Information gathered by the European Choral Association, partly updated November 21
(Chapters in grey are from 2020 mostly and may no longer be up to date!)
Disclaimer: The articles and pages quoted do not reflect the opinion of ECA-EC!
The worldwide Covid-19 crisis in 2020 has disrupted the lives of people almost everywhere, and the choral world has also been affected heavily in most countries. However, the situation is not the same everywhere. We are closely following the developments and listening to the needs and wishes of the sector and trying to respond to questions that are reaching us. As European association one important role we can have is to find examples of good practice and spread them within our network to avoid that each national choral association / each conductor or choir manager has to start from scratch. At the same time we also have to be careful: While all European countries have been affected by the crisis, the countries have not been hit equally, the response of the governments partly differered and the “exit strategies” from lockdown also differed. While in some countries people were strictly confined at home, other countries allowed free movement, and some countries even continued with schooling and other group activities. This also means that we cannot tell our members that “this is the way to do it”, especially when it comes to the question in how far physical rehearsals and performances can take place. Also things are changing fairly fast in most countries in October 2020, with many countries going into new lockdowns or part-lockdowns and rehearsals and performances being forbidden again in many places.
Whatever we may write in this document and whatever your colleagues in other countries may be doing, you will have to follow the rules and regulations of your country or your regional / local government. Also please note that the articles and pages quoted do not reflect the opinion of ECA-EC!
Press Release in June 2020: Singing improves people’s lives, now as much as ever
In June our Board decided to publish a press release on the fact that it is not singing that is dangerous but Covid-19 is, and that those who have had financial losses due to Covid-19 need to be supported.
Initial Press Release and Facebook post “Sharing is Caring”
Mid March, when the Covid-19 crisis started affecting more and more European choirs, our Board and Youth Committee were supposed to meet in Bonn. During the last days before the planned meeting we found out that travelling would not be an option for most Board members, and the meeting was quickly turned into a two-day online meeting. During this meeting we formulated a first press release in response to the crisis and we decided to create a platform for our network to share interesting tips and ideas (on our Facebook page, “Sharing is Caring”).
Members’ Zoom Cafés and Webinars
Inspired by the members’ “Lounges” of the European and International Music Council we decided to set up a weekly Zoom-Café with members. The first editions of this café mostly allowed our members to meet, to see members of our Board and team and to share their concerns, questions, wishes and needs. In a 2nd phase we offered more specific sessions for different aim groups or on special topics.
We had already planned two webinars in 2020 before Covid-19 struck. During the pandemic, these webinars became even more relevant, and we added additional webinars.
As European Choral Association we have participated in a number of German and European surveys on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the choral world, among others the surveys of the European/International Music Council and Culture Action Europe.
We have contributed with the knowledge we had from talking to people and reading information, but we wanted to be able to give a more concrete picture and also find out for ourselves how the sector has been impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. Please share your experience with us! https://bit.ly/2USVxD2. It is important for us, as a European network, to have our ears “in the field” and hear from all of you involved in collective singing/choral music what impact the COVID-19 outbreak is having world-wide. While the detail of the impacts may vary in some ways from person to person, for the majority of you the impact of COVID-19 on your choral life has been substantial. >>> You can access the survey summary document here <<<
In June 2020 we sent out a short survey to our member organisations and Music Consultants, asking what the situation was like in the different countries at the end of June, to find out whether singing was banned, advised against or allowed and under which conditions, and we are compiling answers./ In Spring 2021 we published a new survey “looking back” after 1 year on the impact of Covid-10 on the sector (see www.EuropeanChoralAssociation.org/Covid-19)
On the next pages you will find an overview on resources, inspiring ideas and interesting texts. If you think you could contribute with additional links, please feel free to do so, making sure that you only share information from reliable sources that are of general interest. Thank you very much!
Towards the end of April 2020, when we organised our first Members’ Zoom Café, the most burning question for many choirs (and other performers) across Europe was: “When and how can our choirs go back to regular, physical rehearsals?”: In the meantime many choirs have started singing again, though there are still many open questions and differing guidelines in different countries/regions.
