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COVID-19 & Singing – An Update Based on Current Research

INTRODUCTION

There are currently research teams across the world working on identifying how COVID-19 spreads and how to best protect the population from contracting the virus. Two ongoing studies are particularly focusing on music-making, which is what we will reference in this summary article. Before continuing, a few important considerations:

  • The author of this article is a professional musician, not a scientist. However, all information posted here has been carefully researched to the best of his ability.
  • Because of the nature this virus and of risk-assessment in general, every situation is unique and you and your team of decision-makers must try to make the best decision for your community. What is the best decision for a group in Atlanta may not be the best decision for someone in Dallas. Think for yourselves and do your own research.

 

2 RECENT STUDIES

There have been two recent studies specific to music-making and COVID-19 that are being posted on social media, advertised by sponsoring organizations, and being mentioned by media outlets. One is based out of Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich and the other based out of the University of Colorado. Below are summaries of those study results and the highlights that stood out to me. Finally, we’ll offer recommendations for moving forward as it concerns congregational singing.

 

Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich Study

Article Link*https://www.ndr.de/kultur/musik/Corona-Studie-zum-Sicherheitsabstand-beim-Singen,aerosolebeimsingen100.html

*The article and the quotes from it found below were originally in German and translated to English via the automatic Google Translate function via the Chrome browser.

Lead Researcher – Prof. Matthias Echternach of Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich

Important Quotes/Hightlights:

  • “As far as the widths forward [of the aerosols], it was the case that the sung text had the largest width. Interestingly, here it is so that loud and quiet didn’t make that big a difference, loud only went on marginally – and that makes sense. Because singers still have to convey the text very well when they sing softly. That means that they showed a lot of text accuracy and the width of the radiation to the front probably has a lot to do with the consonant abundance.”
  • “Here we had an average value of around one meter. But you have to say in the risk assessment that there were also singers who got over it up to a meter and a half. This means that the classic distance, as we know it from everyday life, is too small towards the front when singing. This is the first main finding. The second is the spread to the side. Here we were able to demonstrate significantly smaller distances.”
  • “What we have examined needs to be narrowed down briefly. We have not investigated how much aerosol is formed or how it can accumulate in the room over the long term, other working groups do that. Instead, we examined the process of how the aerosol behaves when it is ejected from the mouth into the room. This means that the advice we give can only relate to this impulse. If we think about distance rules now, we can say: two to two and a half meters to the front should very likely be sufficient, to the side one and a half meters should be enough – provided the aerosols are repeatedly removed! And this removal is not a problem in the fresh air. But it could be a problem indoors. If you could get a continuous ventilation, then you could probably orientate yourself on the normal rehearsal times. If this cannot be guaranteed, I have to have regular intermittent ventilation, preferably after ten minutes.”

 

Our Summary

  • This study is not peer-reviewed yet nor has its results been duplicated by other studies. It, therefore, cannot be deemed as scientifically reliable. It can inform our decision-making but should not be upheld as scientifically “true” until it meets more rigorous standards.
  • There were singers whose projection of droplets exceeded 6 feet, which is the current standard recommendations for social distancing. This study is recommending 12 feet.
  • Singing loudly or softly didn’t make a significant difference in droplet projection
  • They did not study aerosol dispersion or used masked/unmasked variants in this study.

 

COLORADO STUDY

Study Link – https://www.nfhs.org/media/4119369/aerosol-study-prelim-results-round-2-final-updated.pdf

Lead Researchers – Dr. Shelly Miller of the University of Colorado and Dr. Jelena Srebric of the University of Maryland

Important Quotes/Highlights:

  • “These preliminary results are from our few weeks of exploratory testing. They will be further defined as the study continues. We are providing these preliminary results to assist in the safe return to classrooms. (Normally we do not release data until they have been quality assessed and peer reviewed).”
  • “This study did not use a live virus or infected participants and therefore cannot be used to determine specific infection rates.”
  • Mask Graphic from study PDF:

 

 

  • After talking about efficiency/effectiveness of masks in keeping people safe, they say:
  • “These numerical findings need to be compared to actual experimental data as numerical simulations cannot replace experiments when studying new transport phenomena, especially the ones that threaten human life.”
  • “Performing arts activities have been found to create aerosol that is less than coughing, but more than talking. The following considerations are effective for music, speech, theatre and debate activities.”
  • Airflow matters significantly in aerosol build-up

 

Our Summary

  • This study is not complete.
  • This study is not peer-reviewed yet nor has its results been duplicated by other studies. It, therefore, cannot be deemed as scientifically reliable. It can inform our decision-making but should not be upheld as scientifically “true” until it meets more rigorous standards.
  • Singing and playing wind instruments is seems to be riskier than speech, however it is not as risky as coughing.
  • Masks make a difference, but masks must be fitted and worn properly.

