A Cautious Return to Group Singing 03/07/2020

Updated 03/07/2020

Group singing is a joyful and life-affirming activity. Sing Ireland is working towards the safe return of choirs and singing groups in Ireland.

Update: Sing Ireland would like to reiterate that it cannot advise that it is entirely safe for choirs and groups to return at this time. We will monitor the situation and scientific research and issue updates regularly. Further research is ongoing and will give a more complete understanding of the risks involved.

Sing Ireland has seen the inspiring resilience and adaptability of the group singing sector since the beginning of the emergence of Covid-19 in Ireland. We know that this perseverance and adaptability will be required again in the coming months and that singing groups in Ireland will undoubtedly rise to the particular challenges that this virus presents to the world singing community.

On Friday 19th June 2020, the Department of Health and NPHET (Republic of Ireland) offered an updated map on possible easing measures for the coming months. In doing so, an exit strategy was outlined in different phases, to slowly restart public and social life.

Arts Council of Northern Ireland have produced guidelines which are available HERE

Latest information from the Department of Health (ROI) can be found here: https://www.gov.ie/en/news/58bc8b-taoiseach-announces-roadmap-for-reopening-society-and-business-and-u/

Latest information from the Public Health (Northern Ireland) can be found here: https://www.publichealth.hscni.net/covid-19-coronavirus

After thoroughly examining the possible relaxations contained in the information from the Department of Health (ROI), Sing Ireland urges choirs and singing groups to consider how they can plan for a cautious restart of group singing. However, each group must take ownership of whether to start in-person rehearsals again and should they decide to do so, they must minimise risk and take every precaution when planning. Covid-19 is still present and an exacerbation of the virus is possible. The Irish government has now said it is possible to sing in groups, with restrictions as outlined HERE (halfway down the page), from the beginning of Phase 3 on the 29th June 2020.

Sing Ireland urges caution and to assess risk on an individual choir or singing group basis. Should a choir or singing group decide to return to rehearsals, Sing Ireland would urge them to appoint a risk assessment officer and follow measures and precautions to ensure that singing is as safe as possible and that they are protecting those who are most vulnerable. A risk assessment and resulting mitigation measures should be undertaken before resuming physical meetings.

Research is still ongoing in relation to the comparative risks of group singing and until further research data is available it is important that groups themselves will take on the responsibility of deciding whether and how a live rehearsal may be possible for them again. Importantly, it should be stated that singing is not dangerous but that the virus is. However, that simple fact does not reduce the risk. Regular rehearsals of choirs as well as regular performances may not be possible for quite a while and there might be a difference between how and when groups restart activities. How we do things now may necessarily have to change again so we ask that groups continue to monitor advice from Governments, the HSE (ROI), the HSC (NI) and Sing Ireland and continue to be adaptable.

Sing Ireland would, of course, ideally be in a position to advocate for a full resumption of activity but at this point the data is incomplete and we must err on the side of caution. Getting back to physical group singing rehearsals is important for the health and well-being of Irish people. Numerous studies show that singing as part of a group provides a wide range of health benefits such as improving breathing, posture and muscle tension as well as lessening stress and anxiety. Singing has also been shown to improve our sense of well-being and happiness.

Ideas, Tools & Resources

Sing Ireland will continue to compile examples, research and resources from around the world and is updating a page on our website on this regularly. Please visit that page HERE.

‘PLANNING FOR YOUR SINGING GROUP IN UNCERTAIN TIMES’ is a document by Sing Ireland to assist you in planning for a return looking at your structure and goals

‘SUGGESTIONS TO IRISH CHOIRS AND SINGING GROUPS’ lays out the recommendations by NPHET and the Government alongside further suggestions and recommendations from Sing Ireland.

Sing Ireland Will Continue to Work on Your Behalf

To date we have been running projects online and will continue to do so during the summer months. Please look out for information on this on our website and social media channels. A Sing Ireland webinar on the 8th July titled ‘Looking to the Future of Singing Groups in Ireland’ and dealing specifically with what choirs can do during these times is available for sign up HERE

We will continue to advocate and consult with colleagues in the music sector in Ireland and beyond to see what recommendations and best practice might be for the sector.