By Joan Fearnley
This guest post is an assessment of choral practices and their relevance to COVID-19 outbreaks. Data was collected using secondary sources such as media and scholarly reports of events, contemporary guidance from choral organisations or local public health regulations, and on testimonials (when other sources were not available). It does not constitute, however, advice on how to run your choir rehearsal. Please continue to stay up to date and follow all public health protocols applicable to your region.
From day one of the pandemic choral singing has carried the “superspreader” label following tragic events of viral transmission. But is this label still a fair one given everything we know today? Based on a review of 24 superspreader events in choirs I can only conclude that it is not a fair depiction when health protocols are followed including masking. I have determined that the superspreader events studied happened when singing was almost certainly NOT masked. Meanwhile I have not come across any outbreaks when masks were worn.
Choral singing in the pre-pandemic format is indeed a potential superspreader as are other activities where humans gather, mingle, talk loudly and sing. But over many months choirs and singing groups have adapted and implemented safety measures. Nevertheless, every media report and scholarly study begins with that infamous case which you all know and I dare not name (but here’s the link). Inevitably most reporters/researchers stop there as if trapped in an echo chamber. There is no nuance and no discussion of safety protocols.
This post is part of a broader discussion around the relative safety of choirs compared to other activities such as sports and indoor dining as regions emerge from their restrictions. While I am aware of the importance of this broader discussion, it is beyond the scope of this post. I hope others will take up this work.
I wish to acknowledge the tragic losses and pain related to these choral outbreaks. I also wish to recognize that in the vast majority of cases choral leadership was acting in good faith within the public health guidance in effect at the time. These efforts most likely avoided viral transmission. I am also by no means imputing blame of any kind on leadership for these outbreaks. Rather, I value the importance of learning from these events.
Finally, I wish to acknowledge the support of Choral Canada for providing the space on their blog to publish this research. I also wish to thank Sonja Greiner, Secretary General of the ECA, for her help as well as the help from friends and colleagues in the choral and mask-making community for links to information, for sharing their experience, and for helping me when the language barrier was a bit too complex.
This post will begin with a review of these 24 cases and will be followed by some discussion on viral transmission in the choral context.
Masking and Singing
There is an emerging body of evidence that masks are an effective layer of mitigation in the community at large (here) and for singers (here and here). However, it is not a magic bullet. Rather, it is one of a suite of mitigation strategies that must also be in place. We need to better understand viral spread in choirs to ensure safe rehearsals where risks are reasonably mitigated and masking can be a part of that solution. I focused on masks for the following reasons:
Data Selection: Superspreader Events
Up until January 2021, an open-source list of superspreader events of every kind was actively maintained. It is the largest known database of its kind but it is not exhaustive. However it is extensive and I do not know of a better list (there are 2044 events that span the globe from Argentina to Zimbabwe). It is worth noting that this source was quoted by Dr Catherine Clase, epidemiologist from McMaster University, who presented at the Choral Canada mask webinar in December 2020.
Excluded and missing data
I eliminated outbreaks that were part of larger events or not consistent with the choral context.
Out of the 24 events, 7 occurred in March 2020 prior to lockdowns when virtually no safety protocols were in place. It is safe to say that no masks were used in these cases. This leaves 17 events from Europe that require further scrutiny.
It is worth noting that choral organisations in Europe were following their own state or regional public health guidance. European countries follow(ed) the WHO 1 meter distancing rule or most often a 1.5 meter rule as well as the usual hygiene protocols. However, in Europe, choir guidelines often stipulate that masks must be worn up to the moment of singing at which point they are removed. An example of this approach can be viewed here at timestamp 18:10 minutes. All events occurred indoors.
Three events occurred in October 2020. According to Ms. Greiner “In Austria when the infections happened, there was no general rule for wearing masks when singing”. This is also the case in recently published guidelines from the choral association. There is no reason to believe that masking rules would have been different in October 2020.
One event occurred in September 2020. The article referenced states: “La séance s’est déroulée «dans le respect des gestes barrières, avec distanciation et port du masque lors des déplacements », insiste Anne Koppe, cheffe de chœur. Le protocole n’impose pas le port du masque au moment du chant.” In other words masks were worn before and after singing and not during singing.
One event occurred in the fall of 2020. I have not been able to locate the applicable contemporary regulations in Germany. However various sources of information point to the most likely possibility that masks were not worn.
First, following this outbreak the choral association made the following statement (translated automatically): “Choirs who nevertheless wish to continue rehearsing are implored by the Presidium of the Saxon Choral Association to observe the developments in their cities, municipalities and districts and to comply with the applicable distance, hygiene and ventilation rules.” It is worth noting that masking is not mentioned.
Guidance issued in June 2021 states the following (translated with Google translate): “It is mandatory to wear a medical face mask. This can only be removed during the stay at the assigned space. Otherwise it is on ensure that the mask fits correctly (tightly).” Over the past year, I have observed that as regulations evolve around masking and choirs, mask use increases rather than decreases. Consequently, it is unlikely that masking during singing was required in October 2020 when it is not required now.