There are some “general rules” that seem to be considered as safety rules in most European countries for any group activity during the crisis and probably until a vaccine has been found and is broadly available or until a cure can help avoid deaths from Covid-19:
You can find an interesting simulator showing the effects of different measures -> here
More importantly, it seems to be fairly clear by now that Covid-19 is mostly transmitted through the air, through “Aerosols” and droplets that you spread when sneezing and coughing, but also when talking or breathing with your mouth open. Even though there is still little specific research on the effects of singing so far (see 2.1.3), existing research suggests that any activity where you speak loudly, shout, sing, breathe heavily / breathe in more deeply is considered more dangerous, especially when this happens in a closed room full of people. Also there are examples of a few choirs in the US and in Europe where it seems that the majority of the choir was infected during a rehearsal, though there is no proof whether the singing as such was the reason, or merely the fact that a lot of people where in a room with little air for a certain period of time (see for example article -> here). Most of these cases happened pre-lockdown when awareness was still low. In September there was one report about a mass infection of a choir (see -> here), though it was later confirmed that they did not respect the safety protocol. There are also studies that suggest that certain consonants would spread more aerosols than vowels and humming may be a good way for choirs to start singing. You can find the official position of the WHO on the transmission of Covid-19 ->here. For a collection of research on aerosols please check www.virmus.nl. / New (9-20): Choral organisations and choirs may find it useful to do a risk assessment, see an example done in Ireland -> here and one published by ABCD (UK) -> here / New (11-20): There is also a risk calculator -> here / New (11-2020): El Pais published a good article with models showing the risk in different situations -> here.
As long as the opposite has not been proven, people deciding whether and how a physical rehearsal may be possible again will carry a heavy responsibility in case something goes wrong. It also means that regular rehearsals of bigger choirs as well as regular performances may not be possible for quite a while and there might be a difference between professional vocal ensembles and choirs starting activities again (who are fully making their living through singing), and what will be recommended to amateur choirs (even though their conductors are partly also making their living through conducting choirs).And decisions about restarting cultural activities, and more specifically choral rehearsals and concerts/performances will differ from country to country,with some countries/regions having restarted in May, others still warning and not allowing any collective singing activities (see 2.1.4 below).
Our partner organisation ACDA in the USA together with the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS), Chorus America and a Barbershop Society offered a Webinar in the beginning of May “A Conversation: What Do Science and Data Say About the Near Term Future of Singing.” The recording is available on NATS’ Youtube Channel -> here. / (there were some technical difficulties at the beginning) / Resource document shared with participants -> here / Powerpoint presentations of the speakers: Future of Singing PowerPoint / Future of Singing PDF / Catherine Dehoney Power Point / Catherine Dehoney PDF / Donald Milton PDF / Lucinda Halstead PowerPoint / Lucinda Halstead PDF
Other sources of information in English:
In the US a doctor is streaming videos about the dangers of singing -> here and -> here.
Dr. Dr. Adalja from the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security did a podcast with a risk assessment -> here. / You will find a collection of studies and articles in English -> here. / And a well-written article -> here.
We also found this good video summarizing the situation after lockdown -> here
In Alberta, Canada, they have published a comprehensive analysis of the situation -> here as a basis for the guidelines they formulated for choirs (see end of chapter 2.1.4 for those)
In Australia they also organised a Webinar on these topics -> here /
While there are a number of studies dealing with the probable transmission of Covid-19 through droplets and aerosols (see for example -> here, -> here and -> here, German article -> here), there are a few studies saying that the infectivity / the virus-concentration in the aerosols is not very high (see for example -> here, though the conditions of the research are not necessarily transferable to everyday life situations). Over the last months several studies dealt with the question whether singing is more dangerous than other group activities or not, measuring droplets and aerosols emitted while singing..
Study on singing and aerosoles, Medical University Vienna & Chorverband Österreich (see below)
In the Netherlands they have gathered a consortium that would like to encourage research specifically on the effects of music-making. This research project initiated by the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra (RPhO) and supported by all major Dutch orchestral and choral associations is carried out by Delft University of Technology (TU Delft). The aim is to publish and review the different articles and come up with clear and scientific based advice for singers and wind musicians. See https://www.virmus.nl/ where they have started collecting existing research, including contradicting research about aerosols.
They also did an interesting Study in the Netherlands on ventilation and singing -> here.
In Germany - Update (7-20): In July 2020 the Technical University Berlin and Charité published a study proving that more aerosols are produced singing than talking or simply breathing, see -> here / in English -> here, and an article in FAZ explaining that the conclusions drawn do not mean singing can be banned generally, see -> here.
