Corona Virus, also known as COVID-19 needs no introduction. Almost every person knows that it is a very deadly virus. It is a name that, when mentioned, makes many to almost instantly switch over to panic mode. On its account, the whole world had been turned around. It has come to change the status quo. Many economies have been paralyzed. Public arenas have been closed. Schools are closed. Places of worship, including churches were not spared. These actions were thought of as means by which the further spread of the virus can be curtailed. But as you and I can see for ourselves, the virus keeps spreading.
In fact, the World Health Organization (W.H.O), through its executive director, Health and Emergencies Programme, Dr. Mike Ryan, recently, said, ”… this virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away.”
This suggests that sooner or later, most governments of countries still under lockdown (Nigeria inclusive), may be left with no other options than to gradually restore their respective societies and almost crumbling economies to normalcy. Albeit, it will be with strict instructions and enforcement of guidelines on hygiene procedures in public places.
It therefore behooves everyone, including you choirmasters to start thinking and planning on how to manage your choir post-covid. This will include how to cope with the attendant changes, in a bid to achieve success. Please, be pro-active.
As a choir leader, be prepared to exert extra efforts in making sure that they hardly exist, any gap to be filled. When churches are allowed to open, some choristers may withdraw themselves from choir practices or even church services, citing the fear of contracting COVID-19 as an excuse. Don’t be worried. All you need do is to get yourself prepared.
Here are some of tips which may be useful for pro-active choir leaders post-lock down.
1. Plan on how to ensure that book sharing is not continued. That is, each chorister must now have personal copies of singing books, both during practices and church services. This might be an onerous task but it is a necessary one. The use of personal choir robes is also advised.
2. As nose mask wearing is gradually being accepted as part of our new life, choir leaders should bear in mind the need for the audibility of singers. The decision, here might be in-between alternatives. One might be that the efficiency of the microphones will have to be increased. Another alternative might be that choristers will have to increase their vocal projections while still wearing nose masks. Start thinking on the specific strategy which will work for you.
3. As a pro-active choir leader, you should plan on making available, hand sanitizers for your instrumentalists and vocalists. Each of them will need to sanitize their hands before and after playing instruments and holding shared microphones.
4. Drummers, guitarists, string players, etc., should be encouraged not to share drum sticks, plectrums and bow as the case may be.
As a result of envisaged government’s guidelines, there will be reduction in the number of worshippers in a particular service. Therefore, the choir’s numerical strength may be essentially reduced. So, dear choir leader, you will have to develop a consistent robing/performance roaster as case may be.
6. If there is any time for you to build and also develop your social relationship skills, it is now. You need to consistently reach out to your choristers and also foster mutual understanding. This is in a bid to retain members. If you already have social media groups for your choir, now is the time to make effective use of such. Engage your choristers’ participation in quizzes, online debates, prayers, etc.
7. If possible, give higher preference to online choir practices. Applications such as Zoom, Facebook Messenger, Skype, WhatsApp, etc., are available for use. To be more effective, the pieces of music to be learnt should have been sent to choristers at least four days earlier. This way, they would have practised the pieces individually. So, the online practice will only hold in order to be able to synchronize the various singing parts.
8.The COVID-19 epidemic may give rise to the metamorphosing of choirs into choral ensembles, duets and solos. There will be no more hiding places for weaklings. It’s only the best of choristers who will be mostly considered.
So, choir leaders, kindly wake up to this new reality and plan ahead. I will be glad to have your comments and questions. Do stay safe
Babajide Ajayi is a trained pianist, organist, music theorist and teacher. He has well over 18 years of experience in the music profession.
He is also a very versed video editor cum 2D motion graphic designer.