Two years until we hear a live choir? In COVID-19 pandemic, choral music may be too risky for a very long while. (2023)

One in six Americans over age 18 sings in a chorus, according to Chorus America, and if any of them were looking for a glimmer of good news in a recent webinar assembled by that advocacy group and others, their hopes were likely dashed.

The ability for choirs to safely gather could be as far off as two years, experts said early this month in “A Conversation: What Do Science and Data Say About the Near-Term Future of Singing?”

One especially cruel cautionary tale emerged recently regarding a Washington State choir that met just as the virus was setting in. After a March rehearsal attended by 61 choristers, including a single symptomatic member, 87% of the group developed COVID-19, according to a CDC report released Tuesday. Two members died.

The problem stems from the proximity of singers, and the fact that the very act of singing propels viral droplets. Indeed, among art forms, it is choral singing that may face the most treacherous path back to normal.


The prospect of two years without live choirs sent a wave of anguish nationally as well as in Philadelphia’s choral-rich neighborhoods of churches, schools, and professional venues.

(Video) Longest Time - Quarantine Edition

“Devastated,” is how Julia Zavadsky says she felt after hearing that it might not be possible for choirs to meet for some time. The artistic director of Nashirah, the Jewish Chorale of Greater Philadelphia, says the message she took away from the webinar, held May 5, is that “anything we think of doing together is not safe. There is absolutely nothing, and it is absolutely heart-wrenching. Tears are in my eyes just talking about it, because life as we knew it is now over.”

“Everyone is trying not to think the worst right now,” says Andrew Senn, organist and director of music at the First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia near Rittenhouse Square.

“Choral singing won’t be a safe activity until the pandemic is well under control,” wrote Miriam Davidson, artistic director of Philadelphia’s ANNA Crusis Women’s Choir, in an email sent to the group’s 80 members last week. “It is … very clear that concertizing as we are used to doing will not be possible in the fall. Will it even be possible next June? Hard to know.”

In the meantime, she offered to members: “We grieve.”

“Certainly, it was a blow,” said Chorus America president and CEO Catherine Dehoney of reaction to the webinar, whose participants included a laryngologist and specialist in performing arts medicine and an expert in respiratory epidemiology. “Some of the research supports the idea that the physical act of singing is in line with viral spread and in some cases extreme viral spread,” Dehoney said.

The kind of deep breathing and production of loud sounds required for singing projects the virus into the air at a significantly higher rate than talking, research shows. Safe resumption of voice lessons and group singing hinges on the arrival and deployment of an accurate rapid diagnostic test, vaccines, and effective drug treatments, said webinar participant Lucinda Halstead, founder and medical director of the Evelyn Trammell Institute for Voice and Swallowing at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Those developments may be months, if not years, away.

(Video) "You Will Be Found" Virtual Choir | DEAR EVAN HANSEN

“I think it caught everybody by surprise,” says Jonas Crenshaw, director or worship and arts at Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church in Society Hill, who describes choir rehearsals as traditionally involving a level of physical contact that seems suddenly risky.

“As we prepare for concert times, we are learning new music, and lot of it is about pronunciation, and the way we shape our mouths when we sing there is an opportunity for vapor to escape,” says Crenshaw. “As you sing, there is sometimes choreography, there is dancing and sweating, and then you think about people passing the microphone.”

There is also what he calls the “family” aspect of being in a choir.

“When people first walk into choir rehearsal, we all hug each other, and at the end of rehearsal we all hold hands and pray. There are a lot of different things we do as a church family and music family that would be considered unsafe potentially.”

The intimacy extends to the pews, where congregational singing also raises questions about what is safe.

Halstead points out that even since the May 5 webinar, work on vaccines has progressed rapidly, with some moving into clinical trials. “This is fantastic,” she says, adding that it could be sooner than two years before one or more could be widely distributed. “However, we need to proceed with an abundance of caution until we have them.”

