There were many questions the German Choir of London had to confront when planning their Covid-secure rehearsals. Music Director Barbara Höfling reflects on why it was all worth it
When we ask ourselves if we want to start rehearsals in person or if we should rather stay online or pause rehearsals all together for the time being, we are immediately faced with a vast number of questions: Will anybody turn up? How are we going to organise it? Who will do the risk assessment? Is our venue big enough or do we need to find a new one? Can we afford a new, bigger one? What about members who need to shield? What if something goes wrong? In the worst case, what if our members catch Covid during rehearsals? Will we lose members if we don't rehearse? Do we have a social and mental health responsibility as well as a physical health one? Will our members lose skills? And last but not least, is it actually worth it?
Which of these questions to base your decisions on depends, of course, substantially on your group. The members of my choir, the German Choir of London, are predominantly young professionals with a German background or interest. Singing in this choir is for them as much about socialising, speaking German once a week and meeting friends with a similar background as it is about music making.
To this day, I get regular emails from members who tell me that to meet once a week with actual friends, albeit socially distanced, carries them through the rest of the week to face the countless obstacles of this crisis
Most of them sit in front of a computer all day for work (now mainly from home), which meant that on a technical level Zoom rehearsals were not a problem.
However, without socialising, choir tours, concerts and that strong sense of community, I could feel that despite all our efforts (we had a different voice teacher every week, we recorded virtual choirs and film music, learned new pieces together in sections and of course, there was a Zoom pub session after each rehearsal), the enthusiasm for online rehearsals waned after four months. And I can't blame them. I got tired of Zoom windows too.
So together with the choir trustees we decided that fear is not a good adviser. Two trustees sat down and filled in a risk assessment (very straightforward when you use Making Music's risk assessment template), we found a new, bigger but affordable venue (we were lucky that lots of venues were available as many groups had cancelled for the rest of the year), we bought several bottles of hand sanitiser, created an online questionnaire with google forms about symptoms and proof who attended, one of our singers offered to make a seating plan each week, everybody was notified they had to print and bring their own music as sharing would not be possible, and then we met. And we sang. With masks. Warm ups, new pieces and old favourites.
And not a single singer regretted it. Some had been anxious on the way there (after all, the questions above are still valid), but everyone left with the feeling that it gave them a tiny bit of their lives back. To this day I get emails regularly from members who tell me that to meet once a week with actual friends, albeit socially distanced, carries them through the rest of the week to face the countless obstacles of this crisis.
So at least one question is therefore answered for me: is it worth it? Wholeheartedly: YES!
- German Choir London (Deutscher Chor London) is a diverse, international choir of around 60 singers with a shared passion for music and a particular interest in German language and culture. Find out more on their website, or follow on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram
Has your leisure-time music group resumed in-person activities? If you'd like to write a blog about your experiences, or you have any pictures of socially distanced rehearsals you'd like to share, get in touch