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Donated Covid tests to bring music back to London and Manchester

15 June 2021

AS LIVE music returns to the UK post lockdown, two UK orchestras have found a novel way to remain COVID safe as they filter back into concert halls, by partnering with the testing and screening services business Circular 1 Health.

The partnership will see the Carlisle-based firm donate 1,700 free COVID screening tests to the Philharmonia Orchestra in London and the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester throughout June and July. The tests will ensure that live performances remain COVID secure, including several concerts at London’s Royal Festival Hall and the Hallé's Summer Season in Manchester's Bridgewater Hall. 

The initiative was spearheaded by Circular 1 Health laboratory technician Matt Parry, himself a professional trombonist, who began working with the company during lockdown when the national tour of Hairspray the Musical was cancelled. 

Matt said the opportunity for him to combine his passion with his new career was one he couldn’t pass up: “I’ve been playing in concert halls and theatres for over 15 years and watching the shutters go up through lockdown was heart-breaking. Now thanks to the support of my employer I’m able to give something back and ensure music gets back on its feet whilst ensuring everyone is kept safe.” 

Stuart MacLennan, the Founder of Circular 1 Health added: “Our mission throughout lockdown has been focussed on helping the country regain some sense of normalcy. Thanks to team members like Matt, we can use our resources to help groups who would otherwise struggle to return to normality with ease.” 

The tests will be distributed to the orchestras on a weekly basis, with 100 being delivered in each batch, ensuring enough tests to regularly screen both ensembles ahead of each performance. 

With a busy schedule, the Philharmonia will receive 900 tests over the two-month period as it plays three concerts at Royal Festival Hall, seven concerts at the Three Choirs Festival (this year at Worcester Cathedral), and heads to the Royal Albert Hall and finally back into the recording studio. The Hallé Orchestra will receive 800 tests to screen its musicians throughout its twelve performances from Bridgewater Hall, Manchester. 

Alexander Van Ingen, Philharmonia’s chief executive commented on the reassurance and confidence the partnership will give the orchestra: “We are ecstatic to be returning to make music for a real live audience from June 4th, and understandably there’s still a level of nervousness around safety. Thanks to the partnership with Circular 1, our musicians can feel confident and ready to perform at their best, and we know that a positive result can be swiftly isolated so the rest of the orchestra can continue playing without having to cancel concerts.” 

Hallé chief executive David Butcher said, "The Hallé is delighted - and very grateful - to be working with Circular 1 Health in this way. The reassurance it provides is invaluable and will help us hugely as we move towards an exciting live season in The Bridgewater Hall next month." 

The Philharmonia’s first concert will open on the 4th of June at Royal Festival Hall with The Hallé Orchestra performing at Bridgewater Hall from the 3rd of June through until the 22nd of July.