Crawley choir ready to bounce back after testing year

A choral society member has spoken of the many difficulties she and her choir has faced during the coronavirus pandemic.

Chris Ollis, who is part of the Phoenix Choir of Crawley has faced many obstacles, like so many of us, during these unprecedented times.

Her choir has been unable to meet up in person to practice, let alone perform, since March of last year.

Sign up to our daily SussexWorld Today newsletter

And Chris also faced a personal loss during the pandemic.

The Phoenix Choir of Crawley at the Bandstand in 2018. Picture courtesy of Angela Finn

She said: “My husband, who had been in Haywards Heath hospital, was then in Ferndale Nursing Home which closed their doors to all visitors on March 13 2020, and I was unable to see him again, ever, as he died on May 6.

“He had been the stalwart member of the tenor section at Phoenix and had been a crucial committee member in the days of the Weald Choir of Crawley that became part of the Phoenix with Concordia Singers.

“Phoenix was going strong until the start of the first lockdown but age and Covid have not been kind to choirs.

“We had a performance of Handel's Messiah all ready to go in the Hawth last year, and had just had a special workshop rehearsal on the Saturday (March 14) at Crawley Baptist Church.

“But the Hawth closed and that was the last time we were able to sing together properly. Social distancing never came into it.”

Despite the Phoenix Choir of Crawley not being able to meet face-to-face, they have been able to hold online sessions but that hasn’t been without its challenges.

Chris, who has been a member of the Phoenix Choir of Crawley since its inception and sings as a first alto, said: “We thought long and hard about how to keep our choir going and decided that Zoom was probably the best option.

“Several of our members are not online, or are not fully computer literate, a bit like me, but we have had six social and singing sessions.

“We have to be muted when we sing so as not to upset her members, so it is all rather odd.”

But the Phoenix Choir of Crawley are ready to bounce back. The choir has found a new rehearsal venue at Friary Hall, and hope to resume face-to-face sessions on Thursday, May 20.

Phoenix Choir of Crawley have a number of dates in the offing for performances for the remainder of the year, as well as the next, Covid permitting.

Chris added: “We have already secured a date at the Hawth next March when we intend to perform Messiah.

“This date was already in the Hawth diary as we plan to sing there every other year.

“We should have gone ‘on tour’ last November to Bristol where we hoped to sing in St Mary Redcliffe, and still hope to do this, conditions allowing, in November this year.”

For those wishing to find out more about the Phoenix Choir of Crawley, please visit