When will churchgoers sing again?

May 27, 2020 by

By Elizabeth Oldfield, UnHerd:

Plans for the reopening of churches, along with many of our great institutions, remain hazy. It seems likely that services, as well as being masked, deep cleaned and socially distanced, will be devoid of song. The debate over whether singing could be possible behind masks, or if singers were far enough away still rages, but most cautious church leaders will opt to avoid the risk altogether.

Sensible, maybe, but also heartbreaking. Choirs up and down the country will be experiencing a similar grief. The news for close-knit communities, who have transitioned to digital rehearsals, that they can’t make music together for some time will be a blow. We’ve had enough pro-choir popular television for us all to know the arguments — singing together releases endorphins, builds social cohesion and is a tonic for our mental and physical health. Hundreds of thousands of non-church goers will feel the lack of it.

Singing in churches (and other places of worship), though related, is a slightly different case. It’s a space where all of those who, like me, demonstrate no special musical talent, can go and belt out a tune. Half the joy is the mix of tone-deaf Tony and Christie who is a west end-performer, whose voices would blend nowhere else. We’re singing together, but not for each other, but for someone or something beyond us. Side by side, not eye to eye, the sense of communion with the others in the space is a delightful by-product of trying to commune with God.

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