Our $10,000 budget covers all phases of testing our idea and developing a protocol for choirs around the world to use during the age of quarantine.
The Current Model: Some choirs have experimented with socially distanced singing while sitting in their cars at drive-in movie parking lots while using microphones. Other singers meet in small socially distanced ensembles in parks or school grounds. As novel as these approaches may be, in both examples singers must be amplified with individual microphones, outdoor monitors, and controlled by someone who is monitoring the mixing board. The equipment requirements make the setup impractical for more than a dozen singers, and cumbersome for setup and takedown. Further, the singers must contend with street noise and the weather.
Our Model: Our strategy is to utilize underground parking facilities as a "concert hall" where singers can gather. No amplification is required for the singers since an underground parking garage offers superior acoustics with natural amplification and reverberation. In addition, there is no street noise, and the temperature is relatively stable even in cold or hot weather. Further, the parking spaces are already of an ideal size to clearly mark off the needed social distancing. Singers would sing with either a pre-recorded track or live musicians. In both cases, the accompaniment tracks could be broadcast on a small FM transmitter which would interface with radios in several cars, or with a sound system (battery-powered or 100-volt), or with FM receiving headphones (a technique referred to as "silent disco".
Our proposal requires testing and refinement of the protocol so it can be replicated easily. We anticipate a need to perform at least 3 separate tests in different types of parking garages.
1) Depending on the size of the parking garage, we will utilize 25-50 volunteer choir members from several community choirs in metropolitan Phoenix for our tests.
2) We will invite 3 local choir directors to participate in the test in order to experiment with a variety of music.
3) We will consult a medical adviser regarding safe social distancing protocols for this unique venue. We will seek recommendations for spot temperature readings, standard Covid questionnaires before admittance as well as establishing safe entrance and exit protocols.
4) We will consult with a live sound engineer and experiment with optimal placement for the accompaniment track amplification, and also determine the best location for the conductor and any instrumentalist. We will also test different options for providing an accompaniment track to the singers.
5) We will create video documentation of the experience, and follow through with online exit surveys of the singers and the conductors asking for subjective grading of the variable elements of the test, as well as collecting suggestions for the next test.
6) We will work with a consultant to develop appropriate protocols which provide maximum protection for participants, whether in an underground parking garage or some other resonant facility.
7) We will conclude this experiment with a full report of the results, an instructional video, and a written protocol that other choirs may be able to use in their communities.