Covid-19 Bach Choir Protocol for attendance, rehearsal and performance

The Bach Choir of Bethlehem Protocol for Attendance | Choir and Orchestra rehearsal and performance

Revised: September 20, 2021

Introduction

The Board of the Bach Choir of Bethlehem recognizes its role in providing guidance to the Artistic and Executive Staff as they plan and carry out rehearsals and performances of the Bach Choir, Bel Canto Youth Chorus, Bach Festival Orchestra, and visiting artists during the COVID-19 pandemic, and admit live audiences into concerts and events. At the same time the Board commends the Staff for their innovative and rapid response, which unequivocally places the safety and well-being of our singers, families, volunteers, and patrons above all else, and aligns our actions with the direction of the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the CDC.

As of this writing there is no proven method to eliminate the spread of COVID virus in a choral setting.  This protocol was developed based on best practices recommended by a majority of authoritative sources as most likely to reduce the chance of transmission, including participant illness checks, personal protective equipment, social distancing, good hygiene practices, proper ventilation, and limited time of exposure.

Since the first writing of this protocol, vaccines have been introduced which have been shown safe and effective in suppressing the spread of the COVID virus in its original and mutated forms.  The use of these vaccines has taken a central role in The Choir’s protocol.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, the success of this protocol depends on each participant in an activity recognizing her or his responsibility to the others in the group and strictly adhering to the protocol.  It is the firm belief of The Board that the individuals associated with The Choir have always demonstrated this sense of shared civic responsibility and community, and will continue to do so in this emergency.

This protocol will be effective as of September 20, 2021, and remain in effect until further notice.

This protocol will be reviewed and updated to reflect current conditions on the ground, or at a minimum once a month by the Executive, Artistic and Board leadership.

This protocol will be posted on The Bach Choir website and referenced with a link in our promotions for performances, recordings, and broadcasts during the pandemic.

Objectives:

  1. Provide as safe an environment as we can for all participants.
  2. Conform to the directions of governmental authorities.
  3. Clearly model appropriate behavior in all choir activities and all public offerings, including new video recordings.
  4. Provide ongoing artistic support for our members and supporters.

Background:

  • Clinical evidence has shown that traditional choral settings are ideal for the asymptomatic transmission of the Covid virus through the exhalation and inhalation of virus-laden aerosols produced in the act of breathing, coughing, sneezing, talking and singing. To reduce the opportunity for transmitting the virus in rehearsal or performance steps must be taken to change the traditional rehearsal methods and participants must take individual responsibility to become vaccinated.
  • The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania through the PA Department of Health issues guidelines to be followed by businesses, groups and individuals in the state. These guidelines reflect the current infection rate of specific counties and cities and are changed from time to time to reflect improving or worsening conditions.   The detailed guidance for the current status is modified frequently as the PA DOH responds to new data on COVID infections.  The Choir will respond as needed to the changing guidance.
  • National and International choral organizations, such as NATS, ECA, Chorus America, and ACDA have made recommendations regarding proper safety practices for choral activities. From these recommendations certain best practices have been put forward, some of which have been employed in the development of this protocol.  [This Protocol has been reviewed by a public health official and confirms that it meets CDC guidance.]
  • The Board has adopted a policy of requiring all employees, contractors and volunteers to be vaccinated to participate in Bach Choir activities. Exemptions from this policy for anyone eligible to be vaccinated will only be considered for employees and minors.

Protocol for Audience attending Performances in person

Audience members

To welcome our audience members safely, we have implemented the following policies regarding attendance at all Bach Choir concerts and events, effective immediately:

 Vaccination required: All patrons aged 12+  attending an in-person concert or event must be vaccinated and show proof of complete COVID-19 vaccination before being admitted into any indoor concert venue. Proof may be offered digitally via a smartphone, an original vaccination card, or a digital or printed copy of the card, along with a personal ID card (license or other form).

 “Complete COVID-19 Vaccination” means that the patron has received the final COVID-19 vaccination dose at least 14 days prior to the concert date.

We will not accept proof of a negative COVID-19 test.

This policy is subject to change, in accordance with guidelines from the CDC and the Commonwealth of PA and will be revised as more age groups become eligible for vaccination. The Bach Choir will continue to monitor the conditions that impact our policies and modify our restrictions as needed.

