Permission to sing with masks prompts 'huge excitement' in P.E.I.'s choral community
'We can get together and raise our voices together'
The recent change by P.E.I.'s Chief Public Health Office to ease restrictions around singing in public has caused a stir of excitement across the Island's music community.
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison made the announcement at her regular news briefing on Tuesday. The new guideline is that singing is now allowed at a standard two-metre physical distance, as long as masks are worn.
"I stood up and cheered," said Margot Rejskind, who directs several choirs on P.E.I.
"When she said that, my heart just like exploded and so did my Messenger. Everybody who knows me, I think, immediately texted me … huge excitement across the province."
Rejskind directs two amateur choirs, the Forte men's choir and the Summerside Community Choir, and a professional choir, Luminos Ensemble.
Singing from 3.5 metres was 'just tiring'
Performers have had permission to get together and sing since early June, but at a distance of three and a half metres, making it logistically challenging.
"My pro choir had tried that and it was a lot of feet between people," Rejskind said, adding that she reached out to the Chief Public Health Office on the issue.
"I had been kind of asking them, you know, there were some jurisdictions that were starting to say that maybe it was OK to be a bit closer together and I wanted their opinion."
In the world of COVID-19, it's going to be a long time before we get to do what we always did, but now we can do something.— Margot Rejskind, choir director
The last thing she had heard, the office was going to take a look and get back to her, but then the public announcement quickly followed.
"What we're seeing in the research that's being done right now in fact is that masks are extremely effective at limiting the spread of bio aerosols in singing," said Rejskind.
"My professional choir just finished a recording project and with 12 feet, so three and a half metres, between singers and it's just tiring. It's hard on the ears to really listen and I think as a singer, you can't really get a sense of where your sound fits in with everyone else.
"Everybody's sort of singing in a different way so it was very tiring."
Masked singing better than you'd expect
Rejskind said she's seen some videos of masked choirs in Europe, where restrictions have been lifted a little sooner, and she was overall impressed with the sound.
"We're seeing people designing masks specifically for singers where the masks are a little bit more off the face," she said. "We've all had that experience of you take a deep breath wearing a mask and you taste the mask."
She said the change in policy will really open things up for the Island's amateur choirs, as well as for congregations singing in church.
"In the world of COVID-19, it's going to be a long time before we get to do what we always did, but now we can do something," she said.
Rejskind said that for her and people everywhere, the loosening of restrictions is a game changer.
"We can get together and raise our voices together and you know, that's really the core of human connectedness."
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With files from Angela Walker