This follows the previous study on aerosols by the same university in Berlin, see -> here. / Update 10-20: Later they published a study on singing and aerosols with children, showing that they emit fewer aerosols than adults (but can produce more when they shout, e.g. cheering about a goal in a soccer game, than an adult singing), see -> here
Update 10-20: You can find a good overview on studies about aerosols ->here
There is a detailed risk evaluation document developed by the Institute of Musical Medicine in Freiburg, based on a study done with the Bamberger Symphoniker Orchestra and Choir and Prof. Richter from the Institute, see -> here / French -> here / Spanish -> here and -> here, (other languages -> here). Update 7-20:This lead to updated recommendations, recommending a distance of 2 m between singers but adding that risk management is important, which includes evaluating the size of the room and the number of people in the room, good ventilation and possibly wearing face masks. See -> here, English translation -> here / They also researched breathing with masks etc., see -> here (11-20)
There is similar research by the Institute of Aerodynamics of the University of the Bundeswehr in Munich, see -> here and -> here, English summary -> here.
They recommend a distance of 1,5 metres and some other measures. / A doctor in Munich quoted this research after listing all the health benefits of singing which would seem especially good in times of Covid-19 -> here../ And there is a study by Bayerischer Rundfunk where they also investigated singing and aerosols -> here, First results -> here, with recommendations to keep 1,5m between singers and 2, better 2,5m between rows, good ventilation and possibly singing with surgical face masks.
There are good articles on the situation in Germany -> here, -> here.and -> here/
Update 11-20: In Halle an der Saale they made some research on restarting concerts & performances under the title “RESTART-19” mostly aimed at helping event organisers understand the risks and introduce safety measures, see -> here (in German)
New (12-20): There was also a study on how safe audiences are in concerts, see -> here
In Austria the Wiener Philharmoniker also did a similar study, see -> here, Spanish translation -> here, French -> here. The Chorverband Österreich commissioned a study with the Vienna university on aerosoles and singing, see -> here. They only observed the emission of aerosols, not their distribution in a room over time and not the role they can play in infections, but they showed with the pictures they made that aerosoles are not distributed over a significant distance. They recommend wearing facemasks for singing.
In Norway, Thomas Caplin is conducting a quantitative research project, gathering data from some choirs in May and June after the start of rehearsals at the end of April, with the aim to prove that it is safe to start singing together. / The Norwegian Choral Association is doing a research project in cooperation with a research institute and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, where they will measure droplets and micro-droplets during singing compared to talking. We will share the results here when they will be available. /
New (9-20) There is a study on droplets and singing by SINTEF in Oslo, see ->here,.
In the UK Martin Ashely from ABCD has reviewed a lot of research, see ->here and -> here.
Another study announced: known as PERFORM (ParticulatE Respiratory Matter to InForm Guidance for the Safe Distancing of PerfOrmeRs in a COVID-19 PandeMic) and supported by Public Health England, see -> here. New (9-20): He also launched a survey, see ->here.
New (9-20): Ruth Barker made a poll asking how many choirs started singing live again, how many only work online and how many have not started singing at all, see -> here.
New (10-20): In the UK and Sweden they published results of studies concerning aerosol emission during singing and talking, showing more aerosols are emitted while singing than when speaking normally, but when speaking loudly the effect is similar, so volume is an issue. You can find a summary of the two studies on VirMus.nl, -> here, UK study -> here
New (11-21): A recent study compares singing, wind instruments & talking, see -> here.
In Catalonia, Spain, they have decided to do some research with different types of face masks and shields, in order to test how many aerosols get through which type of masks, and how they modify vibrations. They also looked at existing research -> here and ->here.
In the USA an aerosol study was carried out by an international coalition, to study the effects of covid-19 on the return to the rehearsal room, which ECA-EC supported (see details -> here). New (11-20): The full results were published recently, see -> here, especially Annex E, there is a poster with the 5 main recommendations -> here, you can find some comments -> here, FAQs -> here, a “transmission tool” -> here, and videos -> here, -> here & ->here. New (4-21): Latest update -> here / New (12-20): A new study on aerosols was published in early December 2020 in Princeton, see -> here.
In Canada research was started with the aim of assessing whether singing in groups is a super-spreader activity, see -> here.
In France, France Musique translated a number of articles quoted here into French, with a reference to this document, see -> here.
By end of June 2020 most countries started or announced allowing collective singing under certain conditions, mostly distancing (between 1m and 3m), partly wearing facemasks, partly only singing outside. You will find below what we are aware of (using google translator or DeepL translator you will be able to understand most of these texts).:
In Austria choir singing was allowed again at the end of May 2020. Chorverband Österreich published detailed recommendations for choirs -> here and guidelines for choirs based on the studies made in Germany (see research in 2.1.4), recommending a 2-metre distance, rehearsing outside and for inside rehearsals 5m² per person see -> here.