Masks required: Mask wearing is required for all patrons. It must be placed properly, covering nose and mouth. Musicians will wear masks but may remove them to sing or play an instrument as needed.

Compliance and Agreement: Purchasing a ticket indicates compliance with our health protocols at all times while attending our concerts and consent to our policies. By attending, patrons assume any and all risks regarding exposure to COVID-19.

The continued well-being of our patrons, and that of our Bach Choir community, is our priority. We suggest the following as the season unfolds:

  • Please stay home if you do not feel well.
  • Do not attend a concert if you have a fever or any symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Do not attend if you have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 14 days or have been in contact with anyone who has tested positive or is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 during that time.

 Protocols for Rehearsals and Performances

 Participants

  • All volunteer, contract and staff participants must affirm that they are vaccinated in writing before being permitted to participate. Exemptions to this policy will only be considered for employees of The Choir and Bel Canto choristers.
  • The number of participants at rehearsals and performances, either indoor or outdoor, will be limited by state and local mandates and by policies adopted by the venue’s owners.
  • Each participant will be recorded as being in attendance.
  • No one who has currently tested positive for the Covid virus or is awaiting test results is permitted to participate.
  • No one displaying or reporting any symptoms of the virus or of any illness is permitted to participate.
  • No one who has been in contact with someone who is Covid positive or believes that they may have been exposed to the virus within 14 days prior to a rehearsal or performance is permitted to participate.
  • Mitigation plans must be in place in the event an attendee of a rehearsal or performance later is found to be Covid positive. The information is to be shared and appropriate steps taken by those present up to and including testing and self-quarantine.
  • All participants must sign The Bach Choir COVID Vaccine Affirmation and The Bach Choir Waiver form and accept the risks of rehearsing and performing.

Facilities

  • Permission from the owner of the venue, inside or outside, must be obtained in advance.
  • The space should allow for good ventilation including:
    • Open doors (required) and windows (if possible);
    • Air exchange mechanism such as a building HVAC system or ceiling fans.
  • For the Bel Canto Youth Chorus
    • Limited bathroom use, please plan accordingly.
    • A hand-washing station.
    • Rehearsals will be conducted in 50 min segments followed by a break.  When indoor spaces are being used, the length of the break will be sufficient to allow a complete air exchange in the space.
    • Wipe down chairs with sanitizer, before and after rehearsal.

On-site Behavior

  • No one enters the venue until a Choir staff member is present.
  • For Bel Canto Youth Chorus
    • Parents of participants under the age of 18 should remain outside of the rehearsal venue.
    • Physical distancing entering the building and performing as follows:
      • 6 feet entering and exiting the building
      • 6 feet on either side during singing
    • 12 feet in front of each participant while singing or playing a wind instrument.
    • No physical contact is allowed among participants.
    • No singing in circles, face forward.
    • No sharing of music, or pencils, or iPads.
  • Mask Wearing: Masks must be worn at rehearsals during periods of high transmission rate in Northampton and Lehigh Counties.  For Bel Canto all participants must wear masks at all times during rehearsals and indoor performances, including while singing.  If any person is unable to wear a mask for any reason, they will not be able to participate.
  • During performances and rehearsals, the choir members, vocal soloists and wind instrument players may remove their masks if mutually agreed among the participants. Additional distance and careful positioning must be adopted when this occurs.
  • Conductors face chorus from 10 – 20 ft. away from the first row of singers.    The same accommodation should be made for accompanists, instrumentalists, audio and video technicians.
  • Anyone over age 70 or anyone of any age with high-risk medical problems should consider not participating.
  • If you see something, say something. If you notice a participant showing signs of not feeling well, or is not following this protocol, say something to Artistic Director or Executive Staff.

**************************

Vaccination Policy | Frequently Asked Questions

Please note: All members of our audience, regardless of vaccination status, are required to wear a face mask while attending a Bach Choir concert. Thank you for your cooperation. The safety of our audience, artists, volunteers and staff is our priority. Throughout the season, we will continue to monitor the news surrounding COVID-19 and follow regulations issued by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the CDC.  We will review and modify our protocol and activities as needed. All updates will be communicated as promptly as possible. Please check our website for any updates throughout the 2021-2022 season.

