Choir in the Fall? (tell me what's safe, what you're planning)
  • Heath
    Posts: 934
    (I do apologize if there is an ongoing thread about this that I missed)

    I'm starting discussions with my assistant directors and with my boss about what choir will look like in the Fall. Let's share with each other what the science is saying, what you're planning, what you're avoiding, best practices, whatever.
    Thanked by 1bdh
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,724
    At the moment we are only allowed a cantor at Mass, but other churches have choirs and so our members are singing in other places.

    I suspect we will be able to sing in as a choir in church by September,

    Anyway we are singing Vespers and Compline in my house every Sunday, and we re-started choir practise a few weeks ago, we meet in my house so we have no Health and safety hoops to jump through... We have plenty of alcohol available to reduce transmission!
    Thanked by 2StimsonInRehab bdh
  • Claire H
    Posts: 368
    I am going to do a little experimentation this coming week with homemade shields ( While my personal preference would be not to have anything over the face/mouth, if I am required to curious if this might be something manageable.
    Thanked by 1bdh
  • Claire,

    Other issues aside, wouldn't a shield significantly change the quality of the sound?
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 5,163
    A shield would not alter/dampen/muffle the sound nearly as much as a mask.
  • Charles,

    Leaving aside silly options, though, wouldn't the composition of the shield make a difference? Glass, for example, versus plastic.
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,724
    A previous organist suggested we gather around our real organ and sing towards the case, we are lucky to have a very good acoustic so the sound bounced off the case and was not dampened. This would solve the problem of singing over the congregation (from say a loft...)
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,756
    Our diocese is particularly restricted. We are not even permitted to have a single cantor sing from within the church unless a special isolation booth is constructed. We haven't had any choir since March (February?) and I've had to do solo cantoring from within our cry room through a mic. Our county is hit particularly hard at the moment—to the point that the CDC sent out a team to investigate why it's so bad here relative to the size of our population. We have many immigrants, Amish, and open factory floors in this area, and it seems these could be potential contributing factors. As a result, I wouldn't even be surprised if we have to end up closing back down again. Recently our county even had to implement a mandated universal face mask policy (although we had been requiring them at church from the beginning). We haven't heard anything from the diocese in weeks and I don't expect to have choir in the fall—at least not in the beginning. I'm hoping we might be able to gather in time to prepare for Christmas. Hopefully the Good Lord, in His mercy, will prove me wrong.
    Thanked by 1bdh
  • My choir is small already, but full of highly capable members. What the pastor and I have decided is to have a "Group A" and "Group B" which alternates Sundays because our choir loft makes social distancing difficult, and we invested in twelve volumes of Oxford Flexible Anthems.

    Due to diocesan policy, however, we can't force the choir to wear masks to rehearsal or to Mass. I find that concerning because 1) singing spreads aerosols and droplets that carry the virus and 2) our county will probably enter level 2 COVID emergency in a few weeks. But, I have a plan to work around the mask conundrum so the choir loft is as safe of a place as possible. Generally, I am pleased with our temporary set up, because it will give everyone in the choir the chance to sing again, and the congregation can hear quality anthems, chanted propers and sung Ordinary.

    (This is indirectly related, but I do fear that, with the return of university students to our town this fall, we might become a level 3 or 4 zone, especially since much of the student body comes from COVID hotspots like Southwest Ohio, Florida, Texas, etc. I have prepared myself for the likelihood that we will be hit with shutdown restrictions again.)
    Thanked by 2tandrews Elmar
  • Caleferink
    Posts: 430
    Right now I'm simply preparing as if I'm going to resume in September and then adjust as necessary. Being in the current Corona Capital of the World (i.e. Florida), though, I imagine we'll be doing what we've been doing for some time yet - single cantor and organist; chanted Introit, Offertory, and Communion; sometimes a solo song or hymn after the Communion proper; and the ordinary from the Roman Missal. My choir loft doesn't allow for much in terms of "social distancing," and the majority of people in my choir are higher-risk due to age and/or compromised immune systems. I'm a bit angry because many colleagues in my diocese say even that is too much and we shouldn't be singing at all - it's like they want to sabotage our livelihoods in the name of being "pastoral."
  • Claire H
    Posts: 368
    @Chris: My question too, hence the experiment. :)
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,774
    Due to diocesan policy, however, we can't force the choir to wear masks to rehearsal or to Mass.

