Scottish Opera helps Long COVID with Breath Cycle

Published: 5 October 2021
Reporter: Vera Liber

Gareth Williams. Scottish Opera Composer in Residence Credit: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

Breath Cycle, Scottish Opera’s new project to benefit those suffering from conditions affecting lung health, in particular Long COVID, begins online in October.

During a series of relaxed weekly sessions, a team of musicians will work with participants using songs, vocal exercises and breathing techniques to improve lung function, posture and circulation. Made with support from NHS consultants, the first sessions start on 20 October, and will be repeated in blocks in January and April 2022.

There will also be a new online song writing workshops led by former Scottish Opera composer-in-residence Gareth Williams and performance poet Martin O’Connor. The songs that come out of these workshops, alongside those created by Gareth and Martin themselves, will be arranged and recorded by Scottish Opera to create a free digital resource called The Covid Composers Songbook.

Jane Davidson, Scottish Opera’s Director of Outreach and Education, said, "singing is the perfect work out for your heart, lungs, and even your brain. According to the British Lung Foundation, regular singing can have similar benefits to physiotherapy: teaching you to breathe more slowly and deeply, improving your sense of control over your breathing, which in turn reduces anxiety and potential feelings of panic and improving posture to help you breathe more efficiently."

The Breath Cycle project was originally created in 2013 by Scottish Opera and Glasgow’s Gartnavel General Hospital Cystic Fibrosis Service to explore whether learning classical singing techniques, including breath control, can improve the wellbeing of cystic fibrosis patients. Due to the high risk of infection for those with cystic fibrosis, the project also explored how patients might interact safely with each other using the Internet. The materials were created as part of a study into how singing techniques, including breathing exercises, could replicate the effects of conventional physiotherapy to increase lung function.

The singing sessions will take place on Wednesdays from 12:30 to 1:30PM from 20 October to 22 December. The songwriting sessions are on Fridays from 12:30 to 1:30PM on 29 October, 12 November, 26 November, 10 December and 17 December.