Effective as of August 1, 2021

What do I need to do if I wish to participate in The Bach Choir of Bethlehem during the 2021-2022 season?
All participants (singers, orchestra musicians, soloists, and volunteers) ages 12 and above are to be fully vaccinated before taking part in any Bach Choir activity (rehearsal, concert, volunteer event). This means that your final vaccine dose was received at least 10 days prior to the date of your first activity.

Which vaccine do I need to receive?
Any of the three vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson/Janssen) available in the USA offer excellent protection and is recommended. Following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, the best Covid-19 vaccine is the first one available to you. The CDC does not recommend one vaccine over the other.

What will rehearsals and concerts look like in the 2021-2022 season?
The Bach Choir – Our goal is to return to “normal” operational protocols for Bach Choir rehearsals and concerts in the coming year. This means no obligatory mask wearing while singing, no room capacity limits on rehearsal/performance spaces, and no required social distancing between singers.

Bel Canto – In situations in which Bel Canto activities involve children under age 12 who are not yet eligible for the vaccine, we will continue to observe protocols put in place last year including social distancing, masking for unvaccinated children, attention to air exchange in a room and length of rehearsal segments. This policy will change as vaccines are approved for younger children.

I believe I had Covid-19, do I still need to get vaccinated?
Yes. While it may be true that there is some resultant natural immunity after recovery from Covid-19, it is believed to be not as strong, nor as long lasting, as that provided by the available vaccines.

What should I do if I am not feeling well before rehearsal, concert, or other activities? Please do not come to rehearsal if you are not feeling well (or running a fever) in order to keep our entire Bach Choir community safe.

Will our audience members need to be vaccinated too?
Decisions regarding protocols for audience members are made by venue owners/managers, not by The Bach Choir of Bethlehem. We will share their protocols well in advance of performances.

I’m excited about the possibility of returning to “normal” rehearsals, but I’m also a little bit nervous, too.
That’s completely understandable. We have all been through one of the most extraordinary events of our lifetimes in the last year and a half. It’s been a long time that we’ve been apart, but there’s tremendous enthusiasm for being together and SINGING AGAIN! Members of The Choir and The Bach Festival Orchestra have responded with joy and excitement about the start of rehearsals, the return of BACH AT NOON, and our 2021-2022 season. Remember, we are taking this one step at a time, following and monitoring the advice of medical professionals and health experts. We will adapt as necessary.

If I wish to wear a mask while singing in rehearsal, is that okay?
Yes, to a point. Bach Choir singers wishing to remain masked during rehearsals may do so for initial rehearsals. However, there will be a point in each concert cycle when we need to hear ourselves and the ensemble without masks (since that is how we will perform our concerts). At that point, Greg may say something like “this part of rehearsal needs to be sung without masks.” Bach Choir concerts will be presented without masks. Bel Canto directors will honor the request of parents for their child. Protocols as described above will continue to be used.

Who will see and have access to my completed “Vaccine Affirmation Form?”
Your completed form will be kept in a secure file in The Bach Choir offices and will be seen only by Bach Choir staff and leadership as appropriate. The form will not be shared outside of the organization.

If I am unvaccinated, may I still participate if I sing with my mask on?
No, unless you have received a vaccination exemption for medical or religious reasons from The Bach Choir.

How do I request an exemption?
Submit a written request to The Bach Choir. The Bach Choir COVID committee leadership team will promptly review exemption requests, responding within five business days. Parents of children under age 12 are not required to file an exemption for their child.
Approved exemptions include:
1. Religious exemptions.
2. Medical exemptions with documentation from your provider of an allergy to the COVID-19 vaccines or their components.
3. Medical deferrals for the following circumstances with a note from your provider:

  •  Active pregnancy or active breastfeeding only if the provider is requesting an exemption. The exemption lasts only until you’re no longer actively pregnant or actively breastfeeding. Pregnancy and breastfeeding are not contraindications for vaccination.
  • Immunocompromised individuals only with provider request for an exemption and only for those who have recent (within the past 3-6 months) hematopoietic or solid organ transplant, or on active treatment with Rituximab within the past 3-6 months.
  •  Have received COVID-specific monoclonal antibodies in the past 90 days.

I received a medical or religious exemption from the COVID-19 vaccine requirement. Are there different health and safety guidelines I’ll need to follow during the 2021-2022 season?
Yes. Individuals who received an approved exemption from the COVID-19 vaccine requirement will need to participate in regular COVID-19 testing, quarantine if exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, wear a mask fully covering nose and mouth in all public spaces, and refrain for participating in Choir activities if there is a serious outbreak.