Update 5-21: singing was allowed again from May 19th 2021 see ->here.
In Belgium In Flanders from July 2020 singing was allowed with 2 metres distance and facemasks, see -> here. In Wallonie rehearsals restarted in June 2020, see -> here.
New (9-20): in September updated regulations were published -> here,
New 11-20 and in November activities mostly stopped until mid-December, see ->here
In Estonia public concerts and other public events were allowed from June 1st 2020- with max 50 persons as auditors inside and with max 100 persons as auditors outside. Distance between people had to be 2 m and max half of the seats in the hall filled. From July 1st 2020 public events in Estonia were allowed with max 500 people indoors (still with 2 m distance and max half seats filled) and 1000 people outdoors (same rules). The government produced special manuals for organisers of public events, youth camps etc,
In France In June 2020 A Coeur Joie published guidelines for the “reprise” ->here. The Ministry of Culture published recommendations for musical activities, including preconisations for choral singing (2m lateral distance, one line recommended) ->here Platforme Interrégionale published resources for (vocal music in France ->here. They also published guidelines for choirs -> here. / There were also recommendations on distancing in audiences, see ->here /New (10-20): A Coeur Joie published an evaluation on the influence of Covid-19 on singing on their Website -> here. This included recommendations on ventilation, room size, etc. / Côme Ferrand Cooper, director of ACJ France spoke on National television about choirs restarting rehearsals, see -> here.
Update (05-21): Collective Singing will be allowed again from June 30th 2021. See -> here.
In Germany there were no national government recommendations valid everywhere, but most regions permitted rehearsals again in June 2020. Deutscher Chorverband published general recommendations, see -> here and sample guidelines for choirs -> here. Allgemeiner Cäcilienverband Deutschland and Pueri Cantores published guidelines for church choirs -> here. Nordrhein-Westfalen the rules were changed in September 2020, saying that singers have to stand at least 2 (instead of 3) metres apart from each other and there should be a distance of 4 metres between performers and the audience, and there are also clear rules on audiences in, see -> here, see sample guideline -> here[b].
In Niedersachsen they developed first guidelines for choirs restarting, see -> here in Rheinland-Pfalz they were allowed to sing from June 10th 2020 based on guidelines provided by the regional choral association that foresee 3 metres between singers on all sides, regular breaks and wearing masks when not singing see -> here, and Berlin also published guidelines -> here though singing indoors was forbidden in Berlin until July 21st 2020. Bavaria banned choral singing inside and outside for a while but decided to lift the ban mid-June 2020, see -> here, they also published guidelines -> here.
Update 5-2021: In spring 2021 Bavaria was the first region in Germany to announce that amateur music rehearsals would be possible again from May 21st 2021, see -> here
The VBG (work insurance) published guidelines for theatres etc. where for the professional performing arts sector - which originally recommended a distance of 6 metres between singers and 20m2 per person for rehearsal spaces - updated its standards after recent research to a distance of 3 metres between musicians including singers.
The German Music Council / Deutscher Musikrat has published an advocacy call to not globally forbid singing indoors, see -> here.
In May the Music University (Musikhochschule) in Freiburg together with the Institute of Musical Medicine in Freiburg updated its recommendations a second time, see -> here. The new update is based on the fact that the Robert-Koch Institute stressed the possible importance of aerosols for infections. After previously recommending a distance of 2 metres based on tests which mostly dealt with droplets, they are now recommending big rooms, short rehearsal slots and if possible the wearing of face masks.
One of the German Choir association VDKC published their own guidelines ->here
(maximum 20-25 people, singing with face mask, singing at 5 m distance from each other and some additional rules).
When church services were allowed again, a warning was issued that loud singing should not happen during services. In some regions it was allowed later, in others singing remained banned. During lockdown between October 2020 and May 2021 singing in small groups was partly allowed in church services, but the visitors were not allowed to sing.
Black humour: Song by the “Happy Disharmonists” about choir singing being the most dangerous free-time activity in the world see -> here
In Ireland Sing Ireland was continuously monitoring the situation at the Levels (1-5) that have been set out by the Irish government. Choirs were able to rehearse in person under certain circumstances in 2020, taking risk mitigation measures. Sing Ireland also has a dedicated website for choirs and Covid-19 -> here and they organised several webinars on the possible return to rehearsals and digital alternatives, see -> here.
