World Choir Games Flanders 2023

How to ensure that your choir is inclusive as Covid restrictions start to lift

  • [The views expressed in this blog are from my personal experiences from 25 years of leading non-auditioned community choirs in the UK, as well as adult singing workshops. My focus is on teaching by ear using a repertoire of songs from traditions across the globe. Your experiences may differ from mine, so do feel free to leave a comment and let's begin a conversation! A version of this article first appeared as a post on my blog From the Front of the Choir]

     

    Even though we’re still in the midst of a pandemic, some countries are slowly beginning to lift Covid restrictions to varying degrees.

     

     

    When your choir is finally able to rehearse indoors once again, how can you stay safe, but ensure that you’re as inclusive as possible?

     

    There are no easy answers to this so I’m not going to offer any. I’ll try and introduce the issues involved and discuss various approaches. Do leave a comment and let me know what your choir is doing, or if there is an approach I’ve missed out.

     

    entry requirements will exclude some

    There has been talk in the UK and other countries of requiring “vaccine passports” to enable people to attend certain venues and events. Some choir leaders have been thinking it’s something they might insist on before starting rehearsals again. Or maybe a negative lateral flow test. Or perhaps even a negative PCR test.

     

    But inevitably, such policies will exclude certain people.

     

    Some people will not be vaccinated. Younger people might not have been offered a vaccine. Certain individuals may have medical conditions which make vaccination risky. Others simply refuse to be vaccinated.

     

    Similarly with Covid tests. They are not necessarily available to all (or not available on demand). Results might take a while to come through. Lateral flow tests are not 100% accurate. There are those who still deny that Covid even exists, so they won’t be taking tests at all.

     

    Whichever way you look at it, having an entry requirement to your choir in order to keep everyone safe is not totally inclusive.

     

    accessibility in the time of Covid

    I hope that we all try to make our choirs as open and accessible as possible. That means we welcome those who are neuro-diverse, who are in wheelchairs, who have vision difficulties, who are gender non-binary, who are LGTB+, and so on. Our aim is that everyone has equal access to music-making and singing.

     

    Opening our choirs like this is not at all threatening to individual singers and should be celebrated. But opening our choirs to those who may carry a nasty virus can be a threat. In which case, inclusivity becomes more complex as we try to keep our singers safe.

     

    It’s worth remembering that viral threats are always present, not just during pandemics. It would be great in future ’flu seasons if singers decided to wear masks at the first sign of a sniffle! See Keep it to yourself! – why colds, singing and choirs don’t mix and The choir leader’s guide to catching a cold.

     

    Some choir leaders may simply accept that it’s not possible at the moment to be fully inclusive. They may choose to make a rule (e.g. vaccinations required) and – since it’s their choir – singers can choose whether to join or not.

     

    Others may ask their members. The trouble is that you’ll get as many different answers as there are singers in your choir! By trying to please everyone, you won’t end up pleasing anyone.

     

    There is no straightforward answer to how to remain inclusive as a choir. Inevitably you will be excluding some singers. Even if you open your choir up completely with no entry requirements, some vulnerable members will choose to stay at home.

     

    assess the risks and tell your choir what the plan is

    It makes sense to put some protective measures in place to try to keep your singers safe. That may be the requirement to have a negative lateral flow test, or it maybe that you insist on mask-wearing and continued social distancing (no matter what your government says).

     

    The most important thing is to let all your singers know what you’re doing. A risk-assessment handout will help.

     

    The other important thing is to try to cater for those who won’t be able to fulfil your entry requirement or who feel too vulnerable to attend at the moment.

     

    As I wrote recently in Finding positives from the pandemic when your choir finally gets back together, you might like to use the Zoom skills you developed over the last year or so to provide hybrid rehearsals: live and streamed online.

     

    Whatever you decide to do, good luck!

     

     

     

     

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    Chris Rowbury

    website: chrisrowbury.com
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