How long will The Bach Choir require a Covid-19 vaccination as a condition of participation?
We anticipate requiring a Covid-19 vaccination for the duration of the 2021-2022 concert season. We will be ready to adjust or amend our policy as new data comes to light.

Why Vaccines?
After considering the published guidelines of state and federal authorities and investigating the policies and practices being adopted by major chorus in the United States, we have concluded that: 1) vaccines are safe and are the best way to protect our members and those around them from serious illnesses; 2) the COVID-19 vaccine may keep you from getting COVID-19 and lessen symptoms if you do contract the virus; and 3) a fully vaccinated group is the safest, most direct way of resuming full, normal choral activities.

Click HERE for a PDF of our August, 2021 protocol.

**************

November 13, 2020 Protocol

The Board of the Bach Choir of Bethlehem recognizes its role in providing guidance to the Artistic and Executive Staff as they plan and carry out rehearsals and performances of the Bach Choir, Bel Canto Youth Chorus, Bach Festival Orchestra, and visiting artists during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time the Board commends the Staff for their innovative and rapid response, which unequivocally places the safety and well-being of our singers, families, volunteers, and patrons above all else, and aligns our actions with the direction of the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the CDC.

As of this writing there is no proven method to eliminate the spread of COVID virus in a choral setting. This protocol was developed based on best practices recommended by a majority of authoritative sources as most likely to reduce the chance of transmission, including participant illness checks, personal protective equipment, social distancing, good hygiene practices, proper ventilation, and limited time of exposure.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, the success of this protocol depends on each participant in an activity recognizing her or his responsibility to the others in the group and strictly adhering to the protocol. It is the firm belief of The Board that the individuals associated with The Choir have always demonstrated this sense of shared civic responsibility and community, and will continue to do so in this emergency.

This protocol will be effective as of November 13, 2020, and remain in effect until further notice.

This protocol will be reviewed and updated to reflect current conditions on the ground, or at a minimum once a month by the Executive, Artistic and Board leadership.

This protocol will be posted on The Bach Choir website and referenced with a link in our promotions for performances, recordings, and broadcasts during the pandemic.

Objectives:
1. Provide as safe an environment as we can for all participants.
2. Conform to the directions of governmental authorities.
3. Clearly model appropriate behavior in all choir activities and all public offerings, including new video recordings.
4. Provide ongoing artistic support for our members and supporters.

Background:
• Clinical evidence has shown that traditional choral settings are ideal for the asymptomatic transmission of the Covid virus through the exhalation and inhalation of virus-laden aerosols produced in the act of breathing, coughing, sneezing, talking and singing. To reduce the opportunity for transmission of the virus in rehearsal or performance steps must be taken to change the traditional methods.
• The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania through the PA Department of Health issues guidelines to be followed by businesses, groups and individuals in the state. These guidelines reflect the current infection rate of specific counties and cities and are changed from time to time to reflect improving or worsening conditions. The detailed guidance for the current status is modified frequently as the PA DOH responds to new data on COVID infections. The Choir will respond as needed to the changing guidance.
• National and International choral organizations, such as NATS, ECA, Chorus America, and ACDA have begun discussions regarding proper safety practices for restarting choral activities. From these discussions certain best practices have been put forward, some of which have been employed in the development of this protocol. This Protocol has been reviewed by a public health official and confirms that it meets CDC guidance.

Protocols for Rehearsals and Performances

Participants
• The number of participants at rehearsals and performances, either indoor or outdoor, will be limited by the nature of the space: its size and ventilation system being major determining factors. The Choir will use a research-based risk model, the 2020 COVID 19 Aeorsol Transmission Estimator, developed by researchers at the University of Colorado – Boulder, to determine safe numbers of participants. All remaining protocols must be followed.
• Each participant will be recorded as being in attendance.
• Each participant will verify that they have taken their temperature within the past 24 hours.
• No one who has currently tested positive for the Covid virus or is awaiting test results is permitted to participate.
• No one displaying or reporting any symptoms of the virus or of any illness is permitted to participate.
• No one who has been in contact with someone who is Covid positive or believes that they may have been exposed to the virus within 14 days prior to a rehearsal or performance is permitted to participate.
• Wind instrument players and vocal soloists, who do not wear masks in rehearsal and performance, must be tested for the Covid virus as close as possible to the first rehearsal but with sufficient time to allow the results to be communicated to the Bach Choir executive staff at least one full day before rehearsal.
• Mitigation plans must be in place in the event an attendee of a rehearsal or performance later is found to be Covid positive. The information is to be shared and appropriate steps taken by those present up to and including testing and self quarantine.
• All performers are to sign The Bach Choir Waiver form and accept the risks of rehearsing and performing.

