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Ballarat Choir leads COVID research

Sweet Mona's Choir . Photo eCommunity Press

Singing in choirs has been thought to be one of the riskier activities in COVID times. Singers expel aerosols and droplets and usually stand close together in order to hold their part and correctly blend their voices.

After one particularly disastrous cluster outbreak in America, early in the COVID-19 pandemic, most choral singing ceased across the world.

However, the research is conflicting and in Australia there have been few guidelines for choirs. But because choral singing has been proven extremely beneficial for mental and physical health and wellbeing, it is more important than ever that we find a solution.

The Ballarat Choral Society has secured a grant from the Regional Arts Fund to investigate pathways for choirs to resume singing again in the safest possible ways. Results of the research will be widely shared with other community, church and professional choirs.

The small team met recently for the first time. It includes Prof. Catherine Bennett, Chair of Epidemiology at Deakin University, local sound and recording expert, Rex Hardware, and civil engineer Michael Knowles. From the Choral Society are Musical Director Helen Duggan, electronics engineer and Vice President Brian Sala, and President and project manager, Merle Hathaway. Post Graduate students from Deakin University under the guidance of Professor Bennett will research and evaluate the project.

Currently the team is investigating low to high technology solutions.  Semi-underground car parks where ventilation approaches that of being outside are being checked for air flow and acoustics, while at the high-tech end headphones and radio systems will be trialled.

Many singers across the world will give a musical sigh of relief if this ground-breaking research provides some answers.