What does the current COVID-19 threat mean for our choral communities? The essence of a choral community is connection and in-person engagement. COVID-19 puts our very nature at risk. For all of us striving to maintain frequent connections for rehearsals and performances, the threat of COVID-19 is profound. It has implications for our community’s health and well-being, our finances, our artistic sensibility, and our social justice missions. How can we help each other stay healthy, make music and keep our audiences engaged? How can we survive?
A choral singer (and infectious disease physician) put it this way:
“Remember, the main reason we want to stop this virus is to protect everyone in the community. It’s about ALL of us. The goal here is to stay rationale, understand that anxiety is normal and we are not alone, and continue to work for change that will create a … world where one day everyone will have access to being able to respond to things like this epidemic. Wild, isn’t it, how the country is one big divisive mess until it comes to wanting to be healthy and live?! That seems to be something we all agree on. This is the time we lift one another up. We must. Keep checking in. Virtual hugs all around!”—Dr. Marla Gold, A1
There are many great resources to address practical personal preparedness. The suggestions that follow are just a few ways some creative choral communities are staying connected.
Information is power
Keeping everyone informed is the best thing you can do to help allay fears. Let your singers, staff and audiences know you are taking their health seriously and are thoughtfully planning. It will make everyone feel protected and respected. Encourage them to decide upon the best precautions for themselves and support their decisions.
Communicate to your singers about how you are addressing health and safety at rehearsals. Do so with heart and humor.
While our performances and programming are the heart of what we do, you are the heart of this community. Nothing is more important than your health and well-being. We want you to know what we are doing to ensure that we stay on top of an ever-changing health situation.
Take care of yourselves and your loved ones. Follow all CDC guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID-19…
Specifically, our choir is taking the following precautions:
(Add pertinent information about the following topics)
Schedule – what are your upcoming activities and what are you doing about them?
Rehearsal spaces/venues (contact them and make sure they are following advised health protocols)
Rehearsal guidelines –
- Stay home if you are sick
- We are suspending community brought snacks.
- Limit physical contact at rehearsals, wash your hands, don’t touch your face, wash your hands, bring hand sanitizer, wash your hands…
- Excuse yourself if you feel sick or if you are not comfortable being in a large group. You will not be penalized if you need to leave.
- When setting up for rehearsal we will leave more space between chairs. Feel free to move around if you need more space around you.
- We will sanitize tables, piano, etc., before and after rehearsal. Whatever section is responsible for setup and breakdown will also take care of this.
- Warmup on your way to rehearsal with any exercises we do that involve deep breathing, bubbling, etc.
Let folks know if there will be any changes in how attendance is tracked. For example:
We will continue to track attendance as usual. Contacting your section leaders when you will be missing rehearsal, regardless of the reason, is still expected. If you feel like you need to stay home because of the coronavirus, and you will be watching the live stream instead of coming to rehearsal, you must tell your section leader. If you do this, staying home will not be counted as an absence. Learning our music is still expected and we will continue to follow our scheduled planning.
Upcoming performances, retreats, festivals
Let everyone know what you are thinking about handling future events. Do you have a guest artist coming? Do you have a contingency plan if they can’t do an in-person show? Can you sell tickets to a streaming performance?
Explore Technology as an Alternative
There are several platforms that you can use to stream rehearsals, sectionals, or even performances.
Live Stream Rehearsals
Consider YouTube Live to stream rehearsals. We have been using this platform for the past year or so on a regular basis. Singers who are ill and our snowbirds who are away for several months at a time are telling us how much they appreciate this option. Of course it is not a substitute for being together, but it might wind up being a valuable tool for you in the current climate. While YouTube is not particularly interactive, it is easy to set up. With a YouTube account, a tablet and an app you can live stream for free. More information at https://support.google.com/youtube/topic/9257891?hl=en&ref_topic=9257610
Video Conference Sectionals
Sign up and use a paid video conferencing account for your choir. The cost of the popular platform Zoom is about $150 a year. This will make it easier for folks who feel they need to opt out of attending a sectional in person to participate. Give the log-in info to your section leaders.
More information at https://zoom.us
Live Stream Performances
Sign up and use a live streaming video service, sell tickets to the live stream and produce a concert to be viewed at home. There are several live streaming platforms. More information at https://www.epiphan.com/blog/how-to-monetize-live-streams
The Final Word?
Even as I write this, the state of things continues to change. It is important for us to be pro-active to the best of our abilities. While our person-to-person connection is what makes us who we are, while the sound of our collective voices rising together in song is our passion, we need to balance that with the safety of our membership and our organizations. It’s not an easy call to make, cancelling or postponing our rehearsals and performances, but it’s our responsibility to consider the options.
When this is over, we will breathe easier, bubble more, and sing our truths!
Be sure to check out:
Chorus America https://www.chorusamerica.org/node/13481
- Staying Healthy, Connected, and Musical during Uncertain Times - March 9, 2020