Updated August 19, 2021
Communal singing is one of the great joys of congregational life and an experience that’s nearly impossible to replicate online. We know that congregants are eager to be able to sing together and to enjoy the singing of their choir and soloists, but we need to exercise caution.
August 2021 Singing Guidance (Delta Variant)
For our most recent general guidance on gathering in person, see Updated Gathering Guidance (Delta Variant).
As we grapple with the Delta surge, we have once again turned to our public health advisors. Their collective wisdom about singing, in particular, boils down to two points:
- No indoor singing at this time.
- For outdoor singing (where outdoor gatherings have been deemed safe), all singers must wear well-fitted masks and stay at least 10 to 12 feet apart.
We know this is hard. You might be asking, "But what about...?" It is impossible to provide simple, useful, universal guidance. Nearly all of our advisors made clear that any form of singing inside a building is problematic and ill-advised for now, especially as the science around delta transmission is still emerging.
Sadly, from a COVID-19 transmission standpoint, singing is markedly riskier than talking and most other interactions. Whatever degree of distancing you might consider acceptable for other purposes, you should increase it significantly if singing is involved. Special attention should be given to the quality and fit of masks. If you've set time limits for gatherings, you might shorten them when there's singing. For indoor singing, when the time comes, good ventilation will be important.
We will update this guidance when appropriate.
Especially with ensemble singing in mind, the Association for UU Music Ministries (AUUMM) offers this guidance.
What Kinds of Singing Are Possible?
While regular choir rehearsals and congregational singing (as we were accustomed) will have to wait, it may be possible, with a little creativity, for singing to be part of your congregation’s offerings when local conditions allow you to gather outdoors. What about a masked and distanced sing-along, accompanied by guitar or electric keyboard? Or a hymn-sing (again, masked and distanced) with the congregation's sound system?
Resources on Congregational Singing During COVID-19
The UUA's Guidance on Gathering page includes sample policies that address various kinds of congregational activities.
These singing-specific resources are from the spring of 2021. The Delta variant has likely changed some of the calculus, but you might still find these resources interesting and useful as we await newer articles from professionals in the field.
Measurements and Simulations of Aerosol Released while Singing and Playing Wind Instruments is a scientific peer-reviewed journal article about aerosols and COVID-19 risk in music performance. The results of this study ground our recommendations.
- The International Coalition Performing Arts Aerosol Study recommendations (PDF) updated March 2021 provide guidance for safety.
- Slideshow: Reopening, Unmasking, and Face-to-Face Teaching (PDF) by the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS).