In this article we will discuss long-term effects that the current pandemia is having on singing; however it must be stated that we writers are not virologists or medical experts. Therefore this article should not be considered as a recommendation or instruction for implementing vocal training or choir practice.
The safety of singing is being discussed a lot these days, especially among choirs. Many wonder whether singing in the same space with others is safe in the first place, no matter if we’re talking about a private voice lesson, a choir rehearsal or a musical theatre show. It seems that a sure answer is still in the looking, yet it is clear that distance should be kept from others when singing.
Singing With Physical Distance Or Distance Singing Online?
If the risk of illness is wanted to be kept at minimum during singing, total avoidance of close contact is the best solution. This does not only concern the Covid19 pandemia but also other germs that are less dangerous. This mode of operation means singing training online, virtual choir projects and streamed performances of small ensembles. All those have been practiced and performed quite actively around the globe during the past few months.
Singing training implemented through the internet is easier to carry out than online choir singing or music performances with bigger groups. Singing together cannot be carried out to happen simultaneously other than through being physically in the same space. How can this be implemented in the future with minimal risks?
Gatherings of larger groups always add to the risk of virus infections. One could get infected even by an asymptomatic person, who unknowingly spreads the virus to the people near them. This risk can be lowered by keeping distance, but what is a safe singing distance to keep?
Teaching Singing With Distance
Many voice teachers and voice students long for contact teaching and learning, even though distance teaching online has brought many good experiences. Still, these two do not need to shut the other option out. A hybrid model could combine distance (online) and contact teaching so that each would happen for example every other week. This would make the risk to get infected go lower as close contact meetings would happen more rarely.
Contact singing teaching for individuals (regular private teaching) is “safer” than group teaching as there are less contacts. Could group teaching happen via a video connection, and private teaching in the contact form?
The size of the teaching room, possibilities to ventilate the space and cleaning are highlighted more in the current situation compared to the past. Does the space of the room allow the student and the teacher to have enough distance between each other? Would it make sense to bring a safety plexiglass to the studio like in grocery stores? Do facial masks help and is it possible to sing well when wearing one?
Choir Singing With Distance
Corona pandemia will make choirs’ possibilites to operate difficult for a long time. The essence of choir, a large group of people singing together, contains many risks and they are not removed without a vaccine or a treatment that cures the disease. The safest alternative would be not to gather at all, which makes doing a virtual choir performance the only possible option. However, this is not choir singing that people are used to, because singing in virtual choir projects happens alone without hearing fellow choristers.
If and when choir activities are reopened, additional distance-making and risk-minimizing can be carried out in many ways. Still, responsibility comes first: shared events should be avoided if any kinds of symptoms of illness are noticed or if one has travelled or has been exposed to the possible virus at work etc.
When singing with a choir it is absolutely crucial to keep safety distances. It may be a good idea to even have a longer distance than the recommended two meters, if possible. Depending on the size of the choir and the rehearsal venue, considering practicing in smaller groups is advisable.
Could the choir be split in two so that the other group practices via Zoom from their homes or in another room? Could the whole group be divided into quartets or double quartets to practice? Or how to act in larger practice rooms? Can the singers hear each other if they are too far away from each other?
In addition to singing other things must also be considered. Hand hygiene, arriving and leaving the rehearsal, touching things and so on. If the choir has had a habit of having a coffee break together, it may be a good idea to put that on hold for now, or change to “everyone bring their own coffee in a thermos mug”.
Another aspect is choirs for seniors. The singers belonging to risk groups choir singing is even a greater risk than to basic healthy children, youngsters or adults. Should they put choir singing on hold for now?
Singing Performances With A Distance
Carrying out music performances with safety distances is easier for smaller ensembles than shows with up to dozens of performers. What does this mean in terms of choir concerts and musical theatre shows?
If risks are minimized and recommendations obeyed, many performances will not be heard or seen in the near future. Another thing is how much of an audience will be present and how many tickets can be sold for shows.
It may be a good idea to postpone shows demanding large ensembles and close contact to the future. Performances that can be carried out while respecting safety instructions and be implemented at some point. It could be that the amount of streamed concerts and the amount their viewers will grow but they will not replace a live performance.
More Questions Than Answers
Safety of singing during the pandemia concerns millions of singers from professionals to amateurs. According to the European Choral Association there are 37 million choir singers in Europe alone. Right now there are more questions regarding the safety of singing than answers.
It is deserved to assume that there are many answers for one question. In addition to singing there are many other factors that affect the infection risk of viruses: regional differences, cultural differences, singers’ other activities etc. It is advisable to carry on with patience, listen to the experts and weigh different options with which the risk of infection can be minimized even after the pandemia.