In Italy Feniarco is collecting and sharing information -> here, the association did not publish specific protocols for choir singing, they were pointing to the directive of June 9th 2020 -> here (p 32): a distance of 1 m between singers and 2 m between rows was recommended. New (9-20): After singing in schools was first forbidden, it was allowed again, see -> here New (04-20): In spring 2020 singing was partly allowed again with young people, depending on the regino.
In Latvia singing started again in late June 2020, with distancing, see a video -> here.
In The Netherlands the association Koornetwerk are regularly posting updates on their Website. Latest update -> here. The government strongly advised against singing until June 2020. From July singing was allowed, in September infection figures went up again..
In Norway the Norwegian directorate of health published guidelines for music rehearsals (Update from April 30th -> here, including calculation methods for the space needed for rehearsals keeping a distance from each other of minimum of 1m:
Group size additional buffer 3m2 per person minimum m2 in total
< 5 10 m² 15 m² 25 m²
< 15 20 m² 45 m² 65 m²
< 30 30 m² 90 m² 120 m²
>50 30 m² 150m² 180 m²
ATTENTION: these are GENERAL guidelines for musicians, not specifically for singers!
English summary for choirs -> here (figures may not be fully up-to-date in the translation!)
Recently for children and youth under 20 the distance rule can be dropped if needed.
In Portugal the choral association has published a recommendation to continue rehearsing online until more scientific studies are available. They think that singing with face masks is not really feasible. They are planning an online conference later in June, see -> here.
In Spain there are different regulations in different regions:
The federation of choirs in Madrid (Spain) choirs started rehearsing with masks. / The Madrid federation shared a simplified version of guidelines for choirs ->here. In June they published new guidelines reducing the distance needed from 2m to 1,50m, see -> here, also see Facebook page on choirs and Covid-19 -> here
In Catalonia, Spain, The Catalan choir associations published a detailed document with clear rules for choirs for the possible return to life rehearsals, see -> here which include rules on who should come to rehearsals and who not, recommendations to wear face masks, the space needed (2 m distance between singers or if in 2 rows, 1,5 metres between singers’ shoulders and 2 metres between rows, at least 2 m between conductor and 1st row), FFP2 masks for singers plus a face shield for the conductor, hygiene protocols to follow etc. They also produced a simple poster for singers -> here.
Also see Websites of MCC and FCEC to download documents in Spanish & Catalan.
In the Basque Country EAE has also published guidelines which you can find ->here. They include some drawings on how to place singers and the audience (we will share a link to a PDF as soon as it will be available online).
In Valencia Music Bands were asking for advice in spring because there were no government instructions for bands (or choirs), see -> here
In Switzerland rehearsals and concerts were not allowed again from June 2020 under conditions. The Swiss choral federation Schweizerische Chorvereinigung gave recommendations that most choirs are following, see -> here - they had rules for adult choirs and rules for children and youth choirs, and you can find translated versions by clicking on the French or Italian language version of the Website.
The Swiss State has published regulations (not very specific) -> here.
New 11-20: In October they published a “Choral Lockdown”, see -> here
Update 4-21: Choirs were allowed to start singing again with 15 people, see -> here
In the UK, a research review done by Professor Ashely (see -> here) and a paper he published on aerosoles and singing (see ->here) helped choirs plan their way out of lockdown. ABCD offered a Webinar on “The changing face of choirs - adapting to Covid-19”, were the scientific situation and recommendations drawn from it were very well explained -> here / In July singing was allowed for professionals, but not amateurs, see -> here, chapter 4.2. A group of UK based conductors and composers wrote open letters “Covid-19 has silenced choirs”, see -> here / Singing Network UK wroten an Open Letter demanding a safe return to singing recently, see ->here. Also see BBC report -> here. In August the latest performing arts guidelines (see -> here) made it possible to start rehearsals again. In September there was some confusion because the general social guidelines (see ->here) were in contradiction and stated that choir rehearsals MAY be possible. At the end of September it seems that the problem was solved. Latest recommendations -> here (11-20)
And some examples from outside Europe:
In the US ACDA published very detailed guidelines and recommendations for different types of choirs -> here. There are also rules on distributing audiences in concert halls - see the article on what this means regarding income from concert ticket sales -> here
New (9-20): An example of a choir formulating detailed recommendations -> here
Updat 4-21: In the US choirs started singing again slowly in February 21, see -> here
In Canada (Alberta), they have developed guidelines -> here (new 9-20: Updated version ->here), and there was a Webinar Webinar on COVID-19 and Choral Music in Canada -> here. A group of Canadian conductors wrote an open letter asking for a dialogue on a safe restart of choirs -> here.
