Everyone is talking about the coronavirus. With a global health crisis potentially on our hands, it makes operating a community chorus pretty challenging. Perhaps your ticket sales are down, maybe your singers are dropping concerts, or your limited staff members are worried about getting sick.
First things first: don't panic but please do prepare.
We never know what will happen in these types of situations. Organizations that bring together mass gatherings, like choruses, have a responsibility to be prepared in the event of an emergency.
At Chorus Connection, we wanted to provide you with a guide that can help your choral leadership feel more in control of the situation and to help you keep your patrons feeling safe.
Disclaimer: We are not health or legal professionals. Please do not consider this medical or legal advice. Please only use this blog as a resource to prompt thoughtful discussions within your organization around preparing for a potential emergency.
Make a Contingency Plan for Your Rehearsals and Performances
Meet with your staff and chorus leadership to discuss contingency plans for your rehearsals and performances in case of a national health emergency.
Here is a list of talking points:
Following all legal requirements. Ensure that you are following any of your state or country's legal requirements around paid-time off policies or any travel restrictions for your staff, volunteers, and members.
Stay informed. What happens if a coronavirus outbreak occurs in your area? How will you be notified and who will be responsible for relaying information internally to the organization and externally to your patrons?
Determine emergency contacts and chain of command. Who is responsible for managing and ensuring emergency protocols and procedures will be followed? Who should your staff, members, volunteers, or patrons contact in the event of an emergency?
Reassess sick policy for staff and volunteers. What is the staff policy for sick days? What is the protocol for when staff members become sick? Is there anything you need to do to prepare for the absence of one of your staff?
Reassess attendance policy for singers. What is the current attendance policy for your singers and how might you adjust this in case of a coronavirus outbreak in your area? Will you allow for concert or rehearsal drops? What excuses will you accept for these types of drops?
Plan ahead for singer drops. What if all your singers start to drop from illness or they are uncomfortable being in large groups? How will you find backup ringers? You may wish to talk to other choruses in your area to help coordinate emergency ringers for any upcoming performances.
Check your insurance policy. Does your insurance policy cover anything in the event of a national health emergency? Will they cover any losses in ticket sales or other operational costs in the case you have to cancel a rehearsal or performance? Check with your insurance company to see if you are covered and if there is any other coverage you should purchase.
Discuss options with rehearsal and performance venues. What is the venue's policy on event cancellations or date changes in the case of a national health emergency? Check with the venue in advance in case you may need to cancel or change the date of an event.
Discuss options with vendors and guests. Check in with your vendors and guests to see how they are feeling about the situation. Discuss potential outcomes in case of emergency. Do you have plans for backup musical guests in case one or more falls ill? What happens if the event needs to be cancelled or postponed?
Consider your financials. What happens if you start losing ticket sales or you have to cancel a performance due to an emergency? Does the organization have enough money in savings to cover operational costs and losses? How will your organization need to adjust the budget for the remainder of the season to compensate for any losses?
Discuss emergency illness protocol during an event. Determine what to do in the event someone becomes sick during a rehearsal or performance. Refer to CDC's large gatherings guide for more guidance.
Determine what to do in event of cancellation. In the event of rehearsal or performance changes or cancellations, how will you coordinate these changes? Determine who you need to inform and how you will communicate it to them.
Reassess your refund policy. Will you process any refunds in the event that ticket buyers cancel due to reasons related to the coronavirus? And if so, how will that process work?
Set up your communications plan. Who will be responsible for communicating any changes or cancellations during an emergency? How will you communicate this to your members, staff, volunteers, and patrons? Which channels will you use to get the word out?
Help Your Staff, Volunteers, and Members Feel Safe During Rehearsals
You'll likely want to share some information about the coronavirus and the precautions your organization is taking with your members, staff, and volunteers.
Here are some ideas for helping to make them feel safe at rehearsals and performances:
Follow CDC's safety precautions. Encourage your members to wash hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, cover sneezes and coughs, avoid touching their face, and stay home from rehearsals and/or performances if they are sick. Share these facts with your members from the CDC and encourage those with symptoms to stay home and to call their doctor.