    I'm a bit angry because many colleagues in my [Florida] diocese say even that is too much and we shouldn't be singing at all - it's like they want to sabotage our livelihoods in the name of being "pastoral."

  • 2 studies that I'm aware of were commissioned this summer on measuring the spread caused by singing. Results will be complete before September. They're first of its kind studies, so they won't be replicated yet, of course. But they'll provide useful guidance. In the meantime, the science is clear that choir is at the very least a high risk activity, and recommended by exactly nobody.

    Related: humans are terrible at risk assessment (, and you're not an epidemiologist (

    Lastly, please don't look for scientific advice on this forum. Not only is this not a forum of scientists, an anti-science attitude is noticeably present.
    Thanked by 1MarkS
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,724
    The spread is only one part of the puzzle, we have all? seen the various scientific papers that have shown how we spread droplets of water (with other things dissolved therein) The following quotes are from a science blog,
    The fundamental challenge of dealing with this pandemic is uncertainty. There are just too many important things that we don’t know – and what’s more, they aren’t easy to find out, either. We’ve seen that with the waves of optimism and pessimism about various therapies, just to pick one. As everyone has been learning (if they didn’t know it before!), getting solid clinical data is not easy. The good numbers don’t come quickly and they don’t come cheaply, and data that are fast and cheap tend not to be any good.

    But it’s also important to realize that this report, as with so many reports of viral shedding, it looking at it by detection of viral RNA. That does not mean that there is infectious virus present.

    The writer of this blog and especially the commentators (some former colleagues of mine) are on the scientific front line. I should also point out that it is part of the scientific method to doubt and test our results. Just because an experiment shows something does not create a fact.

    Now my question that is being looked at by professional musicians in the U.K. is this,
    IF singing is such a dangerous occupation, we would see increased levels of respiratory diseases and deaths among those that sing in choirs. With the level of risk of spreading is so high we must see this in the statistics. If not why is this increased risk invisible?

    As Dr Lowe states "That does not mean that there is infectious virus present." So if these particles are not infectious the risk will be low. The big problem is to test to see the percentage of infectious pathogens in the droplet spread, while this is not impossible it is a long and costly experiment to run.
    Thanked by 2StimsonInRehab Elmar
  • In Edmonton, AB Canada there is a test being done for singing. It won’t be a fast process to get results, though. In the meantime we’re legally allowed to sing in groups of 15 (director included) in or 1/3 capacity, whichever is less with proper safety barriers in place. The Diocese has prohibited singing and laid off our Music Director/Organist until the end of the year.
    Thanked by 2tomjaw Elmar
  • Lastly, please don't look for scientific advice on this forum. Not only is this not a forum of scientists, an anti-science attitude is noticeably present.

    Indeed, we shouldn't look for scientific advice on this forum, for, as you point out, this is not a forum of scientists. There are, however, a fair number of scientifically capable people hereabouts. They have scientific backgrounds, even if none of them are epidemiologists.

    There is not, however, an anti-science attitude.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,397
    There is a reconstruction of an actual infection event reported here. This may now be in the scientific literature. It is not experimental evidence, merely descriptive.
    It suggests to me that we can be infected by sitting for a long time in a cooled stream of air recycled from an infected subject, but that the extent of spread is limited. Pure speculation on my part, but are air'conditioners' part of the problem in Florida and Texas?
    NB I did post this on another thread some time ago.
    Meanwhile - in this country we have had no new cases for two months (our borders are closed, almost). Our community choir re-started rehearsals on Monday, with no precautions of any kind. But the diocese says that we should limit numbers at Mass, observe social distancing, and distribute communion only after Mass, with communicants leaving directly they have communicated. NO SINGING.
    [UPDATE] CDC has now published this paper.
    833 x 437 - 73K
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • are air'conditioners' part of the problem in Florida and Texas?

    They would be part of the explanation in Arizona, too, where an air conditioner malfunction is considered an emergency, which a landlord must address immediately.

    I'm very pleased (for you) that your choir has started rehearsals with no precautions of any kind. May you use the time to tune your instruments well, to learn some new repertoire, to strengthen the camaraderie of the group, and to present a scientific anecdote.