New (9-20): You can find recommendations from New Foundland -> here
For South-East Asia there was an online discussion available as recording -> here.
During a meeting with advisors of the Singing Network we also heard choirs in Lebanon are singing again, also in Israel with part-choirs or outside where some sing with shields.
The Salzburger Festspiele wanted to demonstrate that cultural events can also happen during Covid-19 times and there can be exceptions concerning the distancing between actors and musicians, if they regularly get tested. The sports model, which was accepted for soccer originally, is now partly being adapted to culture and orchestras/choirs/theatre groups can ask for a special permit to rehearse and perform without social distancing if they can prove that they are being tested regularly and if they go into quarantine as a group, staying apart from other people. In Dortmund the Balthasar-Neumann choir and orchestra performed the Creation at the beginning of September following these rules:
Others have developed similar concepts to allow them to rehearse and perform under “normal” circumstances at least for limited projects. Some simply isolated as a group for a rehearsal period of minimum 2 weeks, so they knew they would not endanger anybody outside the group and the members of the group accepted the risk.
In most countries choirs had to stop singing for a while in early 2020. When they started rehearsing again, many looked for new, big, ventilated venues or started singing outside.
Some examples and ideas presented on Social Media:
There are some guidelines mentioned under 2.1.3 saying that singers have to wear facemasks for rehearsals and performances and you can see examples in chapter 2.1.6. On the other hand there are people who believe that singing with face masks is not possible, just try it out!.
With autumn starting in the Northern Hemisphere and temperatures dropping in many countries, choirs which were singing outside during the warm months are now looking at rehearsing indoors again. Most recommendations for choirs state that in addition to social distancing, general hygiene rules and maybe the wearing of face masks, ventilation is a crucial element for safe singing (new 11-20: also see video of WHO on this -> here). This can be “natural” ventilation by opening windows (ideally on 2 sides of the room), or the use of a ventilation system. The aim is to “exchange” as much air in the room in as little time as possible, therefore ventilation systems which merely cool or heat the air from the room rather than exchanging it for fresh air from outside, are less efficient or even dangerous, this is also true for small ventilators simply moving the air in the room. Finally you also should also have a look at the air-flow, used air should not be going towards singers, if it goes to the ceiling it’s ideal. If you use breaks in rehearsals to ventilate a room opening the windows, make sure to evacuate the room during this ventilation break. You can find more information on the page of A Coeur Joie ->here or on the PDF -> here (in French) and on the page of the technical university in Berlin -> here./ New (11-2020): ECDC issued information on ventilation where singing is also mentioned, see -> here
There is also the possibility to use so-called “Hepa filters” in the ventilation system.
Cultural spaces, music schools, schools etc. can also consider buying mobile ventilation systems, which come at different prices depending on the size of the room. A university in Munich tested such systems on the example of a TROTEC TAC V+ and came to the conclusion that they can reduce the risk of infections significantly, see -> here.
These mobile systems will cost several thousand Euros and are thus probably not an option for individual choirs. New (11-20): German conductors also recommended mobile systems -> here / New (6-21): The German association BMCO recommends a special ventilation system on page 30 (Absatz 9.4, Empfehlungen für Luftreiniger) in their guidelines -> here
Measuring carbon dioxide (CO2) levels can help judge the quality of ventilation / air exchange and it is possible to buy small devices which you can use for this (they cost around 100 or 150 €). The German association Deutscher Chorverband suggests that measuring 400 ppm means the air quality in the room is practically as good as outside and the risk of infections is very low.
In Germany a conductor is experimenting with a machine that sucks out the air from in front of the singers so that infected particles cannot reach others. See article ->here
UV could also be a solution since it seems it kills the virus. However, UV can also represent a danger to the singers if it is too close to their skins, and installing UV technique in your rehearsal rooms may be rather expensive / complicated. There are, however, “UV-filters” that cost between 1.000 and 2.000 EUR and could help filter the virus out.
The first tough decisions that had to be taken by many organisers of festivals and other choral events was: Can our event take place as planned? If not, should we postpone? Until when? Or do we have to cancel? These decisions are very difficult to take and they have a huge impact on the organisers with teams having worked for these events sometimes for several years, and the finances of the organisation possibly put in danger by the cancellation of an event.
While for national and regional events the organisers can mostly look at what their country / region / city decides about regulations for smaller and bigger events, international events in the coming months and year(s) are more difficult to plan since they also depend on the following questions:
Some international festivals have decided to postpone the actual festival, yet also organise a virtual / online festival. One example done very professionally can be found -> here, another example from the field of rhythmic music -> here and a very complex one including an Expo and panels ->here. /
In Estonia they did a very special virtual/online concert on Song Celebration grounds, see -> here. And the Zürcher Singakademieis offering “house concerts” or “garden concerts” with quartets, see -> here.
