This blog was written by the Rev. Theresa Floyd, Retired Deacon and chaplain at Good Samaritan Hospital.
At St. Bede’s in Forest Grove, our nave has a high ceiling with doors and windows we open for good cross ventilation and fresh air exchange and we enforce social distancing in family groups. Also, we are confident that our members are vaccinated. These factors were important to consider before we moved our worship indoors.
Masks are the other part of the equation. Our masks are our best defense and protection when we gather to worship. Masks are required everywhere inside our building. Disposable masks are available for those without one.
Good air circulation, social distancing, and masks; these precautions are in place so that we can be safely together again as a community.
However, we noticed that not everyone’s mask fits properly. Recently, we took some time to ask everyone to check that their masks fit properly. We asked that they check for leaks at the side and around the nose. They were also asked to perform the ‘yawn’ test. By opening their mouth in a yawn, it tests whether the mask slips off the nose when singing. If their mask was not fitting properly, we suggested that they not sing until they have a better fitting mask.
During an October Clergy Talks with our Bishop, I learned of the Singer’s Mask. I then researched the construction of a variety of singer’s masks. I joined a Facebook group for this purpose and learned a lot about fabrics, breathability, and comfort. I’ve learned about aerosol emissions and how it relates to singing. Studies are available from all over the world exploring aerosol emissions and the best defenses against their spread. Besides vaccinations, masking is the best we can do as individuals to prevent the spread.
Following the lead of the mask makers in the Professional Singers Facebook group, I started making masks using different fabrics and designs. These were tested and evaluated by our clergy and several congregants during our November services. After testing 20 different versions and guides from the Facebook group, I settled on a design for us.
I say “for us” because we decided that the best way to assure proper masking and allow our members to sing was to provide them with a mask for that purpose. Our hope is to give everyone a mask that: fits well, is breathable, comfortable, audibly clear and stays in place while singing. Whether they choose to sing or not, they will be offered a mask.
At our Lessons and Carols service on Advent 1, Singer’s Masks were worn by the clergy and canters. It was refreshing to hear everything so clearly. To reduce congregational singing, they were given select verses to sing. Some hymns were performed by the organ, while the congregation meditated on the verses. Our canters sang solos and duets. It was a beautiful well-planned service.
We hope to have a mask for anyone who wants one in early December. Volunteers have agreed to sew them. To assure consistency, I collected all the materials and distributed them to our volunteers. The cost online for a premade mask is $25-$35. We were able to produce them for under $1 each.
We enter our Advent with new hope.
Our version of the Singers Mask is the 3D Origami design made with 3 layers of non-woven polypropylene. We added two structural braces that hold the fabric away from the face.
Link to instructions & patterns for creating your own mask: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1m2al5Cl4sTIRP9_UppNQr9FqnAG9Qo27/view?usp=sharing
Additional information & research: https://drive.google.com/file/d/19-IrdxiDFgFne0vH4RpT9oechtPOwJ4m/view?usp=sharing