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How can we come back to choral life?

Expert discussion of the World Choir Council during the Regional Online Meetings

World Choir Council

For far too long, it has been silent. The Corona pandemic silenced the choral world. Choir rehearsals could only take place on a limited basis, concerts and performances had to be cancelled, and singers had to do without their familiar choir community. But now, after months of restrictions, overcoming the crisis seems within reach.

But what kind of after-effects of the pandemic should choir directors expect? Can we pick up choral work where we left off a year ago? And how can choir conductors support their singers in resuming choral life?

The members of the World Choir Council - INTERKULTUR's highest international advisory committee - addressed these questions and discussed them with experts during the Regional Online Meetings from March 24 to 26, 2021.

Trust must be rebuilt

Dr. Martin Sundqvist, microbiologist, scientist, educator and choral singer from Sweden, was one of the guest speakers and gave an overview of the medical aspects and connections between choral singing and the associated risk of infection. For the return to choir rehearsals, it is important to create an environment in which the singers feel comfortable and safe, especially at the beginning.

Of course, this varies from country to country, depending on the guidelines and recommendations given by governments and the level of infection. The progress of vaccinations worldwide will in any case positively support the return to choral life, but also the distance regulations and the wearing of masks could continue to be measures that can give the singers an essential feeling of safety - even if this would continue to restrict the choral work in terms of sound. It is important for the singers, after the long period of uncertainty and abandonment, to be able to slowly build up trust again and to find their way back into the community of their choir with a good feeling.

In China, this is already working very well again. Dr. Tian Xiaobao, choir director and World Choir Council representative from China, gave an insight into the current situation of choirs as speaker for the Asia, Pacific and Middle East region. In his hometown Wuhan the choir work could already be resumed some time ago and for the summer the first concerts are planned again - a thank you to all helpers and supporters in this crisis.

A proactive return to choir rehearsals

In the North, Central and South America regional meeting, guest speaker Rachael Finnerty, psychotherapist and music therapist from Canada, showed a proactive way back into the rehearsal rooms.

Choir conductors could use a proactive approach to help their choir members regain positive experiences within the choral world - especially during rehearsals and performances. They must be aware of their role model function and meet the fears and concerns of the singers openly, attentively and with patience. Creativity in particular is an important aid in developing resilience and overcoming fears. For example, as a choir one could write or rewrite a new song together, the appropriate repertoire can help to express and strengthen feelings, or breathing exercises to relax in community.

Myguel Santos E Castro, choir director and World Choir Council representative from Portugal, aptly commented: "We as choir directors are responsible for the mental, vocal and psychological health of our members. When people sing, they feel better. And we can contribute to the improvement of their lives."

Scientific study on the psychological impact of the pandemic

As guest speakers at the Africa/Europe regional meeting, Prof. Alessandro Antonietti and Prof.ssa Angelica Moè, psychology professors from Milan and Padua in Italy, gave an overview of the psychological aspects of the pandemic period in the choral world.

It is important, they said, that worries, fears and risks do not predominate, but that optimism, hope and perspectives are conveyed - providing this motivation is a central task of choir conductors. Of course, each person has his or her own rhythm and pace, but things should move forward in the direction of a realistic but motivating perspective. Here mental limitations can be overcome by expanding one's own thinking and acting.

In this regard, Prof. Antonietti and Prof.ssa Moè, at the suggestion of INTERKULTUR, have initiated an open study dedicated to the psychological impact of the pandemic on the choral world, in which you will soon be able to participate. The aim is to understand what the singers and choir directors are thinking and feeling and to show ways in which the choral world can support each other in overcoming this crisis and returning to the rehearsal rooms.

The results of this international study are expected at the end of May and will be presented both on INTERKULTUR Newsroom and in the upcoming issue of COUNCIL TALK magazine.

The next Regional Online Meetings of the World Choir Council are planned for the end of July 2021.