» READ MORE: New fund sparked by William Penn Foundation will dole out millions to arts groups and artists in ‘severe financial straits’

(Video) How Can I Keep from Singing - NYC Virtual Choir and Orchestra

The sound of America singing

The sound of voices woven together is instant humanity. It buoys the party scene in La traviata. It arrives as the ecstatic layer of joy the ear needs in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. The choral texture is the source of salve and emotional rescue in many a requiem. And the sound of a raging chorus has become the ultimate in bellicosity in any number of commercials, movie scores, and video games that have fabricated an entire sub-genre from Orff’s Carmina Burana.

“I hear America singing,” Walt Whitman writes in his poem of the same name, noting the everyman aspect of the national soundtrack. The mason, the carpenter, the party of young fellows — we all sing, he writes.

The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,

Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else.

More than 54 million American adults and children today sing in a chorus, according to Chorus America, which points out that the benefits go beyond the musical. Nearly three quarters of singers say that choral participation makes them feel less alone or lonely, according to a 2019 survey by the group. Ninety percent of singers say they regularly vote in local and national elections (as opposed to 55% of the general public).

» ASK US: Do you have a question about the coronavirus and how it affects your health, work and life? Ask our reporters.

Religion, tradition, truth to power

Choral music gives many a sense of social connectivity.

Joy Payton says she joined the ANNA Crusis Women’s Choir because she “really wanted to find ‘my people’ — the people who were interested in politics, and art, and sociology, and changing the world, and who sang about it. People who used art to sing truth to power.”

(Video) Coronavirus Rhapsody

Others, of course, connect with religion and tradition through their choral art.

“For the African American church experience, music is absolutely central,” says Mother Bethel’s pastor, the Rev. Mark Kelly Tyler. “There are two things people look for when they come to visit a place like Mother Bethel to worship. They judge on our music and our preaching. Everything else can be wonderful, but if these two things fail, you’re in trouble.”

Mother Bethel aims to have a few choir members record music for Sunday virtual services — in the church, spaced safely apart. A group of eight singers has been doing the same at First Presbyterian at 21st and Walnut Streets.

The members of Philadelphia’s Grammy-winning choir, the Crossing, live mostly in Philadelphia and Chicago and won’t meet for group singing “until the scientists say it is safe to do so,” says Crossing conductor Donald Nally. “That doesn’t mean we are not thinking creatively about ways to express ourselves as a group. We are. But we haven’t landed on a performance solution."

As for virtual choral experiences through online platforms, it’s a pale imitation, some say.

“It’s certainly not what I would feel to be a satisfactory choral experience,” says First Presbyterian’s Senn. “You get a product at the end, and the choir says it’s nice to hear us all singing, and a wider audience says it’s a generous performance, and it makes people feel good. That’s great. But being able to be in the same room with your colleagues to make music — that’s where it’s at.”

Halstead urges patience.

“I can’t stress how much I miss hearing all of you sing. I can hardly wait for it to happen again,” she told her webinar audience. “But I’d rather have a full chorus of 120 people or 80 people versus a chorus of 40 people because that’s all that’s left in the choir.”


Is singing a danger for COVID? ›

Singing around others may potentially be one risky activity for SARS-CoV-2 infection because people shed more droplet particles when they speak, especially in a loud voice [5].

Is singing in choir good for mental health? ›

Studies have found that people feel more positive after actively singing than they do after passively listening to music, or even after chatting about positive life events. Improved mood probably comes in part directly from the release of positive neurochemicals such as β-endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin.

Can you sing in a choir for a living? ›

With a love for music and singing, life as a professional choir singer can be a rewarding experience. It is a chance to work with and meet talented musicians, singers and artists and to grow in your musical capabilities.

How long has choir music been around? ›

The oldest unambiguously choral repertory that survives is that of ancient Greece, of which the 2nd century BC Delphic hymns and the 2nd century AD. hymns of Mesomedes are the most complete.

