As a result of the corona pandemic, cultural life in Germany and almost every other country has largely come to a standstill. Health protection is a top priority. At the same time, however, other fundamental rights (freedom of art, freedom of profession, free development of personality) of the creative artists and the public are also affected. The principle of proportionality must be observed when interfering with fundamental rights, i.e. the mildest tool that least affects the fundamental rights concerned is to be chosen from among several equally effective tools.

A long way back to a full hall for orchestras

The “shutdown” in the field of culture without public and political discussion about clear rules for an orderly return to work must therefore be critically examined. Despite the numerous new performance formats in the digital space, there is also a vital need among the public to enjoy art directly and “analog” on stage again.

The DOV (German Orchestra Association) Health and Prophylaxis Working Group has therefore drawn up a list of practical suggestions and recommendations for resuming activities and performances, while at the same time observing protective and precautionary measures. The working group explicitly invites medical science to review the effectiveness of the proposals. If new knowledge and experience is available, the individual measures must then be adjusted accordingly. Great care and caution is still required, so that the positive development to date in containing the consequences of the pandemic is not called into question by careless handling of the continuing high risk of infection.

The following list is a practical suggestions that must be assessed by specialist medical specialists (musician’s health, occupational medicine) from an occupational safety perspective. Performance formats and sample dispositions should always be discussed with the company doctor and the local health department in advance.


There are four areas of discussion: internal activities, organizational activities, psychological aspects and aspects for the audience:

1. The following internal activities for the orchestras and choirs can be helpful in preparing and executing events:

– Medical-hygienic measures

– Mouth-nose protection (masks) for conductors, strings, keyboard players, drummers

– With trumpets and trombones, fabric covers can be stretched over the bell. This enables aerosol protection similar to mouth-nose protection (possibly also for oboes, clarinets and bassoons?) and does not influence the sound

– For singers, increased spacing and increased use of plexiglass shields (also on the side) to curb the spread of aerosols and droplet flight

– Condensation water on wind instruments is not on the floor, but on cellulose cloths or newspapers, which are disposed of individually by each player in a hygiene container.

– Use plexiglass walls as aerosol protection (similar to supermarket checkout) – especially for wind and brass players who cannot wear a mask when playing

– Wind and brass players also wear masks during longer breaks

– Adapt wardrobes / lounges / foyers to the required clearance rules. In good weather, stay outside.

– No changing of clothes for musicians in the theatre or concert hall

– Limitation of the simultaneous stay of staff in rest rooms

– Orchestra stage hands wear protective gloves during instrument transport after the instruments have been played

– Do not switch off the ventilation systems as they reduce the aerosol concentration in the ambient air

– Frequent ventilation of rooms and venues

– Shorten cleaning intervals in the orchestras rehersal and rest rooms


2. Organizational activities

– only one player per stand, even with strings

– Distance at least 1.5-2 m. With wind & brass players as well as singers, because of the intensive breathing, there are longer distances. Recommendations range between 3 and even 6 m (in front of singers) and 12 m (in front of brass section – without further explanation and scientific background – questions to be surveyed)

– Adjust the number of musicians to the size of the room (10-20 m² per player). Less for brass instruments than for strings. Also consider the room height and room ventilation.

– Samples separated by sections

– Play smaller programs (chamber orchestras / ensembles but also wind and or brass instruments)

– Play the same programs more often (two or more concerts in a row)

– Adjustment of the game plan: Baroque operas, operettas / opera arrangements that reduce the cast

– Separate entrance and exit (flows only in one direction – “one-way street”)

– Appearance and departure in a defined order according to voice groups

– Shorter rehearsals without breaks; or rehearsals with more breaks that can be held outdoors. If possible: extension of the break rooms.

– Allow individual directions for side trips with larger distances. Plan travel expenses and bus capacities generously.


3. Psychological aspects

– Participation of musicians may not be forced if personal fears do not allow it (no pressure / peer pressure)

– Risk-increasing previous illnesses may rule out participation. Medical certificates required

– Include company doctor

– labour committee and elected orchestral board members should create regulations in advance


4. The following aspects for the audience can help:

– Separate entrance and exit (flows only in one direction – “one-way street”)

– “Boarding” separated by blocks

– Likewise exit order according to blocks / rows

– Mandatory mouth-nose protection mandatory, distribute masks at the entrance if necessary

– Disinfection options at entrances

– Avoiding lines at cash registers, sanitary facilities, at the entrance, at the entrance, guiding the public through the house, through markings

– Organize routes in the house, mark distances at the cash register and in sanitary facilities

– Increased admission staff, but if possible, always assign the same teams to each other

– Special training for admission staff

– Only check admission tickets at a distance

– Voluntary fever control (proportionality?). Visitors with signs of Covid-19 symptoms may be refused admission. The house right applies here.

– Voluntary filing of the address to track potential infections

– smaller formats with a reduced audience, but more concerts in a row

– Other formats: e.g. Mark open-air concerts with a standing (or walking?) audience, paths and standing room.

– extra concerts and programs for younger audiences / families and high-risk groups

– Limited break catering, for example only with advance booking, but rather closed catering

– Concerts, performances – if possible – performed without breaks

– Take the wardrobe with you into the hall

– Calculate number of people per m², one person on 10 m² (20 m²); Consider the room height

– Selling of seats every second / third row, 2-3 seats free between two visitors

– Shorten cleaning intervals in sanitary facilities and foyers

– Disinfect the theater/venue before the performance by a special team