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NZCF Covid-19 impact survey findings

Over the past two weeks, NZCF has been running an online survey to gather information about the social and financial impacts of Covid-19 on our member choirs and their singers. The information we collect will help us to articulate the importance of the performing arts in our communities and to make a case for more government support for community arts in the wake of Covid-19. The responses we receive are automatically aggregated and no choirs or individuals taking part in the survey are able to be identified.

If you or your choir have not yet taken part in the survey, it’s not too late. The survey will remain open until 20 July. As long as you/your choir are New Zealand-based, you can click on the links to the choir survey or the singer survey and give us your perspective – we’d love to hear from you!

Here are our findings to date…

Choir survey

So far, 82 choirs have taken the survey. Of those, nearly half continued to meet online during lockdown and those meetings included a mixture of social and music-related activities: 18% were purely social, 26% were purely musical and 56% were a mix of both. Although some found the technology frustrating and inadequate, and running/managing online rehearsals was tiring, the strong feeling among those that ran Zoom rehearsals or social meetings was that they really kept the choir together. Comments included:

  • “Social connectedness was critical during lockdown, so the online sessions were essential”
  • “Fantastic for team building, keeping repertoire alive and creating a social highlight”.

91% of choirs have had to cancel concerts this year, some as many as 4 concerts, but most around 1-2. 64% felt their choir has experienced ‘significant’ loss of anticipated income (eg inability to apply for community or gaming trust grants, lack of ticket sale income, loss of sponsorship etc), ranging from $300 – $30,000. Many (57%) had experienced other cost implications of Covid-19 such as a drop in membership subscriptions and ongoing costs for honoraria (music director, accompanist, administrator), rehearsal venue hire, and music hire and/or storage. We are concerned to learn that 23% felt the loss of income their choir has suffered as a result of Covid-19 may impact on their choir’s viability.

General comments on the effects of Covid-19 on choirs included:

  • “It is difficult to plan for 2021, which we would normally do by this point in the year, as funding is uncertain. We are aiming for low-budget concerts to avoid risk, but this limits the kinds of programmes we can bring to the community.”
  • “It’s not just the financial effects that may cause us to fail. If the social cohesion that we thrive on is disrupted, we won’t have a raison d’etre. No government can remedy that.”
  • “It focussed our attention sharply on keeping in touch with one another in an organised way and since returning to rehearsals we seem stronger for it.”
  • “Wage subsidy significantly helped cashflow; fortunately our scheduled concert is for August – remains to be seen if we attract similar sized audience as we would have done in the before-times.”
  • “We have a number of people uneasy about face to face rehearsals. At the moment we are back live but this may change if a second wave hits the country.”
  • “When we were forced to cancel our concerts we were unable to apply to any organisation to help us cover our fixed costs that continue despite a cancelled concert. We have been able to cover these costs, but will now be reliant on successful funding applications to be able to continue to present future concerts. Sadly our committee will need to consider the viability of planning concerts for 2021.”

Singer survey

As of 3 July, 592 singers have taken the survey. For those whose choirs did not meet or rehearse during lockdown, the overwhelming aspect that respondents missed the most was the connectedness of singing with others. This one comment summed it up very well:

  • “The singing, camaraderie, challenge of doing difficult stuff together, working as a team, doing something that will probably end up beautiful, being able to give pleasure to an audience, being part of something bigger than myself, being with friends, knowing we had each other’s backs, being part of anything, belonging to a community, knowing my failings would be covered by another’s skills and vice versa, the effect of controlled breathing on my health, the music, the structure and highlight of my week.”

When asked “how important (on a scale of 1 – 10) is choral singing to your wellbeing?”, the average response was 8, and a substantial number of people rated it 9 or 10! We followed up by asking what the effect on people’s wellbeing was of not being able to participate in ‘real live’ choral activities. While a number said there was no significant impact on their wellbeing, many more responses included feelings of emptiness, isolation, apathy, anxiety, depression, loneliness, boredom, and loss of self-esteem. Here are just a few:

  • “I felt like a puzzle with a missing piece.”
  • “Singing is healing and I missed that healing a lot.”
  • “I was just very on edge, not having anything to do to creatively express myself.”
  • “Loss of joie de vivre as well as general fitness.”
  • “Joining in singing with my group is soothing, invigorating, physically, mentally and emotionally all at once and I felt quite alone even when zoom meeting with my group.”
  • “I didn’t realise how much effect it had until we had our first physical rehearsal last week. I felt alive again.”

84% of respondents said they didn’t feel anxious about returning to rehearsals, but added riders such as:

  • “As long as NZ remains committed to protecting its borders and case numbers are low and tracked, I don’t feel anxious.”
  • “I am comfortable in returning to rehearsals but concerned because the risk is still not zero. This means I must rely on everybody treating this seriously still.”

The survey concluded with an opportunity for respondents to make general comments about choral singing and Covid-19. These are a few that encapsulate the feelings of many:

  • “I’ve been singing since I was three and from a family of singers. I ‘m nearly 80 but it was not until Covid-19 and the deprivation of it during lockdown at I realized the true and real value of singing as a social and personal spiritual uplift.”
  • “As a chorister, singing is important for health, wellbeing, stimulation, challenge, education, social interaction and the joy of making music with others. What a privilege it is.”
  • “Definitely missed choir but amazing to see what we can do through determination and technology. Very glad to be back to choir now.”

You have until 20 July to take part in our NZCF Covid-19 impact survey for choirs (please check first with your administrator or conductor to find out whether they have already completed this on behalf of your choir) or the NZCF Covid-19 impact survey for choral singers