SPOTLIGHT ON: ISOBEL DAWS - Talented trombonist on her flourishing career

Issue 6072

EUROPEAN CANCELLED - Major contest off for second successive year as COVID continues

SOUND OF CHRISTMAS - Bands in England given green light to resume as lockdown ends

Brass playing causes no greater risk than other gatherings, report finds

Saturday 21 November, 2020

The Scottish Brass Band Association has shown cautious optimism at the findings of a long-awaited report by the Music Education Partnership Group (Scotland) into the study of the aerosol effects of playing a brass instrument.

The conclusion of the report states that the playing of brass instruments does not present a statistically significant added risk of viral transmission of COVID-19 on top of that already posed by gathering socially in both domestic and public settings when suitable mitigations are in place, according to the data available at present.

The 46-page report – entitled Following the Science: A systematic literature review of studies surrounding singing and brass, woodwind and bagpipe playing during the COVID-19 pandemic – is the culmination of six months of research by MEPG convenor Prof John Wallace; Dr Lio Moscardini, lecturer at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland; Andrew Rae, data scientist and researcher from the Universities of Strathclyde and Glasgow; and Dr Alan Watson, reader in anatomy and neuroscience at Cardiff University.

“During the pandemic there has been a tendency, often through media exposure, to demonise certain musical activities such as singing, woodwind, brass and bagpipe playing as uniquely aerosol-producing human activities,” say the report authors.

“That is simply wrong. We appear to have been led by subjective judgement rather than objective analysis of the data.

“Normal breathing and speaking also produce aerosols within the approximately 11,000 litres of air inhaled and exhaled by the average person each day. Moderate to strenuous exercise of any sort, loud speaking and shouting produce a greater number of aerosols.”

The report adds that measures to mitigate risks in teaching and performance spaces should comply with risk assessments based on the national public health guidelines that are in place at any one given time for adults, children and young people. 

Responding to the findings of the MEPG report, SBBA president Carrie Boax commented: “I do hope for all brass, woodwind, pipers and singers, young and old alike, that the research will provide sufficient evidence for government advisers and health specialists to either reinforce or reconsider the current guidelines. In the meantime, we continue to encourage people to adhere to current government advice to ensure they stay safe and minimise risk at all times.

“Our thoughts are turning to the time of year when brass bands take centre stage carolling, performing Christmas concerts and raising much needed funds for themselves and charitable causes. Nevertheless, we must respect that we are still very much in the midst of a pandemic. People in our communities are still falling seriously ill or sadly even losing their battle with this terrible – and still somewhat unknown – disease.”

Carrie added: “SBBA continues to support alternative methods of performance delivery using virtual experiences. Next week would have been the first of two major international contesting weekends for SBBA with our Scottish Festival of Brass and we are all feeling the sadness of not coming together in Perth this year.

“I stress, however, these days of contesting and performing will return and every bandsperson will feel the benefits of safely returning to banding as we used to know it once again – without the need for restrictions or considered measures being put in place.

“I personally know it is really emotionally, mentally and socially difficult at the moment but we need to dig even deeper, stay connected with fellow bandspeople and look forward to the day when this happens.”

Download the report here. There is a list of a range of music- and instrument-specific recommendations to help minimise the spread of the virus.