The following is a dynamic document for the Middlebury College Choir, intended to share a fundamental approach to singing during a pandemic as pertains specifically to the Middlebury College campus.

I present this information in two parts: first, a summary of fundamental issues, then context in slightly more detail.
 

Basic Health and Safety Protocol for Rehearsal
  • Be a little early (5 minutes maximum) and go right to your spot

    • If you are late, you lose precious singing time

  • Enter Mead distanced appropriately, masked

    • Once you know your spot in Mead, enter from the closest door

  • Hand sanitizer and wipes are available in Mead

  • BRING YOUR OWN earbuds or headphones

  • BRING YOUR OWN folder - no extras

    • New music will be available for pick up or at your station

  • Do not leave your place; if you must, go towards the outside aisle and around the group at distance

  • Masks will be worn singing; have an extra somewhere, they get warm

  • Clean your station with wipes after use

  • Exit nearest exit, distanced

 

Basics of singing during a pandemic
  • Choir divided into groups of 7-8 [updated: up to 15] singers at a time for rehearsal, with these groups balanced as best possible

  • Masks on, 12-15 feet apart, in specific standing order

  • 45-minute rehearsals, Monday and Wednesday afternoons, 30-minute break between (we will actually be singing for about 30 minutes)

  • Prep outside of rehearsal with online part learning tools

  • Occasional all-choir meetings online

  • Audio system to compensate for distance - BRING YOUR OWN earbuds/headphones

  • Music will be either available in hard copy to pick up, or you can print

  • Performance will include each group recording, then putting recordings together and adding a video that someone will produce; some full choir recording may be possible as well (as in fall semester on weekends).

 

Health and Safety Outside of Rehearsal
  • Your behavior outside of rehearsal affects the life of College Choir, and this is never more true than at the present time. When you join the College Choir community, you must recognize your responsibility to the membership of the ensemble, in terms of health and safety as well as music. This means:

  • If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you need to seek a test, and remain away from in-person rehearsal until you have a negative result.

  • If you are in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, you need to wait until that person’s test negative test result is available before returning to rehearsal in person.

  • YOU MUST AVOID any situation in which people around you are not following campus protocol for COVID-19. DO NOT join activities or social situations in which rules for health and safety are compromised. This puts all of us in the College Choir at risk. Stay away from people and situations that compromise health and safety - it is as simple as that. We can’t afford it.

  • If you are not able or willing to commit to these points, then this is not the time for you to sing in College Choir. There may be unavoidable circumstances that cause this to be the case! Our close community demands careful scrutiny of circumstances that might compromise each other’s health and safety.

Rehearsal and Repertoire

Note, most note learning and warm up needs to happen outside of rehearsal. You can warm up any time during the day, just find some time to do it. We will do something brief in the rehearsal, for ensemble, but we have so little time together!

 

I am preparing for you a combination of familiar and new. We will likely sing fewer pieces than we typically do, because things may take longer and we simply don’t have the rehearsal time.
 

Auditions

go/choralauditions 

Spread the word! Singers should contact me by email, and I hope to have both online and in person audition possibilities available, as well as an online sign up sheet (TBD each term). (You do not need to re-audition, this is FYI.) 

Context

I have developed a very specific plan for singing within the COVID-19 protocol, on Middlebury campus. That will differ from other institutions, and potentially other programs on campus, because my reasoning and my situation is site-specific. I have developed this by consulting international studies recent and recent-past regarding aerosol and droplet dispersion and specifically aerosols in musical performance, including different styles of singing and different types of instruments. My approach is to be extra careful, and go beyond the basic guidance towards a plan with which I feel reasonably safe, in which you are as safe as possible assuming everyone in the ensemble follows distancing and hygiene guidance. As singers, trusting each other to meet in this special way regularly, I feel we need to do more than most to not be a part of situations that compromise health standards in any way. All of that understood, I hope that we can sing together happily. At least, somewhat “together,” but also hopefully very “happy”.

Rehearsal

In-person rehearsals will be held in Mead Chapel with 8(-10?) [updated: up to 15] singers at a time, masked, and distanced 12-15 feet apart in a specific standing order at fixed positions. I will create a schedule based on student course schedules. We will have a series of 45-minute rehearsals on Monday and Wednesday afternoons, with a break in between for the air to refresh and for things to settle. You will meet twice per week, 90 minutes total - very far from 240 minutes per week as usual. In addition to that, the total time spent actually singing will be closer to 30 minutes, in accordance with recent guidelines. Given that minimal amount of time singing in person together, I expect preparation outside of rehearsal, and I will share tools for that on our website. We will record portions of rehearsals regularly, and ultimately join group recordings together to create a full choir. Occasionally I will hold all-choir meetings online, so we can all interact without masks. When full-choir meetings (distanced, masked) are possible, we will do that as well, as mentioned above. I am hopeful that the audio system will help us compensate for the distance apart (you will need to bring your own earbuds/headphones), as a learning tool, but we will strive for our singing to happen without technology as much as possible. A mask for singing can be quite useful, and I can probably procure some if you are interested.

Performance

Our performances will involve us recording our singing, and producing a video of some kind to accompany. We will premiere programs on YouTube with scheduled watch parties on Zoom. (In fall 2020, this included November 20 fall concert, and December 20 Lessons and Carols). The video element might include recording session videos, as in fall 2020, or it could include other video that we construct for the sake of variety, interest, and possibly subject of our singing. It is an opportunity for creativity, and I welcome all ideas and collaboration towards our shared performances online.

 

Arts departments do hope to have some performance on campus, for limited audiences, and possibly in a progressive manner moving the same short performances around to different locations for different audiences on campus. Regardless, we need to consider the video element of our musical productions as much as possible, and the need to share our music and our ensemble identity and mission beyond our campus.

Community

Community is the basis for our existence, in many ways, along with a desire for the source of that community to be music that we sing together. I hope to explore this more, to have College Choir be a group of individuals whose individual identity is supplemented and supported by the collective one of College Choir. We don’t need to surrender our individuality in such a group; we can give to the group in the way the group needs most, and we can claim the beauty and musical accomplishment of the group to be our own beauty and musical accomplishment.

Contact us 

buettner@ middlebury.edu

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