

SWEMF was also one of the sponsors of the virtual Bristol Early Music Festival which took place early in May – our contribution was to host the live question-and-answer sessions on our Zoom account. The Festival was very successful, with lots of viewings of the pre-recorded talks and concerts, and good attendances and lively discussions at the Q&As. I know that many of you participated, and I’m sure you’d agree that our performers and speakers gave us a most enjoyable weekend.

At a recent committee meeting, we discussed how we might attract new and younger members to join us. It was decided that in future those aged between 18 and 25 would be asked to pay only 50% of the annual subscription and likewise 50% of workshop fees (irrespective of whether or not they are students). So if you know any young people in that age bracket who are into early music, please draw this to their attention!

It’s difficult to plan for future workshops, partly of course because of the general uncertainty about the future trajectory of the pandemic, but also because we are uncertain how members feel about resuming face-to-face activity. So we may be contacting you about proposed events just to enable us to gauge the likely amount of interest before we commit ourselves.

Finally, one definite date for your diaries: your committee has decided that it’s a good idea to hold the AGM via Zoom, since that allows more members to participate. So regardless of what the regulations about meeting in person may be by then, we have agreed that the AGM will be held via Zoom on Saturday 4th September at 2.30 pm. Save the date!

Meanwhile I hope that you and yours are keeping well, and that you’re managing to enjoy some kind of music-making. Thank you for continuing to support SWEMF through this difficult time.

– Clare