Sally Randall has made social singing her life purpose.
But driven by concerns that singing could be a superspreader of Covid-19 because of the aerosol droplets propelled, the pandemic has silenced her group, Social Singing Oamaru.
Ms Randall, who has a background in nursing and natural health, said singing had many health benefits — physical and mental — and what her Oamaru singers were missing the most was the social and emotional connections of the group.
She had been posting videos on Social Singing Oamaru’s YouTube channel and Facebook page, to encourage people to keep singing at home, but many of the group’s members were not online.
‘‘I’m so aware that there’s quite a proportion of the singers who normally come who will be very lonely, and feeling very cut off, and really, seriously missing it,’’ she said.
Ms Randall has been trying to come up with a way to make group singing safe, and include everyone, at Alert Level 2.
‘‘I just want people to be safe. I want them to have their singing, and to have the fun and share the joy that we share,’’ she said.
Ms Randall, who also belongs to Song Leaders Network Aotearoa, believed masks were an important part of getting her singing group — and others around the country — together again safely.
She had been searching for masks that would allow people to sing comfortably, without the muffling effects of a standard face mask, and was trialling a high-quality singing mask, that has a cupped shape and holds the fabric away from the nose and mouth.
However, it was expensive and she did not want cost to be a barrier for her singers.
Because the pattern was freely available, she was engaging with local sewers to see if they could make a cheaper prototype.
‘‘There’s a lot of work in them, but it will mean that we can get back into it — and I’m really hoping that’s going to come to something,’’ she said.
The Social Singing Oamaru community’s values were of kindness, respect and acceptance, and masks were important because Ms Randall did not want to exclude anyone from group singing.
She was also seeking expressions of interest in a series of summer outdoor singing sessions, so masks would not be required, but finding an accessible outdoor space was a challenge, and she wanted to meet the needs of her members, many of whom were over 65.
‘‘I’ve been looking for places that are accessible — I have some people in wheelchairs, I have some people who really need that toilet quite close by,’’ she said.
Before lockdown, the Social Singing Oamaru group met every Monday morning. While most of the singers were over 65, and Ms Randall received funding from Age Concern to run the classes, they were open to anyone.
Anyone interested in outdoor social singing sessions, or who can help the group access singing masks, should contact Ms Randall on 03 434-9396 or at email@example.com.