Is it healthy to sing with a mask on? ›

The dispersal of breath likely dilutes the virus and prevents the spread of COVID-19. At low frequencies, masks reduced volume but did not have other effects on the singing. However, masks did reduce the power of higher frequencies, which made the enunciation of words less clear and altered the timbre.

Is singing voice affected after COVID? ›

Responses to the same question posed after a COVID-19 infection are telling: 6.8% of respondents were unable to sing longer than 15 minutes after their COVID-19 infection while only 32.1% could sing an hour or more, suggesting a COVID-19 infection can result in a toll on vocal stamina.

What singing does to your brain? ›

Singing lowers cortisol and relieves stress and tension. Studies have shown that when people sing, endorphins and oxytocin are released by the brain which in turn lowers stress and anxiety levels.

What should you not do in a choir? ›

Implicit rules will be something like: choir members should turn up on time; no talking with your mates while learning songs; don't abuse or disrespect other choir members; phones must be turned off during rehearsals; don't monopolise your choir leader's attention; don't tell other choir members off for being 'wrong'; ...

Is singing good for the lungs? ›

Singing enhances lung function

We often take our lungs for granted, but most of us rarely use them to their full capacity. The way singing requires you to breathe makes you do just that, increasing your lung capacity as well as engaging the muscles around the ribcage.

Should I join choir if I cant sing? ›

The simple answer is: yes! Not all choirs of course. Some of them require singers to have had a lot of singing experience and to have reached a certain standard. You might not be ready for that yet and probably wouldn't pass the audition if there is one.

How much do you get paid to sing in a choir? ›

Professional Choir Salary
Annual SalaryHourly Wage
Top Earners$62,500$30
75th Percentile$57,500$28
25th Percentile$30,000$14

How much do live singers get paid? ›

$34,000 is the 25th percentile. Salaries below this are outliers. $104,000 is the 75th percentile.

What is the golden age of choral music? ›

The Renaissance period became known as the golden age of a cappella choral music because choral music did not require an instrumental accompaniment.

What is a choir singer called? ›

chorister Add to list Share. Other forms: choristers. If you sing in your school chorus, you can describe yourself as a chorister. A chorister is either a member or the leader of a choir. Any organized group of singers can be called a chorus or choir, and anyone who belongs to the group is a chorister.

What is singing in church called? ›

Congregational singing is the practice of the congregation participating in the music of a church, either in the form of hymns or a metrical Psalms or a free form Psalm or in the form of the office of the liturgy (for example Gregorian chants). It is contrasted with music being sung exclusively by a choir or cantor(s).

What masks are used for singing during COVID? ›

To meet this need, she created VocalEase, an acoustically transparent mask for speech and singing. With the help of SLU's Research Innovation Group, Tennill's solution is now a reality, with masks being sold commercially. Professional singers demonstrate the VocalEase mask during a photo shoot performance.

Why do people sing in masks? ›

The idea of “singing in the mask” comes from the idea that the classical singer directs their voice forward so that it rings in the front of the face, the part the might be covered by a mask. This is to create maximum resonance, focus, and ring.

What effect does wearing a face mask have on vocal self perception during a pandemic? ›

Results: Face masks increased the perception of vocal effort, difficulty in speech intelligibility, auditory feedback, and difficulty in coordinating speech and breathing, irrespective of usage.

What does the Bible say about singing? ›

Ephesians 5:19 says, “singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.” It is to him and about him that we sing! Singing has such a unique way of bringing your heart, soul, mind, and strength together to focus entirely and completely on God.

Why is singing important to God? ›

Music has a way of piercing into the deep parts of our soul, that assists in our expression and response to God and to the church. Singing helps unites us to the church. The gospel alone unites believers to one another. However, music is a tool that allows us to do so.

Can singing prevent dementia? ›

Singing in a choir may delay dementia as singers work their memory when they learn new songs. They also learn to be mindful, to blend their voices with those of others.

