Singing after COVID

The annual Western Massachusetts Sacred Harp singing convention is being held this weekend. The organizers are requiring a same-day COVID test for all singers, and with that public health protocol in place I decided I felt safe going to sing today (but not Sunday when I have to be at church).

These Sacred Harp conventions are a bit of an endurance test. The singing starts at 9:30 or 10, and continues to 3:30 or 4 with an hour for lunch. It’s a whole-body immersive experience.

Before COVID, the Western Massachusetts convention reportedly got as many as 400 singers. COVID seems to have reduced the numbers somewhat. Today, I did a rough count and came up with about 175 singers in the room at one time.

Only about a dozen of us were wearing masks. I had my N-95 mask on the whole time. I skipped the potluck lunch because it would have meant sitting at close quarters with more than a hundred other people for most of an hour with my mask off. The post-COVID world is all about calculating the odds, and determining what risk you’re willing to tolerate.

I enjoyed singing in the morning. But after lunch, I realized to my surprise that I was beginning to feel a little bit anxious. It was no problem to control my anxiety. But after about an hour I had a further realization: controlling my anxiety was taking enough of my attention that it wasn’t as much fun to sing.

So I left early.

A panoramic view of the singing, with over 150 people visible in the photo.
What it looked like from the back row of the bass section