Orchestras and choirs

General instructions on physical distancing of 1–2 m from other people and hand hygiene (soap washing and sanitiser), as well as general coronavirus cleaning instructions (wiping of contact surfaces with a basic all-purpose cleaner and, if necessary, disinfectant, at least daily) and continuous, adequate ventilation are also valid for orchestra work.

  • The exceptional situation calls for changes in the working culture: all close contacts must be reduced, the social working culture changed and there should be a lower threshold to stay at home sick.
  • Do not come to work ill. After the illness there must be one completely asymptomatic day. We recommend continuing a procedure in which employees can notify employers themselves about staying at home sick.
  • We recommend dividing the workplace into teams (or “families”) which colleagues do not change between and in which they avoid contact with other teams’ members.

We also recommend the following to orchestras and choirs:

  • Used spaces, contact surfaces and passageways should be cleaned daily in accordance with the general cleaning instructions.[1]
  • We recommend that the dressing rooms, break rooms and other confined spaces are occupied by only 2 people at a time, with physical distancing. However, the overall risk from congestion somewhere else needs to be taken into account.
  • We recommend that orchestra operators pay special attention to hand hygiene by washing/disinfecting hands between different instruments. The orchestrator must have sufficient time to work (e.g. stage construction) without the presence of others. We recommend that, while in close contact with the players, the organiser wears a mouth-nose mask, visor or breath protector. Please note that the use of protective equipment is decided on a case-by-case basis on the basis of the employer’s risk assessment.
  • We recommend that members of the orchestra or choir be placed at safety intervals of 1 to 2 meters, taking into account the possible need for additional distance due to the air currents resulting from wind instruments or singing. Anti-aerosol plexiglass can be used if necessary.
  • There is little research on infection caused by singing, but the risk is higher, as the airways can emit a lot of drops in the immediate environment. [2]

We recommend maximum physical distancing and explore, for example, the possibility of using a facial visor during rehearsals.

  • We recommend that wind players be placed at a longer safety distance and so that any cloud of aerosols is carried away from other people’s faces. [3]
  • We recommend that the conductor stands at a distance of 2 m from the players. If this is not possible, both the conductor and the nearest players can use a mouth-nose mask, visor or other protective device. We recommend that the same guide be applied to choir conductors. [4]
  • We recommend collecting condensed water from wind players either with disposable cloths or in a personal container. The wind player puts his or her cloth in a closed rubbish bin or empties and cleanses the condensed water container himself or herself.
  • We recommend that shared supplies are not used. Everyone has personal music and instrument racks, pencils, rubbers and sheet music.
  • We recommend that the players do any additional cleaning procedures for their instruments. Employers supply cleaning products and cloths on request.
  • We recommend that any lip warmups by wind players is carried out in a way that does not allow aerosols to spread. If there are not enough spaces for everyone, a face visor or mouth-nose mask may be used to prevent the spread of aerosols. [5]
  • If they wish, players and other staff can use mouth-nose mask, visor or breath protector for rehearsals according to each employer’s policy. If protective equipment is used, care must be taken to dispose of the waste/wash generated by them in such a way that it does not present an additional risk of infection.
  • We recommend eating meals performed in pre-arranged shifts so that not everyone is present at the same time. Alternatively, as far as possible, it is possible to spread out to more than one space.
  • If possible, player sections can be reduced or changed to suit a smaller orchestration. Efforts can also be made to divide the orchestra into smaller groups that are in close contact only with their own group (e.g. at meals). This reduces the risk of possible exposure of the entire orchestra.
  • If possible, we recommend flexibility in programme design so that it includes alternative presentations/persons, without compromising the continuity of operations.

You can read the recommendation from FIM, the umbrella organisation of international musicians’ federations. Orchestra charts of different sizes can be found here: The Finnish National Opera and Ballet and Kuopio Symphony Orchestra.


[1] Finnish Institute of Occupational Health 28 May 2020. Cleaning guidelines for preventing coronavirus infections. Accessed 17 June 2020. https://hyvatyo.ttl.fi/koronavirus/ohje-siivoukseen

[2], [3], [4], [5] Sirpa Laitinen 17.6.2020. Finnish Institute of Occupational Health’s answers to open-ended questions by email.

Update infromation:

These instructions were updated on 17 June 2020 by the orchestra subordinate working group, led by: Helena Värri (helena.varri@sinfoniaorkesterit.fi).

The following people participated in the orchestra working group: Jasper Sarinko (Kuopio Music Centre, Kuopio City Orchestra), Ritva Kaukola (Radio Symphony Orchestra), Antti Pylkkänen (Helsinki Music Centre), Jere Siukola (Helsinki City Orchestra), Patrik Stenström (Finnish National Opera and Ballet; the Musicians’ Union), Nikke Isomöttönen (Jyväskylä Sinfonia) ja Samuli Nuutinen (Finnish National Opera and Ballet).