Turn It Down

New health and safety regulations are likely to mean orchestras will have to rehearse and perform more quietly.

Regulations limiting the noise permitted in workplaces to an average daily exposure of 85 decibels came into force last year, but music and entertainment sectors were given an extra two years to adapt.

A working party including English National Opera, the Royal Opera House, the Association of British Orchestras, Equity, the Health and Safety Executive and the Musicians’ Union was set up to see how the new regs can be best employed. Public consultation on its findings will begin next month.

Earplugs and clear plastic screens separating musicians may become familiar sights on stage, while concert directors will be encouraged to balance noisy pieces, such as those by Wagner and Mahler, with quieter works by the likes of Mozart and Bach.

"You couldn’t have an orchestra playing a loud repertoire five days a week – you’d have to have loud pieces mixed with quiet ones," MU safety official Pauline Dalby told The Stage.

She also advised musicians to play more quietly during rehearsals.

"There’s no need to belt it out. You should try to keep exposure levels down as much as you can."