 

Conclusion

As of today, we continue to err on the side of caution, not because we are fearful but because we are faithful. We believe that the health and lives of congregations across the U.S. are more important than any single act of music-making. God calls us to love and care for our neighbors. There will be a time we can sing together in our churches again, but the two studies referenced above do not provide scientific evidence that it is safe for a congregation to do so right now. They should give us hope, but they should not give us permission. The scientists leading the studies have said as much. So please reference these studies and continue to look for updates. But do not be fooled or allow yourselves to read those studies as scientific proof that there are risk-free ways of singing together.

 

For more resources and updates concerning COVID-19 and Singing, please go to: https://thehymnsociety.org/covid-19/

 

Blogger Brian Hehn is the Director of

The Center for Congregational Song.

 

 

Guest blogger David Schaap is the president of Selah Publishing Co., Inc. based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

 

 

Questions about Streaming Copyright

There have been many questions on social media about copyright for streaming or posting on YouTube your church services and other church events where music is performed, and hopefully this will give you some answers with regards to what’s required and available.

I have been a publisher of congregational song with Selah Publishing Co. for over 30 years, and church musicians are now quite aware of the legal need to ask permission for reprinting copyrighted hymn tunes and texts in bulletins and service leaflets, which used not to be the case. But current circumstances have thrown many of us into a new world of podcasts/Facebook live/YouTube channels and church website videos that we haven’t had to deal with before.

You’re aware of the reprinting permission required by copyright law, but there are other separate forms of copyright held by composers, authors, or publishers. You might be familiar with mechanical rights, where you get permission to produce a CD for a certain fee per disk. That’s a separate right granted to copyright holders from reprint rights.

 

US Copyright Law UnPacked

The U.S. copyright law requires permission for “synchronization” to allow you to broadcast copyrighted music with video, whether it’s Facebook Live, posted on your website, or on a YouTube channel (or even if it appears in a commercial, public service announcement, or feature film). According to the law, you must request permission before broadcasting it in any form. You can do this by contacting each publisher and requesting a synchronization license. The law doesn’t specify a mandatory fee, so it’s up to the publisher to decide what they charge to cover the cost of issuing a license and making a small profit. Many publishers have a minimum fee; for example, Selah’s is a minimum of $15. This could clearly become a nightmare of administrative work, even though we all enjoy that aspect of our work so much.

Or, you can subscribe to a service that allows you to do synchronization. The most comprehensive is Christian Copyright Solutions (christiancopyrightsolutions.com) which works with ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC to license their artists’ works for streaming. Nearly all (but not all) composers and authors and publishers are members of one of these agencies. The lowest fee is $500/year and goes up to $5,500/year. A disadvantage aside from the expense is that much of these fees don’t make it back to the composers because of their wide variety of clients.

 

CCLI & ONELICENSE

Many of you already have licenses with CCLI or OneLicense.net or both, and know that they cover what you are using in worship. Both agencies fortunately offer a reasonably priced podcast/streaming license which you can easily add to your subscription. Or sign up now for your new foray into music videos!

The OneLicense.net Podcast/Streaming license covers your Facebook Live broadcasts, archived Facebook videos from previous services, your YouTube channel, and broadcasting video on your church’s website. This covers copyrighted hymn text and tunes from their member publishers AND the performance of any of the member publisher’s organ/choral/instrumental copyrights. If you use them for permission to reprint copyrighted hymns or service music or other congregational music in service leaflets you can add the Podcast/Streaming license with a simple email or phone call to them. The fees begin at $67/year and go up to $655/year (for those churches with weekly attendance up to 30,000). You would need to do this as an add-on if you were providing a PDF of your bulletin with the copyrighted hymn texts or tunes, or if you are scrolling the lyrics during the video.

If you never reprint copyrighted congregational hymns for use, OneLicense has a new “Limited Podcast/Streaming License.” The title is misleading: it’s not limited in what you can use from their member publishers, it’s limited to only licensing for Facebook Live, YouTube channel, and website videos. And that license is the same price as the add-on, $67/year up to $655 a year.

OneLicense has also said they can make arrangements with churches if you would never stream a service and now are for the time being, but you’re not printing any bulletins or providing a PDF with copyrighted hymns at the moment, they can toggle you back and forth between one or the other option. And if you stop streaming at some point mid-license, they can remove that and prorate the fee.

Publishers from OneLicense.net covered under both congregational reprints AND Podcast/Streaming include Augsburg Fortress, Church Publishing, Celebration, Concordia Publishing, ECS Publishing, Fred Bock (including Hinshaw), GIA (including Iona Community, Taizé, RSCM), Hope Publishing, Kjos, MorningStar, OCP, Oxford University Press, Paraclete Press, Selah Publishing, and hundreds more. So if you would be performing copyrighted hymns, choral music, organ or keyboard music, or instrumental music from one of these publishers, you would be covered with this Podcast/Streaming license.

