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When Can We Sing Again?

“The combination of singing in close quarters and decreased ventilation is nothing short of a petri dish for viral growth.”
- Dr. Kevin Kavanaugh, MJH Life Sciences

NATS panel of experts describe future for singers: "No Vaccine, No Safe Public Singing".

What do these sobering facts from medical experts mean for how and when our GALA choruses can sing together again? This page explores the latest research and includes creative rehearsal options from GALA artistic directors.

The sections below on protocols and social distancing come from a recent article by Dr. Timothy Seelig, Artistic Director, San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus. Explore the full article: Choral Singing in the Time of COVID-19 - PDF

Protocols for Singing Together

The following recommendations are meant to be fairly inclusive. Each organization and group will need to study these to decide which ones are feasible and best for use with their group.

  • Lifting of restrictions will be gradual. It may begin with groups of 10, 30, 50, etc. We may begin with test groups in July and be ready to apply many/most of the following when Season 43 begins in August.
  • Shorter rehearsals. 90–120 minutes. No break. No snacks.
  • Limited and monitored bathroom use.
  • Physical distancing (6 feet between singers) will limit max capacity based on room size. *See calculator below.
  • Guidelines on physical distancing while entering the building. Place marker lines 6 feet apart for waiting to get into the building.
  • Provide a hand-washing station at the front of the lobby.
  • Temperature check. (thermal cameras)
  • Wear masks at all times, even during rehearsals, unless official restrictions are altered/eased. Otherwise, wear a mask to your seat/position. Remove the mask for singing. Replace for departing.
  • No touching. No choreography (increases emission). No singing in circles. Face forward.
  • No printed music provided. No sharing of music, or pencils, or iPads. Could project music on screens, but leaves them with nothing to rehearse at home.
  • Attendance policy will have to be very generous. If you feel sick at all, you MUST stay home and there will be no consequences. Folks who come to rehearsal sick or get sick during rehearsal need to go home asap and we may want to have some sort of screening person at tap-in.
  • Mitigation plans in place if someone who was at rehearsal comes down with covid-19. (hopefully, members will be generous with that information). potentially may include all of us quarantining ourselves for 14 days and cancelling rehearsal during that period. If someone is symptomatic at rehearsal (but not yet covid+), letting people know they need to monitor for symptoms until we get results back?
  • Wipe down chairs with sanitizer, before and after rehearsal.
  • Conductors face chorus from 10 to 20 ft. away from the first row of singers. Possibly wear goggles or install a plexiglass shield. Droplets float into the eye’s mucous membranes, and you're in the direct line of fire! The same accommodation should be made for accompanists or instrumentalists.
  • Have anyone over age 60 or with high-risk medical problems (diabetic a1c over 8, asthma or COPD on inhalers, cancer, immune compromise such as on chemo or uncontrolled HIV, BMI over 35, etc.), sit in the very back rows so they are exposed to less aerosol (highest exposure will be those in front rows)
  • Break the chorus into small “cohorts” of balanced voices in groups of up to 50. One cohort can rehearse downstairs, one rehearse upstairs, with staggered start times that reflect droplet settle time (to avoid exposures coming in and going out). I strongly suggest the cohort idea, as it will contain any unexpected exposure/outbreak if someone develops symptoms shortly after a rehearsal, but allow the remainder of the chorus to continue. It will likely reduce the number of potential infections, hospitalizations and deaths if such a thing did occur.
  • Performances. Should we be so fortunate as to perform in the fall/winter, not only will audiences most likely be required to adhere to physical distancing, but the performers will as well.
Physical Distancing

This is obviously one of the most serious – and difficult considerations. Banquet Tables offers an excellent space calculator.

These numbers are based on our two rehearsal rooms at 170 Valencia Street in San Francisco.

Auditorium: 3,900 square feet. This allows for 105 singers, 6 feet apart or 59 singers 8 feet apart.

Valencia Room (Cooper): 2,000 square feet. This allows for 55 people at 6 feet apart or 31 at 8 feet apart.

We must also factor in space for the conductor and accompanists as outlined above.

John Quillin, Artistic Director of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Charlotte, created an alternate calculation that allows for more people within specific square footage. The suggestion is to use the above as a template and adjust as needed/allowable.

Creative Rehearsal Ideas from GALA Artistic Directors

I’ve been throwing ideas around with my team and we’re talking about starting with home rehearsal pods in groups of 2, 3, 4, ...6 once things are opened up but large group gatherings are still limited. I’d still run them remotely. – Kathleen Hansen, San Diego Women’s Chorus

We think it’s highly unlikely that we will be able to produce a holiday concert. Because of a resurgence of COVID, we’ll either find ourselves in another lock-down, or people will be so uncomfortable about coming to an event with a large number of people that they won’t buy a ticket.

We are instead going to try to capture what we think is going to be a VERY short window of time in which we can actually get together and rehearse face-to-face, probably late July, August, and into September. We’ll then record the program for broadcast. If we get to do a live concert, that’ll be gravy. – John Quillin, Gay Men’s Chorus of Charlotte

Once things open up generally, I’m thinking of grouping our singers together in quartets or octets (with distance between) to learn a song or two and then travel around town to sing outside homes of other singers, people who are sick or folks who are in need of a little singing cheer. – Jane Ramseyer Miller, One Voice Mixed Chorus

Other ideas for keeping singers rehearsing

  • Create a 10-wk rehearsal plan that singers can use remotely on their own time.
  • Offer you singers links to music reading or interval practice tools

AD [at] (Send us) your own creative ideas to include on this page.

Germany Rules for Singing Ban - PDF

Three Potential Futures for Covid-19 – PDF


Chorus Connection has created an excellent planning guide for community choral organizations coping with a global pandemic. They are asking that you enter your email address so they can follow up for feedback but this is a free download.

On May 5, an expert panel assembled by the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) hosted a webinar of vocal experts. Watch the full webinar above or read the sobering summary by Zach Finkelstein.

Dr. Lucinda Halstead, the president of the Performing Arts Medical Association concluded that there is no safe way for singers to rehearse together until there is a COVID-19 vaccine and a 95% effective treatment in place, in her estimates at least 18-24 months away.