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    Is it safe for choirs to sing again? A project initiated by Ballarat Choral Society is finding the answers.

    With the aid of a Regional Arts Fund grant a small team of experts is investigating the particular risks of singing in choirs and testing and developing ways to safely sing together. It is a world-first project with the results to be widely shared to community, church and professional choirs.

    The team consists of Professor Catherine Bennett, Chair of Epidemiology at Deakin University, civil engineer Michael Knowles, sound recording expert Rex Hardware, and from the Choir - electronics engineer Brian Sala, Musical Director Helen Duggan, and President Merle Hathaway as project manager. 

    The STA Team is working on several fronts, investigating outdoor and well-ventilated indoor venues, as well as a high-tech solution involving headphones, transmitters and mixer to allow us to sing at wide distances from each other. It is hoped that this will allow singing in unusual spaces and may even help less confident singers to learn their parts.

    For actual singing together, the research to date recommends that singing in well-ventilated indoor spaces be limited to 20 minutes of solid singing (without breaks) with masks to be worn when not singing, and that singers be spaced at least 2 metres apart, with 3 metres between rows. 

    In February the Ballarat Choral Society will try out a new well-ventilated indoor venue. After general health checks, vocal warm-ups will occur outside, and hand-sanitise before admission. After singing for 20 - 30 minutes, the choir will go outside for BYO drinks while fans will further air the space, before returning for another short time. Chairs or coloured sports field markers will ensure singers maintain the safe distance.

    Of course, the safety of this plan is dependent on COVID-19 developments in Victoria. Currently, with no community transmission, this plan is estimated to be of minimal risk. Obviously, we must all be extremely vigilant, and be prepared to change if these arrangements become risky.

    As Professor Bennett says, “The plan allows the choir to respond to any changes in community transmission risk by stepping up precautions including mask wearing etc.” 

    Merle Hathaway
    President, Ballarat Choral Society

    **Listen to Merle Hathaway with Professor Catherine Bennett, Chair of Epidemiology at Deakin University, speaking about the project in more depth: On Life Matters with Michael Mackenzie, 29.01.21