Finally, still unsatisfied with these findings, I crowd-sourced feedback from members of my Facebook group, Masks for Performers. Two German members were in agreement that masks were not required during singing. One of these members is in the same region as the choir with the outbreak.
Two events occurred in October 2020. According to the Italian choral federation website, in October 2020: “The entrance and exit from the stage must take place wearing the mask, which can be removed during the performance”. (Translation from Italian obtained automatically through my web browser.)
Six events occurred in September and October 2020. According to this study, “Face mask use in public places was not obligatory during this period.” (i.e. September to October 2020).
One event occurred in September 2020. According to Ms. Greiner “it turned out this choir had not been wearing masks and also not respecting other elements of the hygiene protocol”.
One event occurred in May 2020. It is well known that Sweden followed a different path to managing the pandemic including a position against wearing masks as detailed in this article which states: “Swedish authorities maintained their anti-mask position until December, when the prime minister, Stefan Lofven, announced a U-turn on the use of masks on public transport.” Masks would not have been worn in May 2020.
One event occurred in September 2020. According to this Wikipedia article, masking in enclosed public spaces was not mandatory at that time. The change in policy happened in October, after the September outbreak. It states: “In October 2020, following a rapid increase in corona cases, the authorities imposed stricter public health measures. These include limiting public gatherings to 15 people, prioritising home office and making masks mandatory in all enclosed public spaces.” Given the prevailing attitudes around choral singing and masking in Europe, it is unlikely that the choir would have been masked in September.
I have listed the events below in the same order but this time with my assessment of whether masks were worn along with a percentage score. This score is my confidence level regarding my assessment. A score of 100% reflects the fact that media and scholarly sources were clear about whether masks were worn. I opted for a score of 95% when no direct confirmation was obtained from any media outlet or academic source but where state policies did not require masks while singing. While it is always possible that a choir will choose to adopt additional mitigation measures it is also unlikely that masked singing was adopted given the prevailing attitude vis-à-vis masked singing in Europe at the time.
Any superspreader events with masks?
Choral Canada has been keeping a close watch on any possible cases of viral transmission. So far, Choral Canada is not aware of any Canadian cases of outbreaks or documented transmission related to the rehearsal itself. In addition, Choral Canada has heard about anecdotal events where choral rehearsals took place where members were masked at all times and with members who eventually tested positive and would have been positive at the time of rehearsal yet no transmission occurred (mitigation measures including masking were in place).
It is also worth noting that some choirs, mostly located in Québec, have opted for the European model where masks are removed for singing. It is unknown how many rehearsals were unmasked since the Québec choral association supports the use of masks while singing. The fact that no outbreaks are known may be due to the fact that few choirs opted for unmasked singing or because Canadian choirs follow the 2-meter rule (or more) while many European choirs have opted for the WHO 1-meter recommendation or 1.5 meters.
South of the border, on July 13th, 2020 the International Performing Arts Aerosol Study released it’s preliminary results. Following this, the National Federation of High School State Associations (NFHS) published a set of guidelines for choir and band rehearsals. These were widely adopted in US schools and spilled over into many choral organizations internationally including in Canada. Recently, the NFHS stated that “so far… there have been no known cases of spread within music activities...when all of the mitigations are at play” (see video). This statement is based on feedback from school choir and band programs where mitigation measures include masking. The NFHS are conducting more extensive analysis at this time and results are coming soon.
There are also some countries that are conspicuous by their absence from the list of outbreaks. For example Belgium and the UK. When I crowdsourced information from my Facebook group a member from Belgium stated that masking rules were strict in her country and masked singing was required when choral activities started up again after the first lockdown. I have also observed an active presence of members from the UK and many references to masked rehearsals. This points to the need for further study to analyse countries without choral outbreaks to determine if indeed stricter masking protocols were in place.
Finally, a test concert in Spain, with masked attendees and no distancing resulted in no transmission despite the presence of COVID-positive individuals.
Study Conclusion and call for more study
In all known choral superspreader events it was either confirmed or highly likely that masks were NOT worn while singing. Conversely, I have not come across a single report of an outbreak in a choral rehearsal when masks were worn during singing. While I cannot say that masked choral singing is 100% safe, there is strong evidence that masked choral singing is not a potential superspreader.
It is very difficult to prove the absence of transmission. It is much easier to point to something that has happened than something that has not happened; you might as well look for ghosts. Now is the time to set up mechanisms to collect data on the possibility of positive cases in choir rehearsals in order to assess whether transmission occurs or not. Data quality is much improved when collected in real time than after the fact when one must rely on people’s memories of events. This is, however, easier said than done. Scholarly advice should be sought when collecting any personal data for future study as this may pose issues related to informed consent and ethics.
Final thoughts: should choral singing always be masked?
Whether choral singing should always be masked is a question beyond the scope of this research. There have indeed been many concerts in Europe where singing was not masked and no outbreaks followed. It is difficult to know if this was luck, or if all their other mitigation measures were sufficient to prevent transmission. It might simply be a combination of the two.
