The Steel City Choristers were unable to meet last Christmas (Dean Stead Photography)
Carol singers across the country have welcomed back the tradition after a hymn-less 2020, saying its return “feels like coming home”.
The recent threat of the Omicron Covid variant has had a sudden impact as choirs approach their last week of singing, with many of the most recent carol services moving outdoors.
But after being unable to meet at all last year due to coronavirus restrictions, carollers said being able to return to their festive tradition has made Christmas “a richer experience”.
Kate Caroe is chairwoman of trustees for the Steel City Choristers in Sheffield who were formed in 2020 after the sudden disbandment of Sheffield cathedral choir and were unable to sing last year due to strict lockdown measures.
But the group have performed in locations including pubs and churches in 2021, even visiting Sheffield Children’s Hospital for a fundraising service.
“It feels very natural and familiar and beautiful… it feels like coming home,” Kate Caroe, of Steel City Choristers in Sheffield, told the PA news agency.
“(Last year) felt hollow, whereas it feels like a richer experience of Christmas, having the music (be) part of it.
“It’s part of the tradition of how you celebrate Christmas, it brings people together and it creates community… I think it’s really important for good emotional health and giving you a sense of perspective on life.”
The 46-year-old also sings carols with her husband, daughter, four sons, and family friend Jeremy Dawson.
The group often post videos of their performances on Facebook where they have dubbed themselves the “Caroe-navirus Singers”.
Joanne Jubb works at The Royal Hotel in Dungworth, where people are invited to sing carols every Sunday between Armistice Day and Boxing Day, and described the experience as “joyous”.
The 56-year-old’s mother-in-law and father-in-law own the pub and have been keeping up the tradition for 23 years.
“In normal times, pre-Covid, they’re queueing out the door before we open up,” Ms Jubb said.
“Everybody’s missed it… we have people come from all over the world to come and sing with us.
“I think the lockdown proved (people need it)… it’s just so joyous, it gets you in that spirit of Christmas.”
Faye Bailey, director of the Mellor Singing Group in Lancashire said her choir were glad to have been able to perform this year for East Lancashire Hospice.
“It is undoubtedly my most favourite time of year. I love bringing all the different voices together and combining all the different tones and voices and introducing lovely harmonies and the songs are just timeless,” the 39-year-old said.
“I won’t be defeated by Covid, I’ve come so far. There’s no way I’ll be defeated… the choir work, the work I do with the hospice – it brings me a lot of joy and it brings out the best in me.”
Ms Bailey said she is uncertain how services will be affected in the final days before Christmas, adding: “It depends what arrangements have been made and how passionate people are about coming together.”