Organisers of international and national events are also confronted with many legal questions - will the participants be refunded by airlines and hotels for bookings they have already done? (see point 2.3 below). How is the legal situation with halls and other service providers you may already have booked and to which you may already have made advance payments? Usually the situation is easier if you have to cancel an event because it has been forbidden by the national / regional / local authorities and the service providers cannot provide the service you booked because they are not allowed to - then it should be easier to reclaim any advance payment you may have made. In case of international events things may be a bit more complicated if events are allowed in the country / regionally / locally but you have to cancel the event because foreign participants have no possibility to come. It is best to get some legal advice or help from public authorities to know what your rights are in this situation.
Many choirs had registered for festivals or had arranged for choir trips that now had to be cancelled. We are getting questions about how far they have the right to be refunded. On the other hand organisers of choral events also need to know what their obligations are if their event is cancelled.
When choirs paid a pure participation fee that does not cover accommodation and meals, the legal situation in the case of cancellation is fairly clear - the organisers are not able to deliver the product for which the choirs paid, and the choirs have the right to be refunded 100% (like in the case of people buying tickets for concerts that are cancelled). They can ask the participants to accept a voucher instead, or if the event is postponed to another year, to keep the money for that year, or they can ask not to have to refund the fee fully. However, this would be a volunteer decision on the side of the choirs. If participants cancel their participation because they are afraid to travel, even though the event has not been cancelled, the organisers do not need to refund them but can of course decide to do so.
If conductors, soloists, instrumentalists, speakers etc. have been invited and cannot perform because the performance was cancelled due to Force Majeure, there is no legal obligation for the organisers to pay a fee. Some organisations are paying a partial fee as a sign of solidarity with freelance artists, others who had to postpone the event are paying out a part of the fee in advance.
If choirs have booked a “package deal” through a travel agency, the agency is normally obliged to refund the full payment. However, travel agencies have been suffering from economic difficulties for a while and they often do not get their money back from hotels. They will therefore often also offer a voucher, but if you are not sure you will be able to travel with the same company again you can insist on being refunded. Germany made a suggestion at EU level to make it obligatory to accept vouchers instead of money (with the State giving a guarantee in case the company goes bankrupt in the meantime), but so far this was not accepted at EU level.
With hotels and airlines it’s more complicated - if you bought a non-refundable ticket you may not get the money back. If the flight is cancelled, the airline should normally refund, but many also offer vouchers instead. If a hotel was open and could have hosted the group, and the rooms were booked without refund possibilities, the hotel does not need to refund. They will also often offer vouchers instead. ..
The European Union is now trying to strengthen the rights of the customers so that they cannot be obliged to accept vouchers instead of money back and that they can also ask for the money back shortly before the voucher runs out in case they could not use the voucher.
Also see Webinar of ACDA, NATS and other partners on “what we CAN do” -> here.
The main question we saw on Social Media once rehearsals had to stop in different countries was “How can we do online rehearsals? Is there a software that will allow our choir to sing together online?” For the moment the clear answer to this is: No, so far no software allows a full choir to sing together online due to latency issues. However, it is possible to do online rehearsals during which mostly the singers’ microphones are muted and the conductor sings / plays the piano and all singers sing along at home (only hearing the conductor and their own voice). Some conductors will also let one or two singers sing along with their microphones on, trying to correct latency, but “singing together” as in a normal rehearsal is not possible.
Also there are several developers who are currently working on possible options that will take care of the latency problem. However, it is possible that these solutions (which partly already exist for smaller groups, see below) will not work for normal amateur choirs, since many of them require a person with high technical skills, and often the quality of the wifi connection at your singers’ homes as well as the quality of the devices they are using will mean that singing together will remain impossible.
Here is a list of possible tools you can use (also check a good overview -> here)
The most popular programme in the choral world is Zoom where only the conductor needs to buy the pro version (free for sessions up to 40 min, around 16 EUR per month for longer sessions with up to 100 people) and the conductor can optimize settings -> See different tutorials by Jim Daus -> here. It is also possible to rehearse in parallel breakout groups / Germans will find a good overview -> here or -> here. There is an instruction on sound settings -> here and (new 11-20) some tips and tricks for choral zoomers -> here
However, you can also use other programmes such as Facetime / Skype / Hangout / Jitsi / Discord etc. / There have been some worries about Zoom not being “safe”. However, they improved their safety measures in April 2020 and it seems that none of the other broadly available programmes is more safe, and many of them have restrictions in numbers of participants. There is a careful evaluation of the Zoom security issues in German -> here, compared with other programmes. Zoom can also be combined with other programmes: combining Zoom with different platforms, e.g. Soundtrap (see below) / The Azioulukas choir in Lithuania combines Zoom with Google Classrooms.
