In the COVID era, choral singing has been a “super-spreading event”, and almost no one has had to alter their lives during the pandemic as much as singers. During the last two years, UUCP’s choir made extensive use of collaborative video and home recording, but with beautiful weather, vaccinations, masks, and falling COVID infection rates, we finally started rehearsing in person, outside and masked.

As infection rates continued to fall, the weather started to heat up, and many members began attending services in the sanctuary in person, we had to make some decisions about what to do next. Would we rehearse outside or inside? Would we sing in services, record videos live to show in services, or even call into service on Zoom on Sundays from the Johnson Room? Again, because singing moves more aerosols than talking, the congregation’s guidance for small groups didn’t quite apply to us. We needed to really think about the situation.

So during a recent outdoor choir rehearsal, singers each shared their own thoughts, feelings, and preferences, keeping them personal and not trying to convince each other. Then we took a bird’s eye view of what had been shared, noting points of agreement and disagreement, and asking questions that might clarify points of disagreement or confusion. It actually felt quite profound to have a discussion about COVID in which no one tried to convince anyone else, and no one explained a point except by request.

Eventually, we created a “Choir COVID Covenant” stating that:

  • We would rehearse inside and masked
  • We each agree to stay up to date on COVID vaccinations and boosters
  • We each agree to stay home if we have been exposed to someone who had COVID, or if we have symptoms that could be COVID

Rev. Christine and I decided that for now, because COVID rates are relatively low, and because we have robust online service options for those who need to be more cautious, it made sense to invite the choir to sing in service on Sunday mornings. So last week, we sang in Sunday’s Easter service—our first service in the sanctuary in over two years! I hope that you enjoyed hearing us, whether you were in the sanctuary or watching online. And I hope that this process can serve as a model for other UUCP groups that need to make these kinds of decisions.

– Benjie Messer, Music Director