What does God say about choir? ›

Choristers are the Levites of today, meant to perform sacred duties in the house of God (Numbers 3:6-12). Levites were members of a priestly tribe associated with the priesthood – they sang in the holy sanctuary and played different musical instruments. Numbers 3: 12b reads '… Therefore, the Levites shall be mine'.

What do singers avoid? ›

Foods to avoid include foods with high fat content, like fried or greasy foods, eggs, butter and other dairy products; and acidic meals like spicy foods, peppers, concentrated tomato dishes, vinegar, and citrus fruits. It's almost impossible to sing well while burping.

What should you never do when singing? ›

#1: Never Practice with a loud volume.

This adds tension from the outer neck muscles. This causes you to squeeze and over-compress. You'll never be able to balance and coordinate the air from your lungs with the vocal cords so they can develop their own power and strength.

Does singing help oxygen levels? ›

Singing increases oxygen and blood flow, as well as helping to reduce the heart rate to a healthy level. It is, therefore, an excellent activity to stimulate heart health and general wellbeing.

Does singing boost immune system? ›

Scientists say singing boosts the immune system.

They found that concentrations of immunoglobin A – proteins in the immune system which function as antibodies – and hydrocortisone, an anti-stress hormone, increased significantly during the rehearsal.

Is singing a skill or a talent? ›

Singing can be both a natural talent and a skill. Some people are born with a tone that is naturally pleasing, but a good singing voice can be learnt. The best singers are those who devote the most amount of time and hard work to their passion.

Why is my voice not good for singing? ›

If you don't sing in-tune correctly, people will say you sound “off-key,” and some will assume you're tone-deaf. Make sure you learn every single note you need to sing in a song. Also, practice the notes slowly and accurately. Finally, sing in a key that isn't too high or too low for your voice.

Is choir only for Christians? ›

do choirs have to be religious? The short answer is “No”. If you like Western classical music, there is a lot of religious repertoire, but also a great deal of non-religious material.

How loud should you sing in a choir? ›

A simple rule regarding volume is this: if you can hear everyone else, but not yourself, then you need to sing up a bit; if you can hear only yourself and nobody else, then reduce your volume slightly.

How much does a choir master get paid? ›

Hourly Wage for Choir Director Salary
PercentileHourly Pay RateLast Updated
10th Percentile Choir Director Salary$15May 25, 2023
25th Percentile Choir Director Salary$18May 25, 2023
50th Percentile Choir Director Salary$22May 25, 2023
75th Percentile Choir Director Salary$27May 25, 2023
1 more row

How do singers get paid now? ›

Performers. Musicians who focus on performance earn money from advances, merchandise, royalties, licensing fees and playing live music. If the artist works with a record label, they pay a share of their money to others involved, such as managers, agents, promoters, PR teams and sound engineers.

How much do singers make per show? ›

How Much Do Singers Earn Per Concert? Getting back to professional singers – most singers earn their income on live performances. Unfortunately, the pay fluctuates a lot. For standard bar gigs, cover gigs and hired musician gigs, singer will earn anywhere from $50 to $300 per gig.

Do singers get paid every time their song is played? ›

As we've mentioned earlier, in most markets, both songwriters and recording artists are typically paid royalties any time their music is played on the radio.

How much money do singers make a month? ›

As of May 30, 2023, the average monthly pay for a Singer in the United States is $10,531 a month. While ZipRecruiter is seeing monthly salaries as high as $33,333 and as low as $958, the majority of Singer salaries currently range between $2,833 (25th percentile) to $8,666 (75th percentile) across the United States.

How much does a singer charge per song? ›

Today, the singer charges Rs 15 to 20 Lakhs per song.

