Leading your choir through a crisis

At the time of writing this post, we’re all being affected by the COVID-19 coronavirus. The infection is spreading fast and is showing no signs of slowing at present. These are scary times as we face lockdowns, closures and quarantine.

Many of us rely on leading our choirs for our livelihoods, so the prospect of cancelling or postponing choir rehearsals and concerts is not at all attractive. How should we handle what’s going on at the moment, and what can we learn from this crisis when we’re thinking about the future.

Don’t panic!

I’ve been so impressed with how our choir leader community has handled the coronavirus crisis so far. The discussions in our Community and in our free Facebook group have been practical, rational and constructive.

It can be pretty scary when we read the news, but we have to react to what’s actually happening. There’s no point in running around with our hair on fire – that just leads to exhaustion and a bad hair day. Get your information from a variety of reliable sources. Stay up to date, but try not to ‘catastrophize’!

Take sensible precautions

Even if you’re in an area where official restrictions aren’t yet in place, it makes sense to take precautions against infection. If your choir is still meeting, remind everyone to wash their hands thoroughly before they come, after they leave, and as many times as they like in between! If you can, make hand sanitiser available as well. Keep physical contact to an absolute minimum.

If you usually have refreshments at rehearsals, consider calling a halt so that people don’t have to touch any shared items like crockery or containers.

And, of course, make sure that your choir members know that they should stay away if they have any cold or flu-like symptoms, or they have returned from an infected area.

These kinds of precautions are easy to implement and have little serious impact on people. It’s no great sacrifice to avoid shaking hands for a while and go without a cuppa.

Plan for the worst

We’re not going to panic, but we do need to think through the possible scenarios we might be faced with over the coming weeks.

If you have to cancel or postpone choir events, will you need to provide refunds on tickets? Do you have insurance that will kick in if certain circumstances arise? Do you know what those circumstances are and what documentary evidence you would need to make a claim?

If you rely financially on running your choir, how are you fixed if you can’t do that for a while? Can you make ends meet? If you’re worried, can you take any steps now that might help? Do you have financial commitments that could be paused for a while? It’s often possible to arrange mortgage or loan repayment holidays in a crisis and at the very least, it’s worth asking. Every little helps.

If you’re worried about letting people down by cancelling rehearsals or concerts – don’t. We’re all in the same boat. We know that health has to come first and that we have to protect our vulnerable friends and neighbours are far as we are able.

Hope for the best

However long this crisis lasts, it will, like all things, eventually come to an end. We will get through this by helping and protecting each other.

And when it’s all over, there will be singing!

Useful information

Here are a couple of excellent posts containing helpful advice and useful resources.

Coronavirus: info for leisure-time music groups

Coronavirus and community choruses: what can you do to prepare?

Comments on Leading your choir through a crisis

  1. I have been looking for ways to help people keep singing together now our community choir has had to stop meeting (-the majority of us in vulnerable age group)…the idea of a small group meeting, well spread, in the open air, is a nice idea. Also, I am considering these possibilities: some music reading help on line somehow, for those interested. Sending out emails on a normal choir day with suggestions for a warm-up to do at home + encouraging learning a new song from audios etc provided on our website, ready for when we can finally sing together again! I do wish there was a way for us all to share singing on line though…I know there have been big projects where choirs have sung together, but don’t know how they work. Any help?

  2. I run five community choirs for mental health and wellbeing. I’m going to have to find some way to continue virtually as it’s my full-time job and income.

    1. Avatar Victoria Hopkins says:

      Hi Emma. We discussed all those issues on a Facebook Live video today in our Mastermind group. If you’re not already a member, go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/tcrmastermind/, request to join and you can watch the recording.

  3. someone else mentioned at rehearsals spacing the seats out and if your vocal warm ups have lots of actions standing further away so you don’t bump into people – and not having any activities which involve touching the other choir members e.g. holding hands or hands on shoulders etc.

  4. thanks for the advice Victoria. good to think about how we keep in contact with our choir members and keep ourselves in their lives and benefiting from the power of music – ideas I have are regular emails, Facebook live chats, sharing music we want to do with them when it’s all over and reminding them of events we have postponed. One worry is that because of the extended break from choir, some members won’t return as it’s coming every week that keeps them coming, however good we are and the choir community is, change means people re-consider when they haven’t done something for a while. Maddie

  5. Avatar Catherine O’Rourke says:

    We have cancelled rehearsals and will re-schedule spring concerts for both choirs that I lead. Sensible discussions and consultation with both choirs were held before the decision was made. Both choirs rehearse in primary school halls and this was a consideration (the same as David)
    It was with a heavy heart that we chose to take this action, but knew that we needed to protect the vulnerable.
    I (and the members of choirs) wish everyone in every choir community all the very best. We live in the Welsh Marches (UK) and hopefully will be singing whilst gardening! We can’t wait for the crisis to pass and get back to normal – as we all love Choir!

  6. Does anyone know of an on-line, virtual choir rehearsal tool, where we can still connect with our members? Something like Zoom, but better? (Zoom has a delay so that doesn’t work for singing.) Thanks for any suggestions!

    1. Avatar Victoria Hopkins says:

      Hi Cynthia. I don’t think there’s anything that would allow you to have your singers able to hear each other accurately enough for them all to sing together. We’ve been working out ways for our choirs to sing along with us.

  7. Avatar Megan says:

    Sadly I’ve had to cancel both my choirs as I actually fall into the at risk category…64 with an auto immune disease and asthma!
    I can cover a few weeks but after that it’s going to get difficult.
    Nevertheless I think I’m doing the right thing…I also have a lot of older members who could be vulnerable…I would never forgive myself if I was the reason they became ill…

    1. Avatar Victoria Hopkins says:

      Hi Megan. It will be tough but as you say, you are definitely doing the right thing.

  8. Avatar David Meek says:

    Checking what additional cleaning your choir venue has in place is also important.

    1. Avatar Victoria Hopkins says:

      That’s a good point. Thanks David.

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