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Singing in places of worship is now allowed in Wales, with precautions

22 June 2021

LLANDAFF CATHEDRAL

Distanced: choristers in Llandaff Cathedral. This week, the cathedral is to hold midweek choral evensong, for the first time this year

Distanced: choristers in Llandaff Cathedral. This week, the cathedral is to hold midweek choral evensong, for the first time this year

CONGREGATIONAL singing and chanting are now allowed indoors in places of worship in Wales, after updated guidelines were issued by the Welsh Government on Monday.

The guidance on the government website continues to lay heavy emphasis on the “significant risks” associated with playing wind instruments, and with singing or chanting at louder volumes, and emphasises that “extreme caution” should be exercised throughout.

But it says that scientific advice has concluded that these risks are manageable when community transmission rate is low, and that singing, or the playing of instruments, as part of worship practice can take place with a risk assessment and appropriate mitigations in place.

The duration of performance, the number of singers, audience behaviour (in terms of singing along), the age of singers — adolescents, the guidance says, “emit fewer aerosol particles during singing than what has been known so far for adults” — should all be taken into consideration.

The guidance warns that singing should take place only in larger, well-ventilated spaces, or outdoors, and face coverings should be worn where this is practicable. It recommends that singers’ masks be designed to hold the material away from the nose and mouth to allow normal vowel production and projection. Communal singing should be “for limited periods of time and at a reduced level of loudness, using microphones for amplification if available”.

Singers and musicians must continue to be spaced at least two metres apart in all directions, which also applies to members of congregations if singing is to take place. All types of instrument can be used, subject to risk assessment and adoption of the prescribed mitigations. This includes wind and brass instruments as well as pipe organs. Church bells can also now be rung again with the appropriate mitigations.

The Welsh Government withdrew at the weekend advice that it had initially included in its official guidance for singers: the warning that tenors emitted more aerosol particles than basses, sopranos, or altos, and should therefore be positioned five metres from the rest of the choir.

It attracted ridicule when the advice appeared to have been informed by a spoof news post by Quire Memes, under the apparent auspices of Classic FM. Wales Online reported that the Government had “apologised unreservedly” for the error and “for any confusion it may have caused”.

Despite pressure from the choral world, amateur choirs in England are still limited to singing with just six people indoors, and congregational singing is not allowed in any place of worship.

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