Masking is only one layer of a long list of factors and safety measures. Contrary to 2020, we are now in a time where vaccination coverage is accelerating. Recently announced CDC guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals may foreshadow what is to come. By early fall small choirs may find that all their members have indeed been fully vaccinated while other groups may consider rapid-testing if available. These options were not available in 2020. Meanwhile large community groups may need to continue masking for a while yet. But perhaps, as the situation evolves, distancing requirements for masked singers may be reduced thus improving the feasibility for large community groups.
Finally, when masking is no longer mandatory, let kindness prevail. Many choir members, for a number of private reasons, may wish to continue masking. It is the responsibility of choral leadership not only to set the tone on masking policy but to be mindful of any peer pressure among choir members. I encourage you to support their choice as much as possible, no questions asked.
Joan Fearnley is an Ottawa based choral director and singer as well as an economist specialized in pharmaceutical policy. She presented at Choral Canada’s mask webinar and co-wrote this mask update on Choral Canada’s blog. She is the creator of the Open-Source Mask for Singer’s project. Find her on the Facebook group Masks for Performers and watch her YouTube tutorials. Joan recently joined the MakerMask team and has written two blogs (Constructing Masks for Singers and Double Masking and Fabric Layering). She is a member of the Cloth Mask Knowledge Exchange led by Dr Catherine Clase from McMaster University. These are all unpaid volunteer initiatives and Joan does not sell masks.
Joan is looking forward to a return to normal choral activities!
By Tim Stacey
Any other year, the arrival of spring would signify the end of another concert season. Most choirs would be preparing for final performances, perhaps with repertoire selected for its relevance to the season. Otherwise, the weather wouldn't have much to do with your choral activities.
This year, however, warm weather brings the opportunity for you and your choir to once again get together in person. After what has certainly been a long winter cooped up indoors and meeting on Zoom, you may now be exploring opportunities to rehearse and perform in the great outdoors.
That said, planning an outdoor rehearsal is a little more complicated than one might first assume. There is a lot to consider, and only so many spaces will meet your choir’s needs.
Our choir, Avanti Chamber Singers, had some success getting together in outdoor spaces back in the fall. We learned a great deal through the experience and are pleased to share the following tips as you plan your own outdoor rehearsals.
How To Choose An Outdoor Rehearsal Space
1. Space: The most obvious consideration in selecting an outdoor rehearsal venue is space. You need to know how many choristers will attend, while also factoring in at least six feet of space between each of them. However, keep in mind that you can group together those that are in a “bubble” — couples and roommates will reduce the amount of space you need.
2. Amplification: It is much more difficult for choristers to hear one another (or hear their conductor speaking) when rehearsing outdoors. The combination of masks with the distance from the conductor to the back row makes it challenging to communicate effectively. For this reason, the conductor will need some form of amplification, whether it’s a bullhorn or a microphone and speaker system.
The same is true for the accompanist, if your repertoire requires one. Fortunately, it is not too difficult to run a microphone and keyboard through the same speaker system.
Keep in mind that all of this will depend on whether there is access to an outlet or two. Be sure to check ahead of time, and bring an extension cord and power bar with you.
3. Lighting: Unless your choir is rehearsing during the day, sufficient lighting will be a challenge. While you can rely on natural lighting well into the summer, from August onward, the sun will set sooner and sooner each day. Your choir will therefore need to invest in reading lights.
4. Amenities: Be sure to check whether you will have access to restrooms or not, and inform your members so they can plan ahead.
Once you’ve found a space that checks all the right boxes, don’t hesitate to book it! These types of spaces will be in high demand for as long as the pandemic continues, both for choirs and other organizations that would normally meet indoors.
Recommended Venues For Outdoor Rehearsals
1. Parking Garages: Avanti Chamber Singers hosted a number of rehearsals last fall in a local parking garage. It provided reliable lighting, plenty of space, and even an acoustically favorable setting for rehearsal.
Finding an available parking garage may be a challenge, however, particularly with respect to noise in the surrounding area. We were fortunate in that the business in question had closed down due to the pandemic, and did not need their facilities.
2. Bandstands: Rehearsing under a bandshell has the benefit of acoustically supporting your choir while still being outdoors. If you want to reserve a venue like this, however, you need to move quickly. Choirs, wind bands, and virtually all other types of performing groups will be pursuing spaces like this.
3. Public Parks: What a public park lacks in infrastructure and amenities, it likely makes up for in availability. Easy access and ample space also give you the option of promoting it as an open rehearsal, letting you and your choristers connect with your audience in person for the first time in months.
4. Private Property: Don’t forget to check with your choir members about the potential of hosting a rehearsal on their property. A large back yard or home in the country can provide a workable venue for which you won’t have to compete with other groups to book.
COVID-19 Considerations For Your Outdoor Rehearsal
You will need to guide and assist you choristers in navigating this new rehearsal setting safely. Avanti Chamber Singers implemented the following controls, based on our research — be sure to consult and comply with your provincial and regional guidelines:
As with all types of activities you will plan during the remainder of the pandemic, err on the side of caution, and be prepared for last-minute changes. By now we are all well aware that lockdown orders and safety guidelines can change with only a few days notice, so keep that in mind as you take advantage of the warmer weather.
