Edinburgh choir leader who brought musical joy online recognised in honours
Kirsty Baird has never doubted the power of music to bring people together and provide joy, but it has proved particularly rewarding over the past nine months.
The 53-year-old from Edinburgh, is the driving force behind Sing in the City, an initiative that began as a community music project and now boasts 18 choirs across the capital, the Lothians and Fife, with more than 1,000 members.
But the advent of Covid-19 meant the choirs were unable to rehearse or perform as normal. Undeterred, Ms Baird devised an online solution, and nowadays, the project offers five weekly rehearsals, free of charge, via the Zoom video conferencing platform.
Twice each week, meanwhile, she and Annette Hanley, her fellow musical director, perform an online gig.
For a project that, even before the pandemic, offered much needed inspiration, confidence, and friendship, the virtual sessions have helped bring purpose, routine and joy at a testing time.
But more than that, Ms Baird and her Sing in the City band also recorded and released a charity single, Follow the Rainbows, with the lyrics drawn from an online chat of choir members during lockdown.
With no mainstream radio stations playing the single, Ms Baird decided to set up her own station, Chief Radio, both to promote and serve as a platform for other unsigned artists.
Excluding downloads, a fundraising campaign accompanying the song raised more than £5,000 for the Scottish Association for Mental Health, with more than double that amount raised throughout the pandemic.
Now, she is being recognised with a British Empire medal for services to singing, to mental health and to the community in Edinburgh during Covid-19.
She said: “I swear I thought someone was on the wind up, or I thought I was in some kind of trouble - it was a scarily official sounding email.
“I don’t think any of us thought the move online would last for so long, but the longer it’s gone on, we’ve tried to find ways of stopping people’s heads going down.
“I’ve always known that if you’re having an off day, you start to feel better if you have a sing, or pick up a guitar, and the experience of the pandemic has just confirmed that.”