What are the riskiest things to do during COVID? ›

With these factors in mind, here are the high-risk activities during COVID-19 that experts recommend avoiding:
  • Going to parties. ...
  • Attending mass gatherings. ...
  • Traveling to places with a high rate of infection. ...
  • Attending bars, clubs, and restaurants. ...
  • Going on a cruise. ...
  • Going anywhere where social distancing isn't being practiced.
Nov 29, 2022

What should I avoid while I have COVID-19? ›

Avoid foods (e.g. snacks) that are high in salt and sugar. Limit your intake of soft drinks or sodas and other drinks that are high in sugar (e.g. fruit juices, fruit juice concentrates and syrups, flavoured milks and yogurt drinks). Choose fresh fruits instead of sweet snacks such as cookies, cakes and chocolate.

Why can't I sing high notes anymore? ›

If we want to sing a higher note, we need to stretch our vocal cords out further. And the longer the cords are stretched, the faster they'll vibrate. This makes it possible to sing a higher note. The farther apart our vocal cords vibrate, the higher the note we can hit.

How long are you contagious with COVID? ›

People with moderate or severe COVID-19 should isolate through at least day 10. Those with severe COVID-19 may remain infectious beyond 10 days and may need to extend isolation for up to 20 days.

Who is most at risk for COVID? ›

Older adults are at highest risk of getting very sick from COVID-19. More than 81% of COVID-19 deaths occur in people over age 65. The number of deaths among people over age 65 is 97 times higher than the number of deaths among people ages 18-29 years.

What is the most effective way to reduce COVID? ›

In those situations, use as many prevention strategies as you can, such as practicing hand hygiene, consistently and correctly wearing a high-quality mask, improving ventilation, and keeping your distance, when possible, from the person who is sick or who tested positive.

What fruits are good for COVID? ›

Kiwis, berries, oranges, sweet potatoes, peppers—these all have lots of vitamin C, which support immune health. Put them in a salad or smoothie. If you feel well enough, eat protein. Protein improves healing capacity—after all, it is the building block of all cells, including immune cells.

What fruits to eat when you have COVID? ›

Fruits and vegetables, particularly citrus fruits and leafy greens, provide a steady stream of vitamins A and C, while nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils are rich in vitamin E, dairy products, eggs, and seafood are good sources for vitamin D. Zinc is also important, which is rich in food sources like meat and nuts.

What should I eat to recover from Covid? ›

salads, casseroles, or sandwiches. Add beans, peas, or lentils to stir-fries, casseroles, salads or soups. Choose sweet tofu or cottage cheese for a snack.

Is there a special mask for singers? ›

The Singer's Mask was developed by singers FOR singers by Broadway professionals to help contain droplets while allowing space around the mouth to sing comfortably.

What singers wear a mask? ›

Several musicians have been known to take on an alternate persona as part of their art. David Bowie became Ziggy Stardust. Garth Brooks became Chris Gaines. Heck, Robert Zimmerman became Bob Dylan when he was trying to be Woody Guthrie.

Why is it harder to sing as you get older? ›

Like the rest of your body, your vocal cords slowly change and age over the course of your life. As you get older, the fibres in your vocal folds become stiffer and thinner and your larynx cartilage becomes harder. This limits the voice and is why elderly people's voices can sound “wobbly” or “breathier”.

What is the rarest voice type? ›

A countertenor is a male singer who can sing as high as a soprano or mezzo-soprano. The countertenor is the rarest of all voice types.

Do you lose your singing voice as you get older? ›

As we get older, our voices can become hoarse and weak. But this doesn't have to be an inevitable part of aging. Here are a few simple suggestions to help keep your voice healthy and strong for years to come.


1. True Colors - Camden Voices (self-isolation/virtual choir cover)
(Camden Voices)
2. Ed Sheeran - Visiting Hours [Official Performance Video]
(Ed Sheeran)
3. IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL (Arr. David Wise) #ItIsWell #StudioSinging #NashvilleStrong
4. Roedean School - Hallelujah - Virtual Choir
(Roedean School (SA))
5. We Are The World (2018) - Channel Aid with Kurt Hugo Schneider & YouTube Artists
6. We Are the World/Heal the World - Voices of Hope Children's Choir (Virtual Choir)
(Voices of Hope Childrens Choir)


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