I hope this post finds you well and in good spirits.
While the world is still reeling with the effects of COVID-19, Singapore has done well in managing the spread of the disease through the implementation of the physical distancing measures. All of us have bided our time, waiting patiently for the pandemic to take its course. Our patience and forbearance have given fruit, and we are now in Phase 3 of the “Circuit Breaker” measures.
That said, one significant unforeseen consequence of these measures is the ways in which choirs in Singapore are not allowed to return to rehearsals. At the time this post is written, the current advisory only allows 5 singers to sing at a single instance despite how we are now allowed socialize with 8 other people in public. This allows only small ensembles to have some semblance of returning to music making. Most of the community choral music activities in Singapore has ceased because of the restrictions, and we left in quiet silence.
To that end, I’ve collaborated with Dr. Victor Gan, another avid chorister who also happens to be a medical practitioner with a public health expertise. Together, We penned a position paper appealing for consideration the shift of the limitation from 5 to at least 8 singers. The paper, which is addressed to the senior leadership of MCCY and NAC, can be found here.
I’m pleased to note that Mr Kok Tse Wei, Director, Sector Development (Performing Arts) at National Arts Council, has since replied. I include his reply (with his express written permission) in this post, which is as follows:
Dear Shahril and Victor,
Thank you for taking the time to draft and send across the position paper to appeal for consideration to increase the upper limit for singing in groups beyond five singers, and to implement best practices for choirs in Phase 3. We greatly appreciate your efforts to put this paper together. Minister/CCY is aware of your proposal and we have also discussed with our colleagues at MCCY about what you have put forth.
In facilitating the safe reopening of activities in the community, the government has to consider its risk management approach holistically and calibrate SMMs to specific settings in order to manage public health concerns in a targeted and practical manner.
There are plans for the resumption of masked choral singing in the works, but we cannot commit to timeline or SMMs at this point. We note your suggestion to move to 8 unmasked singers in-line with prevailing group sizes and incidentally, that’s something that we have been looking at as well, but this requires endorsement by other ministries in view of the national risk budget.
We understand that these are challenging times for the sector. Do rest assured that NAC will continue to engage the relevant authorities on further resumption of activities while balancing the overall risk budget. In the meantime, please feel free to reach out to us directly if you have further questions.
So on this note, we thank NAC and MCCY for considering our position paper, and we hope that the relevant inter-government agencies can help us rebuild our choral music scene from the aftermath of the pandemic. To all our choral music friends, TAKE HEART! Soon we will be able to greet each other in Song with all our voices heard.
With Much Love,
Dr. Mohamed Shahril Bin Mohamed Salleh
Artistic Director, Vox Camerata