The network, which was set up to deliver the 2021 Adelaide Year of the Choir, represents around 100 choirs with more than 5000 singers, ranging from organisations such as the Adelaide Chamber Singers to small community choirs and barber-shop groups.

Its COVID-19 guidelines for group singing – set out in the detailed online document How Can We Keep From Singing? (a title adapted from the American folksong How Can I Keep From Singing?) ­ – were produced in consultation with SA Health and have been welcomed by Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier.

“In the early days of the pandemic, social media was awash with reports from around the world of COVID-19 transmission associated with choir rehearsals and speculation about the risks was widespread,” Adelaide Choral Network chair Carl Crossin said.

“Whilst we were able to postpone Year of the Choir to 2022, we needed to find a pathway for choirs to resume singing that was backed by SA Health, not only because we couldn’t continue planning with any confidence, but because the physical and mental wellbeing of choristers was affected in immediate and tangible ways.”

The network worked with public health consultant Rosemary Byron Scott to examine available research into the relationship between COVID-19 and singing. Crossin says this was then translated into language that would “enable choirs to make their own decisions about what was best for their choristers”.

The guidelines are comprehensive and wide-ranging, covering everything from the recommendations for physical distancing to prevent transmission through droplets emissions, to the importance of ventilation in rehearsal rooms and cleaning protocols. They advise that “multiple control measures” are likely to be most effective.

Professor Spurrier acknowledged that singing contributed to many people’s wellbeing, and said SA Health welcomed the collaboration with the Adelaide Choral Network.

“We are pleased that the guidance provides choirs with clarity between the mandatory Government requirements and additional options they can choose to adopt, depending on their individual circumstances, enabling them to take responsible and practical steps to reduce the risks of spreading the virus in a group singing situation,” she said.

Crossin encouraged choirs to resume singing “in a way that feels comfortable for them so that we can all participate fully in the Adelaide Year of the Choir in 2022”.

The ACN’s website says the Adelaide Year of the Choir will see bring together major events, pop-ups, workshops, seminars, festivals and concert performances by choirs of all shapes and sizes “right across the age and cultural spectra”.

The COVID-19 Risk Management Guidance for South Australian Group Singing can be viewed on the Adelaide Choral Network website.

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This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.