Best of luck with your planning over the coming months! Feel free to get in touch with us if you have any questions about our experience with outdoor rehearsals.
Tim Stacey is a tenor, and Marketing & Media Coordinator for Avanti Chamber Singers. Avanti Chamber Singers is a community chamber choir currently under the direction of Artistic Director, Dr. Rachel Rensink-Hoff, based out of St. Catharines, ON.
By Margo Nightingale
Since September 2020, we have been allowed to sing together in well managed, masked and socially distant rehearsals. We have capped the number of singers who can meet in person, increased the size of our rehearsal space, reduced the length of time we are together and while we can hum anytime through our 90 min session, we can only sing with text in the final 30 mins.
Aware some singers would be unable or uncomfortable to attend in person, we set up a Zoom connection for folks to join at home. We recorded each rehearsal through Zoom and posted the video on YouTube so singers could access a missed rehearsal anytime.
Initially we used a set up like Laurier’s. Everything fed into a mixer with an internal audiobus, the mixer fed into my laptop and my laptop fed into Zoom. To amplify me, I had a wireless SURE head mic.
Each week was a new adventure in technical success. And failure. We were incredibly lucky to have sound support from people who knew the tech to get us set up and started. But too many times some part of the tech would stop working. Levels were hard to manage and singers at home often couldn’t hear me, or the singers in the room, or the piano, or on really great days, they couldn’t hear much of anything. Zoom singers were incredibly stoic, but over time folks were losing confidence. This was not sustainable.
We began to experiment with what we needed and what we could stop using. What we have now has been fantastic. And so simple. Our on-site singers (+/- 40) and zoom singers (+/- 15) get what they need.
The H5 recorder is about 5 years old. It still has incredible sound and is more than adequate to capture me, the singers and our piano.
We recently added a speaker/amp to amplify the digital piano. Not strictly necessary, but singers farthest from the keyboard found it harder to hear. This has been manageable, but still needs some attention to levels and having good cables to ensure the keys do not sound muddy or crackle.
Margo (she/her) lives on the traditional territory of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation. She has conducted the Yellowknife Choral Society’s adult community choir, Aurora Chorealis, since 2001. During covid, she has tackled the technology needed to continue to sing when no rehearsals were permitted and to devise a series of risk mitigation measures to allow for in-person hybrid rehearsals since September 2020.
By Annelise Larson
Social media is a critical tool for audience development and the marketing of any choir. It can also be a colossal waste of time if not managed well or strategically. Here are 10 best practices for maximizing these important tools and have to spend very little money (although time and other resources are required):
1. Set goals & have a plan. While time and other resources are often stretched thin for choirs, having some kind of plan will ultimately make everything you are doing more strategic and effective. Ideally, it is best to set specific goals and have a plan for every social media network you are using. But even having a simple plan about how many posts you want to release each month and where can be a helpful place to start.
2. Understand your audience. It is likely that you will have different audiences on different social media platforms. It is important you understand who you are reaching with each network and most provide analytics tools to help you do so. For instance, taking a quick look at your Facebook Insights under “People” will give you some basic demographic information about your audience there as well as where they geographically come from. And make sure to pay attention to what posts get the best positive reactions, shares and comments to give you insight into what they like.
3. Understand your story. Every good social media strategy has a cohesive narrative. This means you need to understand the story of your choir and how everything you post enhances or expands upon in. Your story can be your history, why your choir exists, what type of music you perform, a focus on your community, and so on.
4. Follow best practices for each platform. Facebook is not Twitter is not TikTok is not Pinterest. You should not be doing the same thing on each. Know the best practices of each platform, including things like hashtag use and the current & correct specs for images & videos (which often change without notice). Online resources like the Sprout Social blog (https://sproutsocial.com/insights/) or the Social Media Examiner (https://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/) can be a good place to get started understanding these best practices.
5. Use the right tools. There are many fantastic social media management tools including Buffer, Hootsuite, Later and more. Using a tool like this to pre-schedule your posts, automate some interactions and track the results in one place can help tame the social media beast.
6. Add value. There are so many ways to add value on the social media platforms of your choice. Make sure you are not just posting about only your choir (try to limit these kinds of posts to about one third of the total posts you post). You can add value by entertaining, educating, elevating others and most importantly creating space for two-way conversation.
7. Be responsive. While scheduling is important to making your social media presence more effective, you still have to check in regularly to respond to your audience. The more you can do this, the more they will feel a part of your story.
8. Leverage the live & the temporary. Most major platforms include options to provide live or temporary posts. This includes Instagram, Facebook and even LinkedIn stories, live streamed video, tweet chats, and more. The immediacy of these kinds of content pieces create very responsive opportunities for engagement.
9. Pay attention to your data. Every major social media platform and social media management tool provides data about your audience and what they like. This is invaluable information to know what is working and what is not. The more you pay attention, the more you can refine what you are doing on these networks.
