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Cheyne Gang Autumn Newsletter 2020


2020 – the story so far…….

What a strange year it has been.   Cast your minds back to December 2019 when we were rehearsing Mr. Santa, only to be robbed of our chance to perform by none other than Norovirus!   Remember the excitement and hard work of our preparations for the performance in the Usher Hall.  Who would’ve thought that we would find ourselves locked down or shielding only a few short weeks later?  We, the Cheyne Gang Team, were very conscious that you are all vulnerable, were probably worried, scared, and facing weeks of little or no human contact.  If we’d been allowed, we would’ve come and serenaded you in your gardens!   As it was, the only thing we could do was optimise our website so that we could share songs and breathing exercises with you all.  For those members with no internet access, we produced DVDs of the website content.  

Our singing group leaders Kathy, Julie, Caro, Sophie, and Clare (and our guest leader Fiona MacDonald) have worked hard to produce material to keep you all singing and breathing efficiently.   As self-employed music teachers, this time has been challenging for them and they have had to adapt very quickly to working remotely.  We are so incredibly grateful to them for their hard work.  

Since early summer, Kathy has been leading a singalong Zoom session on alternate Monday afternoons (3pm – 3.45pm).  It has been quite successful, in that the participants can sing along to their hearts’ content and can see familiar faces.  The problem with Zoom is that there’s a delay in the sound so it’s impossible to sing together.   For this reason, everyone but Kathy is muted when we’re singing – until we get to the end when we unmute everyone to sing “There’s Never Any Trouble if You SMILE!”  At that point, it’s a free for all and it’s very funny!  If you would like to join in these sessions please email and we’ll add you to the invitation list.  The smiles are wide and I feel great for the rest of the day after one of the Zoom sessions.  All welcome! 


Julie, who is the group leader for the Tweed Valley group and the Musical Director of Traquair Choir, has moved with her partner Mark, the two donkeys Monty and Hobbs, the three chickens and the bees, to a wee village on the south side of Loch Ness, where they have inherited two sheep!   The good thing about this is that we have had a lot of interest in our work from the Respiratory Nurses in Raigmore Hospital.  Once the conditions allow, Julie will start a Cheyne Gang in Inverness – a wee day trip beckons I think!   Innerleithen’s loss is Inverness’s gain and we wish Julie, Mark, and the menagerie many years of happiness in their new home.   She has sent a wee message and a photo of the donkeys for you all. 

Hello everyone from the Highlands​!

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Our move went well, moving furniture was a piece of cake after moving bees, chickens, and donkeys! We are settling in well and nearly unpacked all our boxes. The Highlands is really beautiful, we are close to a small village which has a pub and a local shop. The countryside is really spectacular and a mix of lochs, mountains, farmland, rugged moorland and forest. Inverness is about 25 miles away.

There is lots of wildlife to spot - we have seen red deer and a red squirrel and red kites close by. There are lots of birds in the garden to watch and a hedgehog. The donkeys are getting used to lots of sights and sounds which are new and they are becoming quite popular with the postie and when we have had a delivery with the drivers. We have been taking them for exercise down a little lane and they are slowly getting used to traffic, so maybe one day we will be out and about donkey trekking a little further.

I have been teaching online and having meetings with the rest of the Cheyne Gang team.

I, like you, miss singing enormously and long for the day when we all get back to singing together. Hope to see some of you online at a Zoom session. If not, please know that you are very much in my thoughts and heart. I wish you all well and would love to hear from you anytime!

With thanks again for all the fab fun and music we have had together over the past few years - keep up the breathing and singing at home.

Look after yourselves!

Lots of love

Julie, Mark, Monty & Hobbs, Pancake, Waffle, Omelette (the chooks) and
Pebbles and BamBam (the sheep)!!!

The person doing most of the behind the scenes work on the website and DVDs is Cal Nicol.  He has worked tirelessly to upgrade the website, keep the content updated, and of the best quality.  If you have any suggestions for the website, or just want to introduce yourself to him, his email address is

He, very cleverly, used individual recordings from Caro and the rest of the team to produce a very fine recording of Caro’s wonderful lockdown song.  Cal also produced the video for the song. 


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Here’s a wee picture of Cal, and his wee boy Lachlan, beside Loch Leven in Kinross where they live – now you can picture him beavering away at his desk! 

Some of you will remember the marvelous young students from the University of Edinburgh, who are so diligently working to produce a device that will measure your lung function in a community setting.  This device will help with our ultimate goal of a clinical trial to look into the effects of the breathing work that you are all doing when you sing.  A few of the students have sent video messages to you all from their lockdown homes in Europe, Brazil, and Edinburgh.  Last month they applied on our behalf for a funding grant and we have just heard that they were successful.   What a joy it is to have these young people working so closely with us.   You will find images of some of them on Caro’s song video…They are honourary Cheyne Gang members and we are grateful for their dedication.

You might also remember Felix and Anya who are building an Artificial Intelligence App that will help with COPD management.   The events of this year have also influenced their work and they have been busy monitoring the effects of COVID-19 on long-term respiratory disease, as well as the, sometimes long-lasting, respiratory symptoms being experienced by people who have had COVID-19.   They have produced a very useful guide about COVID-19 and COPD.  If you would like to read it, it is on the home page of the website.  We are thankful to them for their hard work and financial help during this year.


COVID-19 has brought upheaval and change to all our lives.   At the moment, because of the aerosol spreading capabilities of the virus, we are unable to sing with even a small number of people, unless wearing masks and in either an outdoor setting or in a room with extremely good ventilation.  Not great for folks with respiratory illness.   We can’t even meet for a socially distanced coffee and a chat.  

We can do none of these things until we have a reliable vaccine.  The good news about the vaccine is that, once the NHS staff have been vaccinated, most of you will be at the top of the queue for it.   The bairns in our team, like Caro, Julie, Sophie and Fiona will have to wait but that means our groups will be slow to restart.   In all honesty, we think that we will be well into the summer before we can think about restarting.  We hope we are wrong.  

If you are struggling with loneliness, having problems getting shopping or prescriptions, please contact your admin person – their numbers are listed below.   They will try their hardest to help you.

Oxgangs: Jaci - 07763126789

Stockbridge: Pauline - 07546244466

Charteris: Dot - 07903168449

Leith: Annie - 07825815581

Tweed Valley: Joan - 07570415266

Coldstream: Fiona - 01890882711

Glasgow (both): Janice - 07837803436 


Anne’s number is 07769322583.



Some useful numbers: -

Covid Support Scottish Borders Covid Helpline: 0800 100 1800 (choose option 7) 

Edinburgh Community Taskforce: 0131 225 0630

Glasgow City Council Covid Helpline: 0141 276 1185


Please share our Facebook, Twitter and website with friends, family, medical staff and anyone you know with respiratory problems.  People who have had COVID-19 and who have residual breathing problems would benefit from our exercises and singing. 

Facebook          Twitter        


In the meantime, we promise to keep in touch with you all, one way or another.  



Anne Ritchie October 2020

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