    Sing something for those of us who aren't permitted to meet with our fellow choirmembers.
    Thanked by 1bdh
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,987
    Well, an A/C malfunction in southern Arizona can be deadly for some. It's monsoon season now (with tropical moisture heading north from the Sea of Cortez), and that's not a "dry heat". (I have immediate family that have lived in Tucson for decades.)
  • Has it started to rain? I have family in Arizona, and they haven't mentioned actual rain, only that monsoon season is starting soon.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,987
    Yes, it has. It's drier today. But there has been rain. Some. It's gearing up still. But if you go to VentuSky and toggle the dew point option for humidity, you can see the moisture heading up. 54F is the traditional marker, and its' been over that in the past week or so (not today). Pity the folks in the Sonoran state below Arizona with the infernal heat and dew points in the 60-70F range (not today, but last week, there were places with dew point in excess of 70F).;-108.45;6&l=dew
  • Elmar
    Posts: 502
    We are planning to start choir activities in the second half of august. The official rules from government by July 1st, and church by July 11th (finally!) are identical and require 5ft distances, preferably in zigzag geometry.
    See on another thread: and below.

    We have one seating plan ready (15, maybe 18 behind the altar - horribile dictu), in the other two churches they have to be made yet - either in the nave at the expense of the congregation, or in the loft with no more than ten).

    So our country will be kind of a large epidemiologic experimmet concerning singing in choirs. If we get an infection surge in churches (God forbid!) in fall, we'll see at least whether there are significantly more infections in the choirs than in other parts of the congregation.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • Elmar,

    I hope that your large epidemiological experiment demonstrates that singing isn't dangerous. Keep us posted.
    Thanked by 2Elmar Carol
  • mmeladirectress
    Posts: 1,077
    >> in the nave at the expense of the congregation

    Not to worry. They will be enriched by your presence. God bless!
    Thanked by 3tomjaw Elmar Carol
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,724
    large epidemiological experiment demonstrates

    This is NOT a scientific experiment, we have no control group, and we can not control other variables.

    Take the U.K. choir that went down with Covid in January, did they pass around the virus while singing? could be... but they also went to have a drink in a bar after each practise, interestingly at least one member of the bar staff also caught Covid. This may imply that drinking in a bar may be of greater risk than singing... Although I note that bars are open with few restrictions while choirs are not recommended! Not that this means anything as bars are considered to be a vital part of the economy!

    For any experiment to be a fair test, we would have to make sure that people to not meet up after church services, not go for drinks together, not eat together, then we may be sure that the Virus was spread by singing.
    Thanked by 3Elmar Carol CCooze
  • Elmar
    Posts: 502
    You're right of course, I should have written experiment!

    Taking into account though that there are several thousend choirs in the country (church + secular) which are about to start this way, at least there should emerge some statistical indication concerning the question: does singing together lead to strongly enhanced virus transmission compared to other communal activity?
    (like going to church without congregational singing, which is still forbidden, and hundreds of different things, all being done with the same 5ft distancing rules)

    It's a bit like the re-opening of primary schools and kindergartens mid-May, without(!) distancing between children. The idea was that we'll see (until summer holiday) whether we get 'mysterious' clusters of infected parents all over the country. We didn't.
    The next experiment will be secondary schools after holiday ('as long as it lasts'), schools are required to make up a plan B, in case this experiment has to be stopped suddenly.

    Trial and error is very popular in Holland, it's the way they developed water defence systems over centuries in the pre-science era, and much of modern water management is still the 'arts' of engineering. same for Dutch 'trial and error' theology & liturgy
    Thanked by 2tomjaw Carol
  • Tomjaw,

    Yes! Of course you're right that it's not a scientific experiment. I was merely adopting the language Elmar proposed.

    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,922
    Our choir at my home chapel is back to singing, but there is one new regulation in place since Coronacation: choir members must attend rehearsal, or they won't be allowed to sing at Mass. Simply draconian.
    Thanked by 2tomjaw irishtenor
  • francis
    Posts: 10,697

    Some drac is necessary for maintaining excellence... i used to say the same with my choirs
  • This may imply that drinking in a bar may be of greater risk than singing

    Interesting comment. Our numbers have spiked up since bars and pubs were re-opened. The age group has changed as well to people in their 20s and 30s. It could also be the riots, though.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,987
    Bars/pubs are indoors and that and indoor dining are higher risk, as are indoor activities involving prolonged close-proximity to people who are not within one's own daily home or home-adjacent groups.

