Guidance for Singing Together as COVID-19 Subsides

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, but we still need to exercise caution. The following recommendations are based on the scientific wisdom of national experts from whom we have received advice and placed in the context of our values. For more general guidance on regathering, see UUA Guidance on Gathering As COVID-19 Subsides.

Key Planning Principles Applied to In-Person Singing

UUA President Rev. Dr. Susan Frederick-Gray has articulated four Key Principles for Planning for congregations contemplating reinstitution of in-person gatherings. We apply these principles here to in-person singing.

Root Decisions in the Values of Inclusion and Consent

Be sure that staff and lay leaders with accountability for your choir (or other singing groups) are the primary decision-makers about how in-person singing begins to happen.

Most group singing in congregations is done by a choir that is open to all, and a congregation that is open to all. Practicing inclusion means assuming that not everyone is vaccinated and acting accordingly.

Some singing ensembles might be small and closed, such as a trio that regularly rehearses together and occasionally performs during worship. In small and closed groups, you can ask if members have received vaccines against COVID-19, and make suitable decisions in accordance with what you learn.

Follow the Science

Infographic for In-person singing guidagnce

Knowing that not everyone in our congregations (or who might visit) will get vaccinated against COVID-19, we must rely on other safety measures to control the level of respiratory droplets that could be shared in group singing. Experts consulted by the UUA advise that the simultaneous presence of any three out of these four factors creates an adequately safe environment for singing during the pandemic:

  • Excellent ventilation: you are singing outdoors, or you are singing indoors in a space with excellent ventilation (20 liters/min/person or >5 ACH.)
  • High quality masks: High-filtering, low-leak masks (such as KN95) or well-fitting double masks worn by all participants.
  • Distance of at least six feet between participants who are not in the same household.
  • Duration of no more than 30 minutes.

This simple prescription doesn’t take into account your local COVID incidence or vaccination rates. See the UUA’s Guidance on Gathering page for sample policies that take COVID incidence into account. In your planning, first be mindful of your local context and conditions for gathering in general, then consider guidance specific to singing.

Infographic for In-person singing by small group of vaccinated people

For a safe environment among a small, consistent, closed performing group of fully vaccinated individuals, keep at least three feet of separation and have one of these two:

  • Good ventilation: Outdoors or indoors with good ventilation/filtration (10 liters/min/person or > 2 ACH.)
  • High quality masks: High-filtering, low-leak masks (such as KN95) or well-fitting double masks worn by all participants.

Go Slow and Be Flexible

As we say on our main Gathering Guidance page, now is the time to plan and consult with the people responsible and engaged in your programs. Our public health officials remind us that as we begin to have in-person offerings, we have to be prepared to shift back to all-virtual gatherings and worship if conditions change. This is all the more true for activities that involve singing, which creates a higher risk of aerosol spread.

Be Humane and Realistic With Expectations of Ourselves and Others

So many of us are tired of restrictions and hungry for connection! In our eagerness, we might become impatient or judgmental with one another. How can you foster patience, mutual caring, and grace? Our most important values in this time are care and compassion.

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 group singing to be part of your congregation’s offerings when local conditions make it safer to gather.

Some of the creative ways our congregations are finding to sing in-person include:

  • Holding outdoor masked and distanced sing-alongs, accompanied by guitar or electric keyboard.
  • Hosting outdoor masked and distanced hymn sings with the congregation’s sound system.
  • Making video recordings of small fully-vaccinated singing groups to share in the Sunday service.
  • Featuring a fully-vaccinated soloist performing at a distance at an outdoor or excellently-ventilated indoor service.

Additional Resources on Congregational Singing During COVID-19