MINIMIZING THE IMPACT OF THE PANDEMIC ON SINGERS AND CHOIRS

It is almost certain that not much of live music and singing activities are going on all over the world right now. With the global health crises in our hands, it makes choral and group singing quite challenging.

The sudden impact of Covid-19 which has caused a pandemic no doubt will change the way and manner we will engage and play music – at least for now! 

Singers, musicians and music enthusiasts are exactly not sure of what to expect during this pandemic.

Similarly, the mode of music engagement and interaction post Covid19 poses a big question. Neither do singers and choirs also understand how rehearsals and live performance will be conducted. I saw a picture on the internet with some choristers wearing facemasks during rehearsals and a bold statement written beneath the picture “will this be the new mode of singing.” Somehow, I got inspired to write this post.

A report by the Los Angeles Times in March 2020 had it that some 52 singers were infected with coronavirus at choir practice. New report further state that singing can cause a large number of expiratory particles to be emitted. It is believed by some that singers may be super-spreaders of the disease hence, the need to close shop. If the social distancing rule will linger, then, there is need for conductors, choir directors, music coaches and instructors to device a means for music rehearsal and performance. Whatever side of the coin this turns too, one thing is clear; singing and choral activities will return fully when a vaccine is found. In anticipation, we should learn new ways of performing, rehearsing, maintaining fitness and relevance.

I have put together how music teams, singers and groups can minimize the impact of covid19 on performance and improve relevance.

IN-PERSON REHEARSAL SUPPORT

Asides the joy of singing together with others in a group, in-person rehearsals promote communal relationship. With this shared beauty and love cut off temporarily, there will be a need for online or virtual support. How viable is it for large choirs to observe social distancing rule during rehearsals? Well, your guess is as good as mine. With the perceived decline and absolute suspension of rehearsal and live performance, there is a great need to embrace online rehearsal as a support measure. Because singers are vocal athletes and they engage diaphragmatic breathing, generating much more aerosols which can spread further. The use of a mask is what some have recommended in rehearsals and performance. But how effective is wearing a mask while singing?

Virtual rehearsal and performance bring a whole new approach and dimension to rehearsals, performance and music in general. Deploy whatever virtual system that works best for your choir or singers.

 

 

SOURCING AND SHARING MUSIC RESOURCE

No doubt also, that many singers all over the world are practising less frequently now which will inadvertently affect how fit they are; consequently, their performance. The reduced time, space, movement, restrictions and suspension of choral and group performance should not deter singers from also advancing their skills. Music instructors and directors should source for music resource/materials and send to their choirs; encouraging singers to share more of their music experience, challenges, resource and ideas together. Exchange of resource and materials are ways to continually engage, improve and motivate singers. If you aren’t practising, you should be reading or learning!

 

REACHING OUT

If you belong to a group, choir, forums etc. this may be the time to check up and reach out to others. Someone once jokingly said – “if you take up a “depression metre” (if there is anything ever like that lol) to read peoples state of mind, you may be amazed at the number of singers who are currently feeling down. Many may have lost loved once or gotten affected by the news of friends and colleagues being affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. Singers should be encouraged to reach out to one another in-kind and cash if possible.

 

MAXIMIZING TECHNOLOGY

Experts are warning singers that there is no way to safely rehearse and perform live at this time. This means in-house physical choir won’t be returning so soon – at least until a vaccine is found. Someone once said that with the advent of technology, you don’t need to be a professional as long as you have the right tools, apps and software to actualize your imaginations. Well, how true that is, should be left for you to find out.

We have seen technology put to its highest usage during the lockdown and now many nations and communities are gradually easing the lockdown. The use of technology should not decline. There are hundreds of apps, software and tools to aid singing and practice. Introduce these aids to your group and choir. Singers can continue to advance their skills and performance with virtual software or tools.

USE VIRTUAL TRAINING TOOLS

Of course, it’s no news that we are in a pandemic. We can only make do with the situation we find ourselves. This is also the time to really invest in training. Group training before now is usually not a focus for most choirs. The need to embrace it now to give singers a sense of oneness and to be on the same page is highly recommended. 

Perhaps, if singers converge with restrictions of facemask and spacing, music directors and instructions could take advantage of turning the rehearsals to training. After all, since choristers won’t be able to sing with a facemask on, why not train (they only have to listen and write).

There are millions of training, exercise videos and music training apps. Take advantage of this!

 

PRACTICE PRACTICE

Great performance ride on practice! On the changing landscape and new roadblocks for singers during this pandemic, it’s no news that the social distancing rule will affect mostly large choir (should singing commence again). Otherwise, how do you space a choir of about 50 – 80 singers; also putting into concern that spacing for singers may affect harmony and choral performance. Having observed this, group practice or rehearsal will not commence so soon.

 

“If your singing and personal practice are always inspired by choir rehearsals, rethink again. Now, no rehearsals.”

 

You may have to learn how to practice alone. Personal rehearsal will enable singers to build more skills and capacity. Create a daily or regular practice lifestyle.

 

INVEST IN SOLO PERFORMANCE

Solo performance may receive a wider audience, attention and acceptability because of the nature of its’ music, fewer hassles and mode of performance. After all, you do not require a choir to perform a solo. Singers may take advantage of this since it reduces the risk of transmission and singing alone can be fun sometimes. I understand that it may not be easy for some having gotten so used to singing in groups. But hey, would you rather keep mum than singing alone?

 

DECLINE IN CONFIDENCE

As industries are navigating the stress and aftershock of the covid19 pandemic, performance arts has taken a devastating hit. It’s really not enough asking singers to practice and warmup alone now. It’s almost certain that many are not practising at the moment with a lot more psychological drained. Music coaches, choir directors and instructors should at this period invest more in keeping the motivation level of singers high. 

There may be a decline in the number of attendances and online participation if introduced. Not everyone will want to take the chances of going to public space, hence, they may want to be extra careful. Encourage somebody today!

JOIN MUSIC COMMUNITIES

It’s also very important and helpful for singers to join other music groups and forums. Becoming part of a music group is awesome; and who says a music group has to always involve singing. There are hundreds of music communities, forum, sites and groups singers can learn from, interact and share their music or singing experience. 

 

One of the best ways to advance your music or singing skills is to subscribe to as many music/singing blogs, sites and forums. That way information comes to your doorstep.

 

With music resource sites, forums and singing communities online, singers are still directly connected to other singers anywhere in the world without any risk. Musicians and singers can be encouraged to be a part of these options. Singers can as well follow their favourite music artist online. That way, they are not completely left out on important news, resource and happenings.

 

WORKOUT PLAN

“To avoid being vocally lame, invest in a vocal workout to limit hitches and “RUSTINESS” post lockdown rehearsals.” – Hummony community. It’s no news that some singers may have tough times getting back to shape. How so? Watch what you eat. While working out, it’s important to mind what singers eat and drink this period. It’s important to pay attention to this to avoid “vocal obesity” and “vocal stiffness”.

 

MIMING PRACTISE

Okay! This may seem a bit strange but somewhat effective. However odd it seems, it’s true that many singers may find it difficult to sing alone due to the absence of accompaniment. On second thought, sometimes, the presence of a musical instrument can be distracting. Some singers “hide their voices” under the loudness of music instruments.

To give singers a slightly near rehearsal experience, miming practice is a simulating form of practice that gives a singer the feeling he or she is rehearsing with accompaniments and other voices. This exercise enables singers to direct the volume of the background vocals and accompaniments at will.

 

GO BACK TO SCHOOL

Okay! The world is not as busy as it should right now. Thanks to corona! This is the time you can learn those skills, moves and techniques you have dreamt of. All over the world, you’ll get to find singers, musicians and choir engage in music practically. The idea of music theory, studying music, learning certain rudiments of music is not popular. Singers and musicians hurriedly want to get on the microphones and instruments and start to play. There is a time to practice and there is a time to read.

There are free and cheaper online music courses now. Take advantage of the less busy moments and broaden your horizons in music.

 

WRITE SONGS

Hmm! This may look so tough; especially if one has little or no skills in songwriting. Writing songs is fun and another way of keeping singers busy musically. Well, if you are not exactly sure of how to go about writing songs, the best way to start is by writing. Get resource on how to write songs online and from friends. Regardless of how awful you think your songwriting is or maybe, make that attempt to write and get friends or your music coach to check them out. Write about something: fears, hope, love – experiences etc. Just make that attempt to write something. Write! Write!! Write!!!

 

LEARN HOW TO PLAY A MUSICAL INSTRUMENT

You really don’t have to play an instrument to be a great singer and songwriter. However, the ability to play a musical instrument will help you understand music more. If you are not so busy, you can try learning how to play one. There are basic and advanced video tutorials on how to play any musical instrument in the world. Well, if you are not planning on buying or having any instrument, try improving or learning solfa notation skills.

 

USE PLAYBACK DEVICE

Okay, I encourage singers to try this. Singing and recording yourself is another productive way of knowing how well you are faring with your voice. The truth is the state of voice you left or had before the coronavirus pandemic is likely not the state of voice you have now. The way you hear your voice when singing is different from when it’s been played back on a device. That way, you’ll get to hear and know how clear, husky, weak or strong your voice is or have become. Using a playback device regularly helps singers to refine and improve their tone or quality.

 

FINAL THOUGHT

At least a choir in Czech Republic has shown us that it’s possible to wear a mask and perform live. Having recorded success in performing Johann Sebastian Bach -Motet, what’s more? However, some have expressed dissatisfaction with this saying that facial expression which is a key factor in expressing music is missing. Others have expressed the exposure of C02 syndrome. What a new pandemic reality!

Lawrence Dieyi

Lawrence Dieyi

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