Skip to main content
A photo of Gareth on stage at the launch event, The Breath Cycle name is on a big screen behind them.

Scottish Opera’s Breath Cycle project led by ECA's Dr Gareth Williams will continue to support people with Long COVID through singing and songwriting workshops, thanks to new Scottish Government health and social care funding.

Launched during lockdown in 2021, Breath Cycle II helps people living with the debilitating effects of Long COVID, and a range of conditions affecting lung health, to re-build physical and mental resilience through singing techniques used by musicians. 

In 2021, weekly sessions with musicians from Scottish Opera, including songwriting workshops with Dr Gareth Williams, Chancellor’s Fellow at ECA’s Reid School of Music, introduced participants to fun and stimulating songs, vocal exercises and breathing techniques.  

This new funding will allow the project to deliver a new series of workshops in Scotland in 2023, a training programme for session tutors and to continue to promote the issues around Long COVID. 

Gareth Williams originally embarked on the Breath Cycle project in 2013, as a collaboration between Scottish Opera and Glasgow’s Gartnavel General Hospital Cystic Fibrosis Service. 

Gareth said: "At Scottish Opera, we’ve known for a while now that this project is doing something special, bringing something genuinely impactful to the lives of individuals who are currently dealing with Long COVID, and also something of cultural significance and artistic value to the wider community.

"It’s so encouraging that this funding has come from Scottish Government at this time, as it recognises the potential here in how we can tackle health and social care issues going forward as a sector."

The Covid Composers Songbook 

Gareth’s songwriting sessions with Breath Cycle participants and writer Martin O’Connor resulted in The Covid Composers Songbook, a free resource for individuals, choirs and singing groups worldwide to download and use. 

The Songbook is an evolving resource and people living with Long COVID and other conditions affecting lung health are encouraged to write and upload their own songs that share their experience.

Gareth said: “Breath Cycle is our space to celebrate the voice: to sing together, to tell stories, and make our own songs. New songs are always needed, and as our participants learned to sing, we invited them to tell their stories.  

“From these stories, we have our first Songbook. To begin with, many of the stories were about tough times, about worry, tiredness, home, about doing the dishes, being silenced, family, bad weather, but from each story came a song with hope in its bones - songs of finding strength and resilience.  

“When Martin and I began the project, we were looking forward to helping people. We didn’t expect to find such incredible collaborators.” 

The Covid Composers Songbook was launched at a celebratory event at Saint Luke’s and the Winged Ox in Glasgow on 1 February 2023. The songs were performed by musicians and singers from classical and folk genres, including singer-songwriter Louis Abbott from Admiral Fallow and Scottish Opera’s 70-strong Community Choir. 

Breath Cycle and Cystic Fibrosis 

Gareth Williams originally embarked on the Breath Cycle project 2013, as a collaboration between Scottish Opera and Glasgow’s Gartnavel General Hospital Cystic Fibrosis Service. It explored how learning classical singing techniques, including breath control, can improve the wellbeing of cystic fibrosis patients.  

Scottish Opera Breath Cycle

Related programmes

Meet our staff