WHEN it comes to Christmas, nothing quite brings joy like a choir.

In a year that has turned our lives upside down, many choir masters and singers felt it was more important than ever boost Bradford's morale through music.

But with changing rules and rising cases of Covid-19, it has taken months of planning to pull out all the stops for one of Britain's most popular festive activities.

For professional musician Maria Mullin, creating a virus-secure show has been the biggest project ever undertaken by the Great Yorkshire Chorus (GYC).

The choir filmed a socially distanced concert at Saltaire's Victoria Hall, decked out with sparkling lights, with a premier on its Youtube channel 'Great Yorkshire Chorus'.

Maria said: "The plans have been ever changing as we have tried to guess where we would be in terms of Covid restrictions by December - that's been a big challenge to second guess. We've been rehearsing Christmas songs since October in the hope we would be able to do something special for Christmas.

"GYC means the world to us. It gives us the pure joy of singing together, new friends, lots of fun and amazing shared experiences. For many of our members it gives them a huge mental health boost and increases happiness and wellbeing. There is nothing quite like singing in a choir.

"It's been incredibly difficult to organise. We've had to guess what will happen next with restrictions throughout the Autumn, and navigate our way around complex covid guidance to make sure everything we are doing is within the rules at all times.

"We had to push back the filming date due to the November lockdown and members had to practice at home through November using audio and video tracks, specially made by our choir director for them, as we couldn't meet to rehearse in person.

"Many of our regular members have experienced the hurdles of self isolation, shielding and lack of rehearsal time, all making it much more challenging than normal preparation for a concert."

All Together Now, run by Chris Kemp, and his choir spent hours pulling together hundreds of clips of members singing their individual parts at home for a virtual concert via Facebook.

During lockdown, rehearsals were held on Zoom but now the choir can sing its heart out in car parks across the Aire Valley, allowed due to the choir being Chris' business.

Completing the show - albeit virtual - was not just about the Christmas spirit but boosting Chris and his singers' wellbeing.

It's been a difficult year for Chris, who lost both his livelihood and hobby when sessions stopped on March 16.

He explained: "To see people's faces light up when they could hear themselves singing again with other people was just a joy.

"Some of them are very lonely, some are widowed and for some it's been a very difficult time to live through and they said without the choir they would have really struggled through this time. It's being able to see their friends and to keep that music alive with their friends. They're connected through the choir, it really has helped.

"For many people, including myself, this is my livelihood, this is what I do for a living. To lose something that's your passion but it's also your livelihood, it's very difficult.

"It's been a difficult time for everybody but the community spirit, that's really shone through with ATN over the last nine months."

Liz Robinson, a trustee and member of the choir, explained how choir members had to play backing tracks through their headphones and record themselves singing on a seperate device.

"Having to then hear ourselves singing without accompaniment was absolute torture," she joked.

Liz continued: "The first thing I said, was 'Why did nobody ever tell me I couldn't sing?' but when Mark Redsell (who helps the choir with technical issues) worked his magic and put our voices together, we sounded fab.

"The choir means everything. The social side of our choir has been a lifesaver over the past few months. There's always someone to talk to, whatever you're feeling like, there's always fun things to plan. I've never had so many new friends at once before.

"There have been times of piercing sadness when I have missed our singing together, packed together in rows, so much. There is nothing like the feeling you get when you all produce that beautiful sound together. But we have been practical, and done simply everything we could on Zoom to keep going. All Together Now is a huge second family for me, and I know that so many members feel the same way."