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Dilemma: Singers with Colds

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Every winter (and some summers too) we can guarantee that a certain proportion of our choir will get sick. If they are struck down with flu, there is no dilemma – there’s nothing for them to do but go back to bed until they feel human again.

But if they ‘just’ have a cold, what then?

Colds are miserable things, and significantly get in the way of singing. Congestion interferes with breathing, the sore throat weakens the vocal folds, and the fever and general grottiness disempowers the brain. But there will often be days during a cold’s progress when, while you’re not operating at full capacity, neither are you completely out of it. On these days, should you go to your choir rehearsal?

Some choirs have a very structured system for this situation: singers with colds are not expected to sing, but are expected to attend rehearsal with their music and pencil, and mark up their copies. From a music-learning and artistic development perspective, this is clearly a great way to stop poorly singers from falling behind.

The other position is that sick singers should stay away and not spread their germs. In the early days of Magenta, one singer came along with what, for her, wasn’t too bad a cold, and gave it to another singer, who was taken much worse with it and took nearly a month to get her voice back. That was something of a defining experience for the choir, and – while we don’t have any rules about it – people do tend to stay at home if they feel there’s any risk they might still be contagious.

(Of course, this doesn’t deal with the time when you are *really* contagious but don’t know it because you don’t feel sick yet – but I don’t think you can do anything about that!)

What does your choir do?

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