10. Be flexible & adaptable. As with every part of your digital strategy, it is important to have a plan, but you should also be prepared to adjust as you learn about what is working and what is not. There will also be new opportunities and challenges that come up all the time as the social media networks change and evolve. Be prepared to pivot as needed.
By Nina Horvath
This past March, the Vancouver Bach Choir hosted our first online panel called Decolonizing Choirs. The idea for this panel germinated way back in October 2019, when I was putting together our last Canada Council application. During the writing of that application, I fell down a deep rabbit hole of introspection, wondering what our organization could be doing better to further diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), both in our own choirs, and as choral leaders.
The result of that was the vision of an ongoing series of workshops with each centred around a different DEI topic, the first of which would be a panel on Decolonizing the choir. The events of the pandemic and Black Lives Matter saw the original concept evolve to an online panel that would draw from the lived experiences of Canadian choral artists from a variety of backgrounds. One of the most valuable things I learned about decolonizing this past year was that there is no quick and easy answer, and that even the people you look up to the most in this work have made mistakes. The best things to do are to get comfortable being uncomfortable, start listening and learning, commit the time, and know that there is no better time to start than now. I wanted to build a panel that would inspire others to do the same, and have confidence to make those first steps, even as they are learning themselves.
For me, the most important step was assembling a great panel, and we got that in spades with Andrew Balfour, Dr. Elaine Choi, Hussein Janmohamed, and Dr. Melissa Morgan. Personal connections and internet searches proved the most valuable here, and resources like The Choir Girl’s blog series on decolonizing choir were an excellent starting point. I am tremendously grateful to our panelists for bringing their incredible wisdom, empathy, vulnerability, and curiosity to this panel.
We hope that this panel will serve as a catalyst for others – it will remain our website, alongside the accompanying resource list, permanently. And we look forward to many more conversations, within our own organization and with others, to keep the work going. Stay tuned for our workshops next season – we’ve got some good ones planned!
Nina Horvath is an active musician in the Vancouver scene whether it is on stage or behind the scenes. She currently serves as the Executive Director for the Vancouver Bach Choir. In addition to her role with the VBC she sings with the Vancouver Cantata Singers, serves on the board of the BC Choral Federation, and works as a collaborative pianist in the Vancouver area. She is passionate about delivering music experiences to as many people as possible.
Now celebrating its 90th season, the Vancouver Bach Choirs (VBC) aspire to foster an enduring love of music through artistic excellence. Led by Leslie Dala and Marisa Gaetanne, our mission is to perform major choral works with excellence and passion for the people of Vancouver and surrounding communities, provide high quality, accessible training for singers of all ages in choral music and support the creation and performance of new Canadian choral music. With eight choral ensembles, the VBC is one of the largest choral groups in Metro Vancouver and the only organization that provides choral singing to over 400 voices from kindergarten to adulthood.
Dr Catherine Clase (see footnote details)
Joan Fearnley (see footnote details)
Recent developments in the media regarding new COVID variants and double-masking suggestions have led some choral organisations to question and re-evaluate their mask choices. In addition, in November 2020, Health Canada issued the recommendation that masks be made of three layers rather than two as was initially the case. However, many choral organisations invested in masks before this new recommendation.
In this blog post we will review some key considerations of fit and fabrics for future purchases and offer suggestions on how you can update the masks you already have.
Does the mask fit?
It is always important to make sure a mask seals well around the face. Air must flow through the fabric and not around the mask and through the gaps. Any advantage provided by a high filtration fabric will be lost if air isn’t flowing through the fabric. If the mask is not breathable the air will inevitably flow around the mask.
Should we double-mask?
Double-masking is often suggested to address both fit and filtration issues. A well-fitting mask worn over the top of a looser mask (disposable or fabric) could help to provide a better seal. Also layering of masks can improve filtration. Note however, that while layering two two-layer cloth masks would result in a four-layer mask, it will not result in a doubling of mask efficiency. Nevertheless layering will provide some added filtration. Just make sure you can still breathe through all the layers!
If your mask is a well-fitting three-layer mask consistent with Health Canada’s recommendations, double-masking is probably not necessary in most community settings.
Disposable (blue) masks.
Disposable masks are not certified. Consequently, the filtration properties of a particular brand are usually not available. They are also not mentioned in the Health Canada guidance on community masks (though they do mention disposable filters). However, we understand that some authorities and institutions may be requiring disposable masks for some activities. If you are required to use one of these, the addition of a quality, well-fitted, two-layer cloth mask, over the top, could help to provide a better seal for the procedural mask.
What are the recommended fabric layers?
While there are a variety of fabrics that could perform well for regular masks, for singer’s masks we are recommending the following layering, which is consistent with Health Canada’s and the World Health Organization’s recommendations:
Quilter’s cotton: at least 100 threads per inch (clothmasks.ca) and probably 120-180 gsm
In addition to the Health Canada website, a summary of the published evidence for different textiles is available here, and a plain language version, along with other useful information, at the website clothmasks.ca.
