Choir COVID Plan Aids in Return to Singing
The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square organization has been on hold for rehearsals, performances, and recordings for nineteen months due to COVID. With the goal of returning to performances as safely and quickly as possible, the Choir announced a seven-step plan at an organization-wide “Restart Orientation” via Zoom on Thursday, September 9.
Who better to direct the creation of this plan than the former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Michael O. Leavitt, the new president of the Choir organization? President Leavitt took over the responsibility just weeks ago on August 26. He immediately set to work with a team of healthcare experts led by Choir medical director, Dr. David Palmer, and executional assistance from Choir professional staff to develop the COVID plan, in consultation with Bishop Gerald Caussé and the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
President Leavitt described the plan to resume Choir activity like stacking slices of Swiss cheese. Each slice has holes, but the more layers of protection applied, the higher the likelihood that the COVID virus spread can be minimized. The Choir’s multi-level strategy includes:
- Vaccinations: All performers must be vaccinated and provide evidence of being immunized. (Those not vaccinated will be granted a special leave until conditions improve.)
- Screening: Those with health conditions that limit effectiveness of their immune systems even if vaccinated or those with immunocompromised household members will also be granted special leave.
- Testing: Every performer and all support personnel will be tested prior to each rehearsal or performance. Those with positive test results will be excused from the event and cleared to return later after consultation with and approval of the Choir medical director.
- Social Distancing: For general conference, only half of the Choir will sing at each session.
- Face Coverings: Masks will be worn except when actively rehearsing or performing.
- Self-Reporting: Organization members will report COVID symptoms or household exposure and stay home with any symptoms, even sniffles.
- Ventilation: Performances will be limited to the Conference Center for now because of greater ventilation safety.
The rigorous nature of the Choir’s plan is required due to the inherent challenges posed by singing and playing wind instruments in the spread of the virus. The Choir COVID plan will be implemented first with Choir members in preparation for October’s general conference. Half the Choir will sing in the Saturday morning session and the other half in the Sunday morning and Sunday afternoon sessions.
Based on results, procedures will be extended to enable rehearsals and performances of the Orchestra at Temple Square and Bells at Temple Square, the Choir’s companion ensembles. Live broadcasts of Music & the Spoken Word and opening rehearsals and performances to the public may then follow later in the fall.
In presenting the plan, Leavitt indicated that the plan’s effectiveness will be monitored and if signs indicate it is not working, the Choir will pause rehearsals again. He also asked for patience as the protocols are implemented and the faith and united prayers of all involved to invoke Heaven’s blessing for a successful outcome.
While not meeting together these many months, Choir members have been rigorous in their vocal building and memorization so that when they come back together they are prepared and ready to sing. Even though there will be new COVID policies and procedures in place, members of The Tabernacle Choir organization are thrilled to be returning and hope for the day when audiences will be able to join with them.