A German conductor suggested the combination of different tools and approaches for online rehearsals -> here, Deutsche Chorjugend is offering Webinars on working with digital tools, see -> here and you find an English overview on different programmes -> here (new 2-21)
None of these solutions seems to be perfect so far, though with most of them it is possible to make music together online, and depending on your equipment and the online connections, have a very reduced latency. Using good equipment and cable internet connection rather than Wifi helps to improve the quality of the experience. >> back to Contents
Hackathon Solution enablers (taken from www.digital-stage.org)
free download -> here .
Since attending live trainings is difficult for most due to travel restrictions, and especially international trainings are not possible, online trainings / Webinars have become more important in 2020.
On Social Media you see a lot of performances of choirs with lots of small pictures shown together on the screen. These “virtual choirs” became famous many years ago by Eric Whitacre who produced several sophisticated editions. What you see is, however, not “collective singing” but rather a technical solution to turn many individual singers into a choir for the audience / those watching the video. For such a virtual choir each individual singer records his/her voice alone at home, usually listening to a recording at the same time (to make sure everybody sings on the same pitch / in the same rhythm). Then all these videos are combined through a software into one “choir” (there are different programmes available).
There is a dedicated page for Virtual choirs on Facebook -> here
Facebook is working on a new app, available for Iphone via waiting list for the moment, that will allow producing music videos with musicians in different places, see -> here.
An new app has been developed in the US to help conductors produce virtual choirs. The idea is for the app to “display the conductor video on the screen while recording the singer...from one device! This will also ensure that all videos are identical in length and frame rate and size, meaning sync will be a dream in audio and video editing software as well as setting you up for a good project visually.” For details see -> here / New (11-20) Another similar app -> here - New (11-20) and German instructions for singers for this app-> here / New (11-20) Rehearsal Live Share, a tool to record a virtual choir simultanously, see -> here
There are also full “virtual choir concerts”, for example one in Austria -> here (lange Nacht der Chorantäne), and the Africa Cantat online Festival (see www.africacantant.org). So to keep your audiences interested you can also decide to share video or audio recordings of past concerts. Legal aspects: Please note that whenever you publicly share music in a recorded form you will have to respect intellectual property rights and performers’ rights. If you already have recordings on youtube you may choose to share those, but you must be sure that all musicians gave their consent to publishing recordings (also soloists, accompanying instrumentalists etc.) and that any rights for composers / publishers etc. have been paid. Since the legal basis may differ between countries (e.g. what is covered through global agreements between the collecting societies and platforms such as Youtube and Facebook) it is best to consult your national collecting society.
You can also ask singers to record their voice individually and then mix the voices (without video) together by using a programme such as Mixpad (Freeware)
World Youth Choir alumni singing An Irish Blessing
One of the challenges that is emerging is that while many musicians are sharing musical contents online, most of these contents are offered for free, so the musicians cannot earn any money with it. Also freelancing conductors often offer Zoom rehearsals mostly to make sure that their choirs will continue paying them because they are afraid that their choirs will otherwise stop paying them. While solidarity is working well in some cases, other choirs have already stopped paying their conductors or may do this after some months if they feel they are not getting “value for money”. Also freelancing musicians are often not covered fully by the emergency funds that exist in different countries. If physical collective music-making will not be possible for a longer period of time, models may be necessary that allow musicians to also earn money with online offers. There are already some examples of virtual concerts for which you can buy a virtual ticket, or virtual performances for which you can donate money (just as if there was somebody with a basket collecting donations at the exit of the concert hall or church). Also training courses (voice training, conductors’ training etc.) can be offered online against the payment of a fee.
During the Covid-19 crisis most choral organisations have to work with their teams working from home. This may require new ways of working together and the use of new tools. Also Board and General Assemblies have to be organised online. Below you will find some useful tips, tools and tutorials
The pandemic and the social distancing rules which mean that singers have to stand further apart than usually, have already inspired composers to write new music written especially for spaced out choirs and ensembles. You can find first examples here:
Information gathered by the European Choral Association, spring 2020