Spunbond Non-Woven Polypropylene (SNWPP)
Health Canada recommends a middle layer of spunbond non-woven polypropylene. Researchers at McMaster’s Centre of Excellence in Protective Equipment and Materials think that 70 gsm is likely to be preferable to lighter weights. It can be added as a washable filter or it can be built into the mask. Other middle layers, including woven and non-woven polyester and nylon, are not the same material and they should not be regarded as interchangeable. Non-woven polypropylene was virtually unknown in the home sewing world and was difficult to source when this recommendation was made in November 2020; however, many retailers, large and small, now carry these materials. More information, including information on washing, can be found at clothmasks.ca and in this article in the Conversation.
We already bought Singer’s masks, what should we do?
You will first need to determine what materials were used in your masks. A mask seller would have provided that information to you when the masks were purchased. If this information was lost or not provided you can contact the seller. If your mask materials are not consistent with Health Canada’s (or the World Health Organization) recommendations, the choral organisation should consider purchasing new masks or consider additional layering described below where possible.
Choral organisations that purchased masks in the beginning of the fall season likely purchased two-layer masks or masks with an additional layer of polyester interfacing (used to aid in maintaining the structural integrity of the mask). This was consistent with recommendations at the time.
Because of their construction, many singer’s masks do not have pockets to insert filters as you might find in other community masks. However, it is possible to upgrade a singer’s mask by sewing a simple “shell” made from spunbond non-woven polypropylene 70 gsm that will be inserted directly into the mask. This is a relatively new idea that some sewists have already explored. The anecdotal feedback is positive.
Other singer’s masks are two-layer masks and provide the option of inserting a filter. In this latter case, updating your filters is fairly straightforward provided you make sure it covers the entire area of the mask and seals to the face.You can continue purchasing the filters suggested by the mask seller (disposable or reusable), recognizing that the properties of these filters may not be known, or just cut a polypropylene filter of the right shape and size. If the mask does not seal to the face, air will follow the path of least resistance and flow through the unfiltered fabric.
What is the risk of keeping our old masks?
The short answer is simply “we don’t know”. We do think any mask is better than no mask and we know from mask mandate studies that the masks in use early in the pandemic, imperfect though they were, altered the trajectory of the pandemic when worn. We don’t have direct clinical evidence showing reduced transmission, and no studies comparing different types of community masks. The masks you have may be fine, but we offer these suggestions if you are trying to do everything you can to reduce your personal risk and transmission within your choir.
Consider an ongoing risk assessment and review your rehearsal protocols regularly. Masks are only one part of the equation and are part of a broader strategy that includes: distancing, ventilation, hygiene, screening, length of rehearsals, and the current rate of transmission in your community. And, as always, check with your local public health and institutional requirements.
We wish you many enjoyable hours of safe choral singing.
Dr Catherine Clase:
Physician, epidemiologist, associate professor, McMaster University;
co-lead clothmasks.ca; co-lead Cloth Mask Knowledge Exchange.
Choir director and soprano
Creator of the Mask for Singer’s open-source pattern (YouTube tutorials) and administrator of the Mask for Performers group on Facebook. Contributing author with MakerMask.org
Member of the Cloth Mask Knowledge Exchange
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are of the authors and not that of Choral Canada. We are not experts in this field and therefore are not liable for any harm or damages that may come from following this advice.
By Annelise Larson
The digital space is a crowded one these days as everyone heads online to escape, to connect or just to increase visibility for their organization or business. Choirs are no exception. While there are challenges with establishing or growing a presence here, there are still many opportunities for those who can be strategic. Developing a digital plan for your choir can feel daunting, but here are 5 basic steps to help you get started:
1. Define your goals. One of the best ways to have a cohesive strategy is to be clear about what you want to accomplish for your choir online. Is it just to get online in the first place? Is it to grow your following? Is it to get your virtual concerts online and seen? Is it to sell tickets? Is it to recruit singers? Is it to increase your choir’s professional profile? Keep in mind your goals can change, but if you start building a plan without them it will be much more frustrating and less effective.
2. Define your audience. Once your goals are established, then you need to figure out who you need to reach to accomplish them. The more specific you can be the better. And forget about gender or age ranges. It is more important to define your audience by the (relevant) things they care about, such as their community, a certain kind of music, the people in the choir, other choirs like yours, and so on.
3. Follow your audience. People that care deeply about something have likely already found each other online. They will be gathered in online groups or communities, following key influencers, or participating in online conversations. Research these as completely as possible and this should almost answer all the questions you have about your digital plan. This could be a represented by a Choral Music Subreddit (https://www.reddit.com/r/choralmusic/), or a Facebook group for choral composition (https://www.facebook.com/groups/2228835682), or using and following the #singing or your city’s hashtag on Twitter or Instagram, or a LinkedIn group for Band, Orchestra & Choir Directors, Composers & Arrangers (https://www.linkedin.com/groups/3822519/), or joining the Choir Place online community for choral fans and performers (https://www.choirplace.com/).
