OPERA singers, who had no choice other than to rehearse online or socially distanced in car parks, are overjoyed to announce they will be performing inside a Colchester theatre once again.

The youth part of Colchester Operatic Society, named CO2, is in the process of rehearsing for a concert in the newly refurbished Mercury Theatre in September after overcoming 18 months of obstacles created by the coronavirus pandemic.

Since the pandemic started, members have only been able to sing together on Zoom or in public car parks where they could socially distance in between lockdowns.

Charlotte Butcher, vice chairperson of CO2, said: "The past year and a half has been incredibly difficult for the society with the thing that we all love doing most, producing shows, having to be put on hold.

"Colchester Operatic Society CO2 was actually in the process of pre-audition rehearsals for Fame, when during a rehearsal we received the news we'd been dreading but half expecting that we just weren't going to be able to continue.

"With any production a lot of time and money is invested before the show even gets to the stage."

Gazette: Sing - CO2 rehearsing at Colchester Royal Grammar SchoolSing - CO2 rehearsing at Colchester Royal Grammar School

However, Charlotte said the group was fortunate they were able to postpone the show to this autumn.

She added: "We last did a concert ten years ago which was highly successful so it seemed like the perfect time to revisit the idea, using the premise of a journey through time using songs from the musicals.

"We started to make tentative plans for the concert, and were thrilled when the Mercury Theatre agreed that we would be able to perform in their newly refurbished theatre.

"Auditions were carried out via video, rather than having our normal audition day and then three rehearsals took place on zoom, so no one had any idea what it even sounded like.

"Eventually, the weather and restrictions eased enough to allow us to rehearse the boys and girls separately in a marquee.

"Again, this was another challenge when you're trying to rehearse four part harmonies.

"Finally, there came a time where, so long as our two groups didn't mix we would be able to rehearse them all together, outside in a carpark.

"We were absolutely blown away with how well the voices blended and the youngsters' dedication to learning their parts.

"Rehearsals have continued to go from strength to strength despite the weather trying to throw us some curve balls."

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CO2 is open to anyone aged 11 to 23 and the group has produced 34 shows since it was formed in 1984, involving 2,000 young people producing annual shows in the autumn for a two week run at the Mercury Theatre.

Charlotte added: "Theatre has taken a real hit and cannot afford to operate if social distancing is to remain.

"We hope that this is not going to be the case and that the thriving amateur scene in Colchester is going to be able to make a comeback."

Tickets are currently on sale at the Mercury Theatre for the concert, Musical Hits Through Time.

To find out more about the society visit colchesteroperaticsociety.co.uk.