Mary Woodward Review

Scottish Opera launch Breath Cycle II, St Luke’s & The Winged Ox, Glasgow, Review

***** (5 stars)

As someone who took part in Scottish Opera’s Breath Cycle project in April last year, I was delighted to be invited to the above event, and intrigued to see what was being presented to us.

The original project in 2012 worked with cystic fibrosis patients: during lockdown, Scottish Opera offered support to people suffering from Long Covid.  An online programme of gentle vocal training and physical exercises helped participants re-build physical and mental resilience while gaining support and encouragement from the tutors and fellow-participants.

If you’ve read my review [April 2022] you’ll know I derived huge benefits from joining the programme – benefits which are still with me today, and about which I talk enthusiastically to anyone who will listen.  I mended my broken singing voice, rediscovered the joy of singing, and was deeply moved by some of the songs produced by those participants who also took part in the accompanying optional song-writing course.

At Wednesday’s launch event I was delighted to see and hear from the tutors on the course – David Douglas, Daniela Hathaway and Jessica Leary, who talked about different aspects of the course.  I was particularly happy that we the audience got invited by David to join him in the Fast Fruit Vocal Warm-up, of which I have many fond memories.  Song-writing facilitators – composer Gareth Williams and writer Martin O’Connor.- talked about their involvement in the course and their delight in the songs participants produced.  We also heard very moving personal accounts from some of the course participants.

Scottish Opera’s community choir joined singers David, Jessica and Gareth in performing some of the songs.  It was amazing to hear the simple fragments we’d had the opportunity to sing turned into full-scale performances with violin, cello and piano accompaniments from Terez Korondi, Sarah Harrington and Karen MacIver.  Musical theatre singer Kirsty Findlay and Admiral Fallow’s Louis Abbott gave very individual performances of two other of the songs.  The song that moved me most deeply on the course was one called A Week Without Voice, which expressed the anguish of being unable to utter a sound and the joy when the voice was re-found: my tears welled up as I recmembered the feeling – Hallo voice, I’ve missed you: did you miss me too?

The whole evening emphasised the exuberance and joy that comes from singing as well as the improvements in health that can come with regular practice, at whatever level one is able to reach.  Breath Cycle doesn’t aspire to produce professional singers, but to encourage everyone to develop their singing skills, improve their mental and physical health, and have fun along the way.

And now we come to the good part!  The Scottish Government has awarded Scottish Opera a grant of £86,892. With an estimated 187,000 people in Scotland living with Long COVID, the grant will enable Scottish Opera to reach more people, including those in more remote communities; increase the number of participants who can take part in the project’s workshops; deliver a training programme for nine session tutors and promote the issues around the condition in general. 

Scottish Opera’s website now gives access to a new set of free, online resources for Breath Cycle II which are available to individuals, choirs and singing groups worldwide.   You can also listen to, sing along with, and contribute to The Covid Composers Songbook, a positive musical legacy of the past two years, which form part of the digital resources materials available to download for no charge from Scottish Opera’s website.

The fifth block of singing and song writing workshops begins on 15 February and runs until April. Registration for the February sessions is open now, and the registration for the April sessions opens in March. These free sessions take place on Zoom and are limited to 50 participants. To register your interest and access the resources visit   

I can’t recommend these resources too highly.  Get going, get singing, get into serious fun and incidentally do yourself some good at the same time!

Scottish Opera launch Breath Cycle II, St Luke’s & The Winged Ox, Glasgow, Run Ended

Note As well as the Scottish Government, Breath Cycle receives funding from Cruach Trust, The Murdoch Forrest Charitable Trust, W M Mann Foundation, Souter Charitable Trust and Scottish Opera’s Education Angels.


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