4. Find ways to add value. Once you have identified where you need to be online, you then need to determine how best to add value. You can’t just show up in any of the places detailed above and say “donate to my choir” or “come to my concert” for instance. You need to learn about these online communities, conversations, and influencers first. Spend time “lurking and learning.” Pay attention to what is valued. What posts get the most positive reactions, which generate the most conversation? Learn from that and start to participate. Entertain, educate, elevate others. You will need to test things out to find what is the most relevant and authentic way to engage others. You need to win them over and engage them before you can expect them to engage with and for you. It is critical you give (A LOT) before you ask anything of the people present in these places.
5. Pay attention to your data. When you are goal setting you should also think about how you are going to measure whether you are successful or not. It could be increasing followers on social media or website visits or measuring other metrics like ticket sales or donations. Online everyone can gather data generated via their online platforms, whether Google Analytics to measure website activity or Facebook or Instagram Insights or YouTube Analytics or the metrics provided by your email management tool. Measure everything you do against these outcomes to know whether you are getting closer to achieving success. The basic rule of thumb is test, measure, repeat.
By Laurier Fagnan
The following is a list of equipment required to run a Hybrid-style choral rehearsal which includes both a group of singers gathering for a smaller-scale, in-person rehearsal while most of the choir joins in on that rehearsal remotely, usually via Zoom. If allowed by your local/provincial health service, this can be a very effective way to continue rehearsing while pandemic limitations are in place. Of course, all singers joining in person should wear a mask and be placed so as to respect social distancing guidelines. In addition to the list of required equipment below, please also refer to the accompanying diagram which maps out placement and connections. Many thanks to Caleb Nelson of Silver Studios in Edmonton for his help with this design!
*There are now mixers that have an integrated USB Audio Interface, requiring only one major piece of equipment (aside from your laptop of course). Here are two examples:
**Examples of USB Audio Interfaces (not mixers):
*** Good, reasonably priced condenser microphones that capture well from a distance:
Choral Canada would like to thank Laurier Fagnan for submitting this blog. If you would like to submit a post for the Choral Bytes blog, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. It must be relevant to the Canadian choral community, timely, national in scope, and the authors shall avoid any self-promotion or the promotion of a company, product, or performing arts organization in which they have vested interests.
Written by music lawyer Byron Pascoe – Edwards Creative Law
What is Copyright Protection?
Copyright protection covers original musical, literary, dramatic, and artistic works of authorship. Canada’s Copyright Act defines a musical work as “any work of music or musical composition, with or without words, and includes compilations...”
Is my idea protected?
Copyright protects fixed expression of ideas. What that means is that ideas for songs are not protected until they are fixed into an expressive medium – for example – typing lyrics on a computer, or recording the song. If the idea, but not the tangible assets are copied, that’s not copyright infringement. As such, if you have ideas for a new song or an arrangement of an existing song, create a tangible record of your ideas.
What is needed to gain copyright protection?
To gain copyright protection, the work must originate with the author, it must not be a copy of another work and author must exercise skill and judgment.
Do I need to register with SOCAN to get copyright protection?
No. A work is copyrighted as soon as it comes into existence. You may register the song with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office – which among other things gives notice to the rest of the world of a claim and creates a legal presumption that you are in fact the author, maker or owner. Registration costs between $50 (online) and $65 (mail). Registering your song with SOCAN does not trigger copyright or provide the same legal presumption. You don’t actually submit the song when registering with CIPO. If you do want to ensure you have submitted the song somewhere, another option is the Songwriters Association of Canada’s Canadian Song Vault. The application fee for each form is $15, and each song to be registered in the vault is $5. The songs are registered indefinitely. However, if you or the court need access to your work, you must renew your S.A.C. membership for at least a year. More information: http://www.songwriters.ca/songvault.aspx
So what does copyright entitle you to?
Copyright is a bundle of rights which include giving the copyright holder the exclusive rights to Produce, Reproduce, Perform, Publish, Communicate, and Rent. Taking away the legal jargon - the copyright holder has the right to decide who uses the work. The right to copy provides the copyright holder the sole and exclusive right to produce or reproduce a work or a substantial part of it in any form.
The copyright holder might assign her rights to someone else such as a music publisher. The copyright holder might license his rights to a label for a specific amount of time and/or in a specific territory of the world and/or for specific types of uses.
Regarding music, what’s copyrightable?
Two sets of copyright protection exist in every sound recording — the right in the composition, and the right in the sound recording. Copyright in the music/lyrics – and copyright in the recording. For every composition there is either no recording, one, or many. If a choir is recording a public domain song, while the choir wouldn't own copyright in the composition – they would own the copyright in the recording.
How long does copyright last?
The exclusive rights that a person automatically receives once she creates a work eventually expire – and the specific time is when the copyright rights expire, and the work goes into the public domain.
While there are exceptions, copyright generally lasts for the life of the author, the remainder of the calendar year in which the author dies, and 50 years following the end of that calendar year. Once this term expires, the work is in the public domain.
