Whoever thought that choral singing would be a dangerous sport?
Well it is now, thanks to the new coronavirus.
"How so?" I hear you cry.
The problem is that singers do various unhelpful things:
1) they breathe in deeply, thus taking in more air and, possibly, more droplets which could be carrying viruses. By this means they invite an infection and a bigger initial dose of the virus.
2) they breathe out deeply and project their breath, especially when they sing loudly, thus expelling droplet-laden breath into the air and, potentially, sharing their viruses generously with all in the room.
3) they insist on doing these activities in synchronised groups, thus providing an excellent substrate for the virus to propagate.
Yesterday, incidentally, I met with a colleague here who recovered from his covid infection just a couple of weeks ago. He's in his thirties and contracted the virus playing volleyball. Enough said for his state of fitness. Nevertheless he was very unwell, experiencing great difficulty breathing, extreme fatigue and still has odd symptoms now. This isn't a disease to fool around with.
Getting back to the point. Choir directors all over France have arranged online conferences to share warnings, regulations and best practice. The upshot is to distance your singers and to insist that all be masked.
Some choirs are forced to find alternative rehearsal rooms or just to rehearse in small groups. There has been some reaction, sometimes strong reaction, to the idea of singing masked because of the risk of brain damage from the effects of oxygen-depletion, excessive carbon-dioxide and the build-up of the toxins that we naturally breathe out each day. Since I've been regularly singing, praying and preaching in a mask since early July I will leave the reader to judge the state of my poor beleagured grey cell.
Of course, singing with a mask on is disagreeable and so someone has come up with a wonderful system involving a bent wire coat-hanger that your jam over your head before putting your mask on. This keeps the mask away from your mouth and allows a more normal singing and breathing experience, except for the hook at the back of your neck, of course.
Since I bent my best wire coat-hanger to make a stand for my laptop to raise up the webcam to a more natural angle for zoom calls I am waiting till I can ransack Pat's wardrobe for something suitable.
In other news researchers have declared that the disposable "surgical masks" that we see littering our streets now, and which are more effective than the cotton "anyone and everyone" masks when new, can be washed. Washing them does diminish their intial effectiveness but they are still better than cotton masks, even after 5 times of washing.
Since these masks are far less disagreeable to sing in than the thicker cotton masks, this is good news.
And we need good news like that, do we not!