    Riots were relatively restricted in time and place, and for most places we're getting well past the point of direct infection relating to them. In Boston, which had one night with a riot following a protest, plus some opportunistic vandalism/looting in a couple of other times, so far the protests (which lasted longer but were outdoors and with widespread mask use) have not yielded much in the way of connected infections, and that includes intensive universal testing in the affected neighborhoods in the wake of them.*


    It is only today, 5 months into this here, that i was able to access universal-level (free, no appt, no referral, no symptoms required) testing in my own town. Demand was so high that it took 3 hrs 40 minutes to get through the drive-through queue.
  • MarkB
    Posts: 1,031
    My state (CO) governor has just issued an executive order requiring all people indoors in public spaces to wear masks. Places of worship are not exempt, except for those officiating. Bishop has directed all Catholic parishes to comply. Given the attitudes of much of the populace here, I fully expect some Catholics to show up for Mass without a mask and to remain in the pews if asked to leave. I'm wondering whether there will be showdowns in any businesses, churches or restaurants over this, as some people will choose not to comply.

    Does anyone have recommendations about masks that are the most comfortable to wear while singing, that permit easy breathing and don't muffle or distort the sound of the voice as much as other masks? Maybe I should ask which masks are least effective for their intended purpose.
  • CCoozeCCooze
    Posts: 1,259
    Due to diocesan policy, however, we can't force the choir to wear masks to rehearsal or to Mass.

    Wow! That's amazing. I wish that were a thing, here.

    Masks are stifling, especially when singing; when you are exhaling more than inhaling, and then quick inhalations are full of heat and CO2, rather than clean air. After a while, during a rehearsal, my lung capacity is more obviously impaired, my chest hurts when I try to take deep breaths, and my head hurts.

    Places of worship are not exempt, except for those officiating.

    Wow. That's crazy. Our mayor specifically said, when he caved to those calling for a mandate, that he hadn't the right to mandate them in churches (our bishop had already, though).

    which masks are least effective for their intended purpose

    Find the fabric that you can best breathe through. Look up how to make no-sew t-shirt masks.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,756
    I have only been allowed to sing inside the church proper once since March for a wedding. I had a molded n95 on and as I took large breaths during the psalm, it collapsed over my mouth and severely restricted my breathing. Kinda frightening in the moment, actually. I'd imagine that if masks need to be required, nothing more than a loose surgical or better still: cloth masks could be reasonably demanded.

    I've heard whisperings that a small schola may be permitted soon in our diocese, however nothing official yet. I have a hard time believing this, since at the moment we can't even have a cantor inside the church proper.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,987
    A different perspective, perhaps: remember times when one has prayed for patience? These are the times when those prayers are answered. (With generous opportunities . . . to practice patience.)
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 2,060
    I'm working under the assumption that there will never be a choir again, until somebody tells me otherwise; it hurts less that way. I'm researching solo literature. I've commissioned an up-and-coming Catholic composer to write me something. If all goes well, I'll be leaving the day gig at the end of the month, and will have more time to write more solo stuff.

    I'm blessed to be singing weekly. Yet, there's my Schola who are not singing, and as people, they're hurting. I need to throw them a party.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,756
    I've been thinking of throwing an (appropriately spaced outdoor) party as well. We are moving into a new house with a large back yard and I've been contemplating having our small choir over to sing one evening outside. They are hurting. I've had at least one choir member tell me that he sings with his family in the car on the way to and from church. I had someone else admit they were singing under their breath during a funeral because they just couldn't take it anymore. It's in our blood. We "can't not" sing!
  • IdeK
    Posts: 87
    A few notes on the French situation : here we are permitted congregational singing since public religious were allowed by the end of may (it depends on the diocese though, but the situation seems to be mostly the same everywhere). However, in here, orders are to "make it short" : no more than one verse per hymn, no full Gloria... The parish just north to mine chose to do only ordinaries and a sending forth hymn, to limit as much as possible the singing.

    Masks are compulsory whenever you enter a place of worship since the end of May, and places of worship must indicate social distancing (basically you can only sit on the seats marked, or unmarked depending of the marking). The priest and cantor can be unmasked but are required to stay as far away from the faithful as possible - priests are required to put on masks to give communion.

    Hymnaries are prohibited. I understand that was an element in the decisions of the northern parish, because everyone knows the ordinaries and the sending forth hymns were chosen from those everyone knows by rote (Ave Maria from Lourdes, Chez nous soyez Reine...)

    Even though we sing congregationally since six weeks, clusters here are often talked about in the media and I haven't yet heard of a Mass cluster.

