Neil Whyte, treasurer of Cadenza, fills us in on an exciting return to in-person activity as he prepares for a Christmas performance with his group.
Our return to in-person rehearsals happened in September 2021: the start of our choir year. As well as the obvious challenges posed by the pandemic, we had the task of finding a temporary rehearsal venue while the space we usually occupy was being renovated. Add the ever-changing advice from government, and it was a daunting undertaking coming up with a plan that would be suitable for our choir – members of which range from those in their twenties to those in their eighties.
However, we found the summary information provided by Making Music to be invaluable. It really condensed material from various sources into specific guidance for a choir operating in Scotland. The risk assessment template was particularly useful – not just as provided by Making Music, but also to learn how other local music groups had adapted it for their use.
'Regardless, we continue to ask members to take regular lateral flow tests and to stay away if they feel unwell. We provide a live Zoom stream of every rehearsal, which is also recorded for members to catch up on later.'
Visits to the rehearsal space identified how to best make use of the available area, maintaining a minimum 1m distance between singers. This allowed us to rehearse mask-free, while continuing to wear masks at all other times. We started with shorter rehearsals to avoid the potential for aerosol build-up and purchased a CO2 monitor to check air quality. We rehearse within a large, airy church sanctuary and the typical CO2 levels recorded start at 450ppm, increasing by around 100ppm by the end – well below our <800ppm target.
Engagement with our membership was also key. They told us they were comfortable with 1m distancing, and that vaccination uptake within the choir was 100%. Regardless, we continue to ask members to take regular lateral flow tests and to stay away if they feel unwell. We provide a live Zoom stream of every rehearsal, which is also recorded for members to catch up on later.
'There was a palpable feeling of joy as the choir heard each other sing for the first time since March 2020 – and no small feeling of relief from our MD, Jenny Sumerling, when the notes went together!'
It would be wrong to suggest there was no trepidation from members on returning. For many, meeting with 50+ people indoors for the first time in 18 months was a cause for concern. However, the feedback we have had from members is that they feel very safe and that the rehearsal experience itself is not compromised. There was a palpable feeling of joy as the choir heard each other sing for the first time since March 2020 – and no small feeling of relief from our MD, Jenny Sumerling, when the notes went together!
As for next steps, we have agreed as a choir to increase the duration of our rehearsals. We will continue to use our CO2 monitor, and review this decision regularly. We really look forward to our first Christmas concert in two years, on 11 December at Polwarth Parish Church. It’s so nice to know that we finally have a real event to rehearse for!
How have in-person rehearsals been going for your group? Let us know in a member blog (250-450 words)