Christmas and Singing Groups in Ireland: Sing Ireland Statement 11/12/20
The holiday season is a time that is synonymous with singing groups and choirs. Sing Ireland has been inspired by the incredible ingenuity and passionate commitment of singing groups across Ireland to finding ways to celebrate singing at Christmas. These energised virtual performances are in contrast to the reality of face to face group singing this year; the pandemic has had a devastating effect upon the group singing sector. Sing Ireland recognises the sense of loss to the group singing community and the hard felt impact upon people’s health and well-being. We celebrate the clear necessity for connection that has seen a vibrant continuation of activity online, and in-person, during the limited periods this year where it has been possible to come together in person. Given recent announcements worldwide and advances with vaccines, we look to the future with hope and make a call to solidarity once more in, what we anticipate, will be the lead into the final stages of the pandemic’s effects.
Throughout 2020, Sing Ireland has repeatedly stated that singing is not dangerous but that the virus is. However, we also note the comparative risk of group singing versus many other activities that are similarly risky, some of which are already authorised to go ahead in Irish society. The science and research has now clearly shown that singing in a room has a similar impact upon the spread of droplets and aerosols, as does speaking loudly in a room.
We urge public health policymakers and government departments to carefully examine the science and to ensure that the 229,000 singers in singing groups and thousands of professional conductors and musicians that work with those groups, can make a living and be allowed to continue their work. Sing Ireland is not for a moment advocating for unsafe practices. However, the science is now clearly showing the ways to mitigate risk (set out by Sing Ireland HERE), when gathering and with the added benefit of vaccinations on the horizon we ask that careful consideration is given to our sector in the coming months.
Group Singing During the Festive Period
Clarification on Restrictions and Precautions
The Government set out the plan for living with Covid on the 15th September 2020: Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19. The rules on gatherings remain the same at each level of this plan. As the entire country is currently in Level 3, we clarify the below:
- No indoor gatherings of choirs/singing groups can take place. Unless it is for broadcast purposes and following the below guidelines
- Outdoor gatherings of up to 15 people in a controlled environment* can take place with risk mitigations undertaken as set out below. (Note: This must also include audience numbers)
Group Singing as part of Religious Services
On Friday, 4th December 2020, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC), issued guidance on behalf of the HSE, relating to religious services. As part of this guidance choir and carol singing has been prohibited:
'Congregational singing, choir singing and carol singing is not permitted, due to the increased risk of spreading virus to others present at the service. Solo singing in a religious setting such as a church or place of worship can only be done as part of an essential act of worship, and only if deemed
appropriate following risk assessment.'
See the full details and guidelines here: https://www.hpsc.ie/a-z/respiratory/coronavirus/novelcoronavirus/guidance/funeraldirectorsguidance/COVID_religious%20settings.pdf
Group Singing in Schools
On the 10th December 2020, the Department of Education issued further guidance in relation to the end of term and to Christmas 2020 in schools.
‘Current health and safety guidelines advise that gatherings be discouraged. Large school groups such as choirs should be avoided at present.’
‘However, Christmas singing whilst maintaining social distancing and within normal pod structures can take place outdoors.’
Sing Ireland previously ran information webinars and risk assessment sessions. Please find links to recordings of those webinars as well as to tools made available during the year HERE
*a controlled environment should include a risk assessment, tracing/management of participants, social distancing, masks, and have a covid officer and named organiser appointed from the group.