TWO choir singers at Salisbury Cathedral have played a part in helping singing return to churches and cathedrals after taking part in experiments at Porton Down.

Lay vicars Jonathan Woodhouse and Richard Hooper participated in experiments to look at the risk of spreading Covid-19 while singing, which were held at Public Health England, Porton Down back in July.

They have been speaking about their experiences after the cathedral choir resumed singing on Friday and Saturday.

In controlled laboratory conditions, and on separate visits, Jonathan and Richard were asked to cough, breathe, speak at various volumes, and to sing verses from O Come All Ye faithful. They also sang a song of their choice.

Richard sang a piece in German during the experiment session.

Jonathan said: “I feel very proud that I was asked to do and it and was able to. I’ve been singing in church choirs since I was eight years old and I’m 34 now. It’s been a big part of my life. I was delighted to be able to help.”

Petri dishes were placed throughout the room and collected at the end of each experiment, and then cultivated to allow bacteria to grow.

“I’ve never done anything like that before,” added Jonathan, who has only been singing in the choir at the cathedral since April 2019. “It was a really good experience.”

Richard, 43, who has been singing with the cathedral choir for ten years and also has a Masters in material science, said: “I was keen to do it because it is an important thing to do to let us get back to what we do best. I’m a lapsed scientist myself so I did find it quite interesting on that level.”

“We did O come all ye faithful, which was a bit out of season,” he admits. “We also did the verse that you only sing on Christmas day itself. It was very Christmassy but at least it was a tune that everyone knows.”

On being able to return to singing at Salisbury Cathedral, Jonathan said: “I’m absolutely delighted. The last service we sang was in March. It has been very strange not to have done anything since then. We did some online recordings in May and June but it wasn’t the same being with your colleagues and in the building. I’ve missed the services a lot.”