Limit physical touch. Inform members to limit any physical touching during rehearsals, when possible. Get rid of those back rubbing exercises or face massages during warm-ups — anything that involves touching others or touching faces.
Be flexible with your attendance policies. Allow people to excuse themselves from rehearsals if they are feeling sick or do not want to be in a large group of people. Ensure that they do not experience negative consequences for taking these safety precautions.
Keep an eye on travel. Ask members who have been traveling recently to contact the chorus leadership prior to attending rehearsals. Determine together the best course of action.
Be flexible with your seating arrangements. If singers are feeling uncomfortable in a crowded space, allow them to move around and sing in other spaces.
Bring sanitizing materials. Have hand sanitizer, tissues, and trash cans available during rehearsals. Also, you may wish to allow singers to leave freely during rehearsals if they would like some space or need to wash up.
Clean daily. Clean off rehearsal spaces daily such as any tables, chairs, or office equipment that are regularly used by multiple people. Do a thorough scrub down prior to and after rehearsals/performances.
Keep your members informed. Send out an email to the chorus letting them know what you are doing to keep them safe and what safety precautions they should take prior to attending any group events.
Help Your Audience Members Feel Safe During Performances
There are a few things you can do to help your audience members feel safe at your performances.
Here are a few ideas:
Again, follow CDC's safety precautions. Encourage your ticket buyers to wash hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, cover sneezes and coughs, avoid touching their face, and stay home if they are sick.
Be flexible with refunds. Offer to refund ticket purchases to those who cannot come to the event due to symptoms or illness.
Bring sanitizing materials. Have hand sanitizer stations at the performance in the lobby, in bathrooms, or you can even leave hand sanitizer wipes on seats!
Rearrange your house seating as necessary. If you have the space, restructure the house seating to allow for more space between groups of ticket buyers. People may feel less worried if they're not all clustered together and on top of each other.
Be flexible with exits from the house during the concert. Some people may feel stuck attending a concert for long periods of time without having as much personal space or a place to wash up regularly. You may wish to allow people to exit the concert hall at any time during the performance to do those things. Usually concerts are more formal, so you may want to clearly communicate that this is acceptable for your patrons to do.
Limit physical contact. Ask your staff and audience members to limit contact with each other. This is particularly important with your box office volunteers. When possible, look at tickets instead of touching them. Have your volunteers enter ticket buyer information on their online ticketing solution without having the audience member touch any device. You may even consider asking your box office volunteers to use hand sanitizer after any tickets or currency changes hands.
Ask venue to sanitize. Work with the concert venue to throughly sanitize public areas before and after the performance.
Bring extra help. Prepare for extra staff and volunteers to manage your box office or other concert operations in the case of last-minute dropouts due to illness.
Establish emergency protocol for the event. In your concert programs, pre-concert emails, or concert announcements, let your audience members know what they should do if they become sick during a performance. According to CDC, you should request that anyone who experiences symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath, they should immediately leave the event and call their doctor.
Notify your ticket buyers. Share this information with ticket buyers or potential ticket buyers before they attend the concert. The precautions you take and the information you give them now may help your audience members feel safer, encourage them not to cancel their purchase, or even help you sell more tickets!
- COVID-19 Interim Guidance: Get Your Mass Gatherings or Large Community Events Ready
- Share Facts About COVID-19
- ArtsReady Coronavirus Alert
- Chorus America - Preparing for Potential Impact of COVID-19
Chorus America and Chorus Connection are working to collect data from choruses impacted by COVID-19. If your chorus has been impacted by COVID-19, please complete this form.
We will use this data to keep choral leaders informed of what is going on in their local communities, help us create useful resources for all choral organizations, and, eventually, analyze the data to understand the global impact of COVID-19 on the choral arts.
Thank you for your time!
Tori Cook is the former Director of Sales & Marketing at Chorus Connection. She sings with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus and is a board member of the Greater Boston Choral Consortium. In a past life, she was the Music Director of the Harborlight Show Chorus and President of Chorus pro Musica in Boston. When not making music, she daydreams about adopting a golden retriever puppy and scuba diving to exotic locations around the world.