    As far as masks are concerned, working with masks since May 11th and going to Mass (and singing congregationnaly with masks) since Whitsunday, I'd recommand surgical masks. Best respirability, best protection for your neighbours.
    Thanked by 2ServiamScores BruceL
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,756
    IdeK, thanks for the update from France. I wondered. Fortunately, many french churches tend to be quite large with high vaulting which helps with distancing and volume of air. In America this is decidedly less-so, although we do still have plenty of large churches around.

    We also are not permitted to have hymnals, and for a month leading up to our closure we only had single-use worship aids that I printed each week. We are technically permitted to have single-use aids again, however, since there's no congregational singing, there's no need for them since people can bring their missals (or look at their phones) if they want to see the readings.

    My priest and I are not particularly fond of our hymnals anyway, and they have been in service for quite a long time, so we plan on using this mandatory phase out to our advantage; we simply won't put them back after we get the all clear. (And, at any rate, I don't expect that will happen for a long time anyway.) We procured a new copy machine for my office so I can produce worship aids very easily once singing is permitted.
    no full Gloria...

    sounds horrible. What's the point then?!

    We have been reciting the Gloria, which, if I'm being honest, is one of the most anti-climactic things we can do liturgically speaking. It just begs to be sung.
  • As much as I hate to state it again publicly (knock on wood) we have had congregational singing since we reopened in Sioux Falls on May 16th (hymns, ordinary, responses). Social distancing yes, masks optional but encouraged (e.g. we have them available at all entrances). Crowds feel pretty normal for summer, which is to say 150-250 in a 700 seat cathedral. A couple of small scholae for ordinations, weddings so far. No problems as of yet, after more than two months. Our scholae have not been masked as of yet, partly because it wasn't such a divisive issue back in late May when we had ordinations.

    Yes, we will have choir in the fall. I'm thinking of various contingencies right now, all the way from just having it with whoever is comfortable, to a more managed and detailed split into octets. Masks in choir will likely depend on peoples' comfort level. I can even imagine having the "masked eight" and the "unmasked eight" if that's what people want.

    It is not my place as a choir director to provide a "zero-risk" environment - partly because this is physically impossible, covid or no covid. It is my place, as with all other voluntary human activities, to work with my participants to mitigate risk in way that is respectful to them and to their concerns.
  • IdeK
    Posts: 87
    Addition : the conservatoire in here is taking inscriptions for its choirs, even the Gregorian chant workshop which is directed by a 70-something, very kind lady.

    I don't really know what it is going to look like though.
  • IdeK,

    Do you mean "registrations" or "applications", rather than "inscriptions"?
  • mmeladirectress
    Posts: 1,077
    CGZ - per Merriam Webster:

    in·​scrip·​tion | \ in-ˈskrip-shən \
    Definition of inscription
    1a : something that is inscribed
    b : EPIGRAPH sense 2
    c : the wording on a coin, medal, seal, or currency note
    2 : the dedication of a book or work of art
    3a : the act of inscribing
    b : the entering of a name on or as if on a list : ENROLLMENT
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • Madame,

    My data base only goes to 3a. I didn't know about 3b, and I figured that (since IdeK's not a native English speaker) he might have grabbed the wrong word. There is precedent.
  • IdeK
    Posts: 87
    I meant applications and I absolutely happen to grab the wrong word. I try to do my best.

    (Besides : I'm a woman).
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,175
    CGZ, please do not nitpick non-English speakers (or anyone, really) about language. It is unhelpful.

    The Forum Guidelines address this:

    We're not all native English speakers
    There are cross-cultural aspects to being a Forum user. 30% of visits to the web site are from outside the U.S., and even some of our U.S. users weren't born speaking English. So if someone's use of English is a little odd, try to be understanding about any strange-sounding questions.

    And of course Ide is a ladies' name. The form "Ida" used to be well-known in this country.
  • Chonak,

    Just so I'm clear: I'm not trying to nitpick (which is always a negative thing) but to make sure that I've understood the original speaker. I'm also trying to help the non-native speaker use a less confusing term, so that his English improves.

    Since, however, you've misunderstood this, I shall desist from making any such comments forthwith.

    Thanked by 2chonak IdeK
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,188
    FWIW, I am going back to singing in the fall. My adults will return in Sept and my boys and girls choirs will begin after we return to in-person school in late August.

    Its time to get back to work.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw