Oklahoma choir blasted on social media for footage of an indoor, maskless rehearsal

19 August 2020, 17:51

The choir deleted the video after it amassed over 100 comments
The choir deleted the video after it amassed over 100 comments. Picture: Oklahoma Christian University Choir/Twitter

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

Oklahoma Christian University has come under fire after posting – and then deleting – a video of its student choir singing with plexiglass screens as a protection against coronavirus.

Last Saturday, Oklahoma Christian University (OCU) posted a video entitled ‘COVID Chorale Practice’ on its official university Facebook page, which showed its student choir members singing, in a rehearsal room, behind individual plexiglass screens but with no face coverings.

The dividers, built by current lecturer, Dr Kyle Pullen, were put in place as a safety measure as institutions seek to find creative solutions for reducing the risk of coronavirus transmission.

“Each student has their own protected space,” the post indicated, following by the hashtags ‘#COVID19... #Safety’.

The video was later removed by the university without comment, after it had amassed 20,000 views and over 100 comments, many of them critical to the university’s approach to keeping its students safe.

We are so excited to have everyone back on campus! All of the OC Choirs will be following campus code regarding social...

Posted by Oklahoma Christian University Choir on Thursday, 13 August 2020

In a tweet about the dividers, which included a link to a now-deleted blog entitled ‘Safely Practicing Music During a Pandemic’, the university added:

“What’s more, horn and woodwind instruments have shower cap covers on their bells to contain any spit while playing.”

Before OCU deleted the video, Twitter user Robert Komaniecki scraped it and reposted it, with the caption: “I noticed that you deleted your tweet showing an indoor, maskless choir rehearsal, as well as the accompanying video on Facebook.

“Here they are. I really hope you’re doing more to protect your students than just covering your tracks on social media!”

Another user added: “I hope they stop rehearsals immediately, but we know that they won’t.”

There’s been a lot of frustration from choirs and musicians on the slow return to music-making. And it seems people are unhappy that one choir appeared to be claiming it had solved the issue with plexiglass screens instead of masks and face coverings, which are currently widely recommended as a measure to curb the spread of coronavirus worldwide.

Currently, there is no definitive scientific study to confirm how safe singing is. In the UK, ENT surgeon Declan Costello has been carrying out government-funded research on the droplet transmission risks involved in singing and playing wind instruments, the results of which are expected to be published next week.

An aerosol emissions study from Colorado State University, US, says “performance artists are more likely to display forced-air breathing (i.e., singing or playing musical instruments), which is more like sneezing and coughing.

“While data is lacking, there is developing consensus that infectious aerosolised particles containing [the virus that causes COVID-19] are partly responsible for global spread. Unfortunately, many infected individuals do not realise they are infected; and group activities such as choir, dance, acting, or instrument ensembles increase the risk of spread.”

According to one recent study, the transmission distance of these particles may be more than 13 feet.