YORK’S health chief has defended a requirement for singers to wear masks in an outdoor musical - as critics condemned the move as "outrageous" and incorrect.

Sharon Stoltz, director of public health, was responding after The Press yesterday reported that a production of Jesus Christ Superstar, due to be staged in an amphitheatre in Rowntree Park next week, had been cancelled.

Lesley Jones, of the Bev Jones Music Company, said a City of York Council official had told her the cast would have to continue wearing their masks while singing, as well as demanding she employ professional security.

Ms Stoltz said that when approached by event organisers, officials had shared feedback based upon national guidance.

She said the City of York Event Safety Advisory Group, which was there to help ensure the safety of all events held in the city, however large or small, involved a range of partners.

When an application was made to the group, it shared the latest Government advice to help organisers run a safe event, including offering practical advice on their event plan, or signposting them to national guidance as it did in this instance.

“The council did not cancel or require the cancellation of the event,” she said. “The event organiser submitted their proposal to the group and our public health experts, one of many partners on the board, fed in the national advice.”

She said if event organisers felt they could not adhere to national guidance, they sometimes decided not to go ahead with the event.

But Martin Dryer, music critic for The Press for 42 years until 2019, said the move was "outrageous". He said he attended an exhilarating concert by I Fagiolini on Thursday, a choir of seven voices inside St Lawrence’s Church. “The socially-distanced audience wore masks, the singers did not,” he said. “All was in accordance with current guidelines."

Lucy McLean, who runs Lucy’s Pop Choir in York, said she was friends with the man commissioned by the Government to research Covid singing rules and had studied the legislation, and said wearing a mask while singing was not a requirement but a suggestion.