CCLI has a similar arrangement at similar costs you can add if you already use their services. There are many publishers that are members of both (including Selah), but the majority of what they represent tends towards the more evangelical/Pentecostal repertoire, just as OneLicense tends toward the more liturgical traditions. They cover Word/Hillsong/Keith Getty and many more of the Praise & Worship resources out there, from over 3,000 artists and labels.

A caveat: to keep your videos online or available through YouTube or Facebook or on your website, you need to pay for the annual license, and if you don’t renew, you must take them down.

 

Reporting

A really important part of this licensing is reporting your usage. You do not just sign up and are then fine forever, you have to tell the licensing agencies what you are using. This provides income to the composers, authors, and publishers, and is the fair and right thing to do. You should also indicate on your website or in posts that you are legally presenting the music under the license, and include your unique license number in the form they require under the license indicating those who created the work, the copyright notice, and the legal permission (i.e. Music by COMPOSER NAME, © 2020 PUBLISHER NAME, used with permission under CCLI/OneLicense.net XX-XXXX).

Note, these licenses DO NOT cover the broadcast of pre-recorded music by other artists. You can’t take your favorite organ music or choral music CD and play a track for a prelude on your Facebook Live broadcast with any blanket license: this can only be arranged by contacting directly the copyright holder of the recording (usually a label).

Sure, this is an additional cost for the church, but I don’t think we are going back to normal worship right away, nor that this might not happen again in the future. And it’s a small price compared to even what my church has been putting out for tripods, Bluetooth lavalier microphones, camera memory cards, lighting stands, routers, and cable to make live-streaming viable.

If you’re streaming or posting copyrighted music online, subscribe to a service, report the music you’re using on a regular basis, and indicate online that you’re doing it legally. We need to do what’s right and just in our work, and these agencies help you do just that.

David Schaap

 

Author Ginny Chilton Maxwell is Music Minister at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Hampton, VA

 

God Moves in a Mysterious Way: Doing Music Ministry During a Pandemic

How does one do music ministry from home, when the church is closed and choirs cannot gather?

The answer is, you spend the first week or two scrambling to put together online worship. But, mostly, you spend those first two weeks grieving the losses.

The new musical setting for my church’s Lenten Wednesday worship was going so well; the cantors, choir, and instrumentalists had worked so hard and worship was lifting us to new heights. Gone! The handbell choir was really taking off and was excited about three pieces for Lent and three for Easter Sunday. Cancelled! The adult choir had just gotten their new Easter anthem, which would have combined organ, handbells, and trumpet. Not happening!

But then, like all things we grieve, we emerge at some point and face reality. And usually, that is when we are given opportunities to greet God face to face. 

For one thing, I sense God’s presence more now when I talk to my co-workers. I see them only online, and much less often, but, having had to talk through some very hard things, I also feel closer to them. That is God at work.

Additionally, I had initially rejected the idea of having any kind of online meeting for our musical groups, but I changed my mind and gave it a try. Technology is an amazingly sophisticated thing, but it has not figured out how to allow people in different locations to make music together online in real time. With some hesitation, I decided to start Zoom meetings for the adult choir. Would it be awkward? Would people be distracted by the disorder of my makeshift home office, with the sounds of small children screaming in the background? But, you know what? It felt so good to see each other’s faces. After catching up a bit, we watched a video together through Zoom’s “screen share” function and, with our individual voices muted, sang along with the choir in the video. It was possible to see each other’s faces as we were singing (see photo below) and it gave us a taste of what we’d been missing: that feeling of being with other people to praise God through the beauty of music. 

Before doing this, I was convinced that such profound moments of faith and community were impossible to do through the internet. Granted, it’s not the same as being in person, and I do look forward to when we can be together again. But I think part of what struck me was the surprise at just what God is capable of doing. God reached us in a way we didn’t expect, which is exactly the way God works. We work hard, but mostly we show up and wait in expectant faith. God does the rest. Even in the midst of a pandemic– isolation, anxiety, fear, and even death– God is there.

Perhaps you have had some similar experiences participating in online worship services or choir rehearsals, in other online opportunities, or even just chatting with neighbors from six feet away. In what ways has God taken your grief, skepticism, bitterness, fear, or anxiety, and turned them into ways to grow in your relationship with God?

Much love and peace to you all during this time. When we are together again, in the flesh with our worshipping communities and choirs, it will be quite a celebration.

—Ginny—

 

A few members of the Adult Choir at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Hampton, VA, join in Zoom choir rehearsal.

“God moves in a mysterious way” is the title line from William Cowper’s famous 1774 hymn.