During lockdowns in many countries affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, people began singing from their windows or harmonizing online together in an effort to maintain morale and social connections.
Problems and Purpose
During the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of millions of people in numerous countries are confined to their houses with freedom of movement severely restricted and social contact with those outside of one's immediate household prohibited.
Instances of mass singing emerged around the world in March 2020 with confined people singing from their windows in an effort to boost morale. On March 19, Gareth Malone, a British Choirmaster, began plans to implement a mass virtual choir for people who are self-isolating. The aim of the virtual choir is to help people feel connected to each other during a time when socializing and human contact is not possible.
Background History and Context
In China where the outbreak and first lockdowns came into play in January 2020, people were reported as chanting out of their windows in Wuhan to boost morale. By March, Italy was in lockdown and widespread footage emerged of people singing popular songs from windows and balconies in flashmob-style events, also including applause for medical staff and key workers.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
Flashmob style mass singing appears to be organized through social media, with a popular song, time and date posted online. As of 19 March, Gareth Malone announced plans to create a virtual choir in the U.K. Malone is a household name who has created choirs with groups with no singing experience such as teenagers and spouses of military personnel .
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Flashmob style mass singing is driven by social media, such as the Wiener Fenster Chor in Vienna, where a Facebook group posts a melody and text to be sung at a prearranged time. Participation is open to everyone.
Other virtual choirs have been posting concerts online. These are existing choirs harmonizing online.
Methods and Tools Used
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What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
Mass singing events take different forms. In Italy, this video shows people banging pots and pans as instruments whilst singing the national anthem, as well as an opera singer on a balcony. Other videos show people playing musical instruments as others look on.
Another way in which singing has been transformed during the pandemic is through virtual choirs, where an existing singing group harmonizes online remotely, such as this Chinese choir singing in dedication to communities locked down in Wuhan. Whilst virtual choirs are not a new concept, their use as a way to connect people during this time of crisis is potentially transformative.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
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Analysis and Lessons Learned
Singing in a choir has been shown to have a range of mental health benefits including improving emotional well-being, social function, relaxation and empowerment . Given the expected heavy toll on people's mental health from the pandemic and accompanying restrictions, Gareth Malone hopes that singing together virtually could help people deal with the loneliness and continue appreciation of the arts during this time of isolation .