Chancel Choir Returns to Rehearsals

Today’s reflection is from Minister of Music Stephen O’Bent:

The last time the Chancel Choir rehearsed together in the sanctuary was March 4th, 2020. It feels like several universes away, but I remember a number of details from that night – the uneasy atmosphere, the tentativeness behind the usual mingling and hugs, and the uncertainty around how long it would be until we’d be back to sing together again. I knew it could be a couple weeks, but I specifically remember being certain we’d be back in time for Easter, and planned that last rehearsal accordingly. Whoops. We joked about having a betting pool on how long it would be, and now we finally know the answer. Following a unanimous vote of approval from the Church Council, I’m ecstatic to announce that the Chancel Choir will be gathering for rehearsal again next Wednesday, a mere 595 days after our last practice.

To be clear, you won’t be hearing the choir sing on Sunday mornings just yet – we’re still erring on the side of caution and limiting things to Wednesday night rehearsals for the time being. Until it is deemed safe to have the full choir sing live in worship, we’ll be filming rehearsals for use in online services, and a quartet of singers will sing live in the sanctuary on Sunday mornings. For the Wednesday rehearsals, we’ll be following all the safety protocols recommended by the American Choral Directors Association, which are based on scientific data around singing, aerosol distribution, and the best current understanding of how Covid-19 is transmitted. Here’s the gist of those guidelines:
• All singers must be masked and vaccinated

• 3-6 ft distance between singers

• 30 minute singing time limit, then change rooms or break for one room air cycle

• singers skip rehearsal if not feeling 100% well

It may be reassuring to know that we are not alone in deciding to proceed cautiously into live choral singing. A recent survey of ~600 North American choirs showed that the majority of groups planned to resume live singing in Fall 2021, with various levels of precautions and protocols in place. Anecdotally, I’ve personally been leading rehearsals with my (masked, fully vaccinated) 50-voice DigiPen college choir since late August and have not experienced a single breakthrough case or scare.

As with every phase of this pandemic, I understand that there is a wide range of comfort zones within our congregation. I know that some singers have been eager and ready to return for months, while others don’t yet feel safe. It is my hope that by taking things slowly and cautiously, guided by the best scientific understanding we have available, we will be able to find a space for everyone’s preferred level of involvement, and to bring back live singing to the sanctuary. 

I am grateful to the Church Council and leadership for reviewing the evidence and giving us the go-ahead to take this first step. All fully-vaccinated members of our community are invited to join us next Wednesday at 7pm to lift up your voices and make a joyful noise. I am indescribably excited to hear the choir sing again.

“If I can sing, I still am free.

For with my singing I can make

A refuge for my spirit’s sake,

A house of shining words, to be

My fragile immortality.”

-Sara Teasdale, “Refuge”

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