Wales pulls out the stops: Pipe organ ban lifted for worship services

Wales pulls out the stops: Pipe organ ban lifted for worship services

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Churches in Wales will be more musical now, after the government reversed a decision banning the use of organs during worship services.

LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Churches in Wales will be more musical now, after the government reversed a decision banning the use of organs during worship services.

The United Kingdom went into lockdown on March 23 to slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, closing all places of worship.

Churches in Wales were allowed to hold public liturgies beginning on July 19, but several restrictions were imposed. Singing and chanting were banned, as was the use of wind instruments, including organs, even though they are not operated by breath.

“It is advised that you use alternative instruments such as a piano, electronic instruments or recordings,” the Welsh government said in its official guidance.

The decision was received with puzzlement from many people.

“This matter was brought to my attention by a Minister in my constituency who is completely perplexed by the ban and told me that church members and organists are up in arms,” said Darren Millar, a member of the Senedd Cymru, the Welsh legislative body.

“It was the first I had heard of it,” he said last week, noting that the issue was not voted on in the assembly, and he couldn’t understand why it had been imposed.

“The UK and Scottish Governments have only restricted the use of wind instruments that require breath to be operated so church organs are permitted,” Millar continued. “As pipe organs do not require the use of human breath it does seem very odd that places of worship in Wales, unlike Scotland, Northern Ireland and England, are prohibited from using them for worship.”

The government in Wales reversed course over the weekend, and announced a pipe organ can now be played as part of marriage, funeral or worship services, “but the decision to use an organ should be based on a written risk assessment and adherence with social distancing, hand hygiene and cleaning guidance.”

The government added that alternative instruments such as an electronic keyboard or recorded music should still be considered.

Follow Charles Collins on Twitter: @CharlesinRome

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