Due to NAFTA’s replacement, which we call CUSMA and which our friends call USMCA, this will increase soon to 70 years, which the timeline in the United States presently. The public domain is composed of millions of creative works - all of which may be freely copied, distributed, adapted, or performed in public without permission or paying a fee. As such, if you want to adapt or arrange a song written by someone who died more than 70 years ago (as opposed to 50 years ago – to be safe) you don’t need permission – but you do if the writer hasn’t been gone for 70 years – or is still alive! This
For clarity, once a composition goes into the public domain, the writers (or their representatives) are no longer paid writing royalties, and decisions that once required writer approval no longer apply.
If you aren’t sure whether a composition has gone into the public domain, for example because you don’t know who wrote the piece, SOCAN representatives have unofficially referred to PDInfo.com to see if that site lists the composition as being in the public domain, and the name(s) of the known author(s).
Arrangement, Adaptation and Permissions
Distinguished from covering a song, examples of an arrangement are changing an original melody to a new style, or adding music before/during/after the main melody. Adapting lyrics would include writing new verses based on more modern situations and keeping a timeless chorus. For compositions that are not in the public domain, if you want to arrange music or adapt lyrics, you must seek permission from the writer(s), or where relevant, the writers’ publishers. If a composition is in the public domain and you want to arrange or adapt it, you don’t need permission. In both cases you aren’t entitled to 100% of the writer royalties for the new work.
SOCAN outlines 7 scenarios relating to how public domain works are registered with SOCAN if there’s an arrangement and/or adaptation of a public domain (PD) composition.
Arrangement of PD music (instrumental):
Public domain composer – 75% - not payable
Arranger – 25% - payable
New Music and unchanged PD words:
Public domain author – 50% - not payable
Composer – 50% - payable
Adaptation of PD Words and Unchanged PD Music:
Public Domain Composer/Author – 75% - Not payable
Adaptor – 25% - Payable
Arrangement of PD Music and Unchanged PD Words:
Public Domain Composer/Author – 75% - Not payable
Adaptor – 25% - Payable
New Words and Unchanged PD Music:
Public Domain Composer – 50% - Not payable
Author – 50% - Payable
Arrangement of PD Music and New Words:
Public Domain Composer – 25% - Not payable
Arranger / Author – 75% - Payable
Adaptation of PD Words and New Music:
Public Domain Author – 25% - Not payable
Composer / Adopter – 75% - Payable
When you log into SOCAN, click My Catalogue, then click Register My Works, then click on Work Type and choose Arrangement/Adaption of Public Domain. It will let you choose between all the seven options listed above. If you choose “Arrangement of PD Music and New Words”, then Public Domain will be automatically listed as 25%, and you can fill in the rest of the 75% with the people who arranged the public domain music and wrote the new lyrics. When a composition is categorized as Public Domain and the author is unknown, list “Unknown” as the author. If you should ever find out the author, you can replace it.
Updated to December 5, 2020
Edwards Creative Law is a boutique law firm provides legal services to Music, Film and TV, and Interactive Digital Media industry clients. For more info and blogs, please visit www.edwardslaw.ca
Regarding music law, Byron Pascoe (email@example.com) works with composers, performers, producers, managers, and music companies to assist with record label agreements, publishing contracts, distribution deals, producer agreements, etc.
This article is for general informational purposes only and is not to be considered as legal advice. Please contact Edwards Creative Law or another lawyer, if you wish to apply these concepts to your specific circumstances.
© 2020 Edwards Professional Corporation
Il n’a jamais été aussi important de donner une forte présence numérique à votre chœur. Cependant, le simple fait d’être en ligne ne suffit pas. Vous devez suivre les meilleures pratiques en matière d’optimisation de votre site pour les moteurs de recherche afin d’aider ces derniers à vous trouver plus facilement. Pour vous aider à partir du bon pied, voici dix conseils de base qui permettront l’optimisation de votre site pour les moteurs de recherche.
En collaboration avec la stratège numérique Annelise Larson, Canada Choral est heureux de proposer une courte série de blogues sur les stratégies numériques pour les chœurs. Cette série de blogues est rendue possible grâce à l’initiative Un avenir numérique de l’Association canadienne des organismes artistiques (CAPACOA).
Annelise Larson est une stratège numérique qui travaille avec les acteurs de l’industrie créative afin d’exploiter le potentiel de l’univers numérique pour trouver, atteindre et développer les publics et travailler à l’établissement de modèles d’affaires durables. Son balado intitulé STORY+AUDIENCE (anglais seulement), qu’elle anime avec l’écrivaine Jill Golick, est offert sur les principales plateformes de baladodiffusion. Elle a récemment lancé un nouveau cours de marketing numérique en ligne (anglais seulement) et elle est coach en transformation numérique dans le cadre de l’initiative Un avenir numérique de la CAPACOA.
If you would like to submit a post for the Choral Bytes blog, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. It must be relevant to the Canadian choral community, timely, national in scope, and the authors shall avoid any self-promotion or the promotion of a company, product, or performing arts organization in which they have vested interests.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on Choral Canada's blog are soley those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Choral Canada.
Choral Canada is the national voice of the Canadian choral community, representing and uniting a network of conductors, educators, composers, administrators, choral industry leaders, and more than 40,000 choral singers from coast to coast to coast.