Facilities
• Permission from the owner of the venue, inside or outside, must be obtained in advance.
• The rehearsal or performance space should either have been cleaned according to CDC and DOH guidelines or unused for 48 hours before the event, including a designated bathroom.
• The space should allow for good ventilation including:
o Open doors (required) and windows (if possible);
o Air exchange mechanism such as a building HVAC system or ceiling fans.
• Limited bathroom use, please plan accordingly.
• A hand-washing station.
• Rehearsals will be conducted in 30 min segments followed by a break. When indoor spaces are being used, the length of the break will be sufficient to allow a complete air exchange in the space.
• Wipe down chairs with sanitizer, before and after rehearsal.

On-site Behavior
• No one enters the venue until a Choir staff member is present.
• Parents of participants under the age of 18 should remain outside of the rehearsal venue while following CDC social distancing guidelines.
• Physical distancing entering the building and performing as follows:
o 6 feet entering and exiting the building
o 10 feet on either side during singing
o 12 feet in front of each participant while singing or playing a wind instrument.
• All participants must wear masks at all times during rehearsals and indoor performances with choristers, including while singing. If any person is unable to wear a mask for any reason, they will not be able to participate.
• During small group (e.g., eight or fewer) performances and rehearsals, the vocal soloists and wind instrument players may remove their masks if mutually agreed among the participants. Additional distance and careful positioning must be adopted when this occurs.
• No physical contact is allowed among participants.
• No singing in circles, face forward.
• No sharing of music, or pencils, or iPads.
• Conductors face chorus from 10 – 20 ft. away from the first row of singers. The same accommodation should be made for accompanists, instrumentalists, audio and video technicians.
• Anyone over age 70 or anyone of any age with high-risk medical problems should consider not participating.
• If you see something, say something. If you notice a participant showing signs of not feeling well, or is not following this protocol, say something to Artistic Director or Executive Staff.

Please click here to access a PDF of our protocol document.

"Bach at Noon" Series

We’re presenting our Bach at Noon Concerts in person this fall at Central Moravian Church in Bethlehem. In addition to welcoming our audience into the church, we will also reach out to our virtual patrons by live-streaming our September and November concerts on our  You Tube and facebook social media channels.

Thank you to our sponsors who help us bring these concerts to the community! 

Artistic Director and Conductor Greg Funfgeld will assemble a group of Choir and Orchestra members for each concert, and offer his comments and insights along with the music.

Repertoire, soloists and other information about each concert will be posted on the Calendar of this website upon confirmation.

Please join us online for this spiritual refreshment each month!

 

 

A Moment of Comfort

During our 2020 – 2021 season, a time of social distancing and in compliance with the health guidelines mandated by our government and communities, we created and curated a library of audio and video clips of the music we love, and hope they offer a moment of comfort, joy, inspiration or peace.  Some of them offer music from recordings The Choir released over the years; many are original performances from Greg Funfgeld and friends of the Choir, Choir members, and our soloists and orchestra members.

Please CLICK  A Moment of Comfort to enjoy these musical interludes – and please share them with friends and family.  A beautiful way to connect as we work toward continued in-person performances in the months to come.

The Bach Choir of Bethlehem

Bach Choir Office and Staff

In compliance with Governor Wolf’s directive, the Bach Choir Office re-opened to members of our staff on July 20, 2021.  Our offices are presently open to members of the general public who have been vaccinated.   We are following COVID-19 protocol regarding masks, distancing and all health and sanitation safety rules, and request that all guests wear masks when in our office.

These guidelines are subject to change at the discretion of our Protocol team on behalf of The Choir, the Orchestra members and our Staff.

Thank you for your enthusiastic support of the Choir during this challenging time.  We look forward to sharing many more glorious hours of live music and events with you in the months to come.