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Whilst public worship is now permitted in Wales the use of the organ is not.

“You are advised only to play musical instruments that are not blown into. Playing organs which require air to be pushed through the mechanism should be avoided.“

https://gov.wales/guidance-marriages-and-civil-partnerships-coronavirus-html

The Church in Wales bishops say:

”Welsh Government guidance also states that no blown instruments should be played; this includes organs (other than electronic organs). Another instrument such as a guitar or violin could be played. We are expecting guidance shortly on how organs can be maintained (including practising) under current restrictions and hope that playing may soon be possible.“
https://www.churchinwales.org.uk/cy/publications/liturgy/Memorial_Service/

No such restriction appears to be in place in England.

The implication seems to be the passage of air into and out of the instrument could spread infected droplets around the building. How plausible is this?

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Guidance in England issued this week is perhaps more helpful here:

"You are advised only to play musical instruments that are not blown into. Organs can be played for faith practices, as well as general maintenance, but should be cleaned thoroughly before and after use."

The emphasis being a reminder that surfaces that are touched by potentially contaminated hands can lead to others becoming infected. Organs are of course complicated in that respect and whoever advised them to be thoroughly cleaned before and after use must appreciate that means all keys, stops (including the back of each drawstop up to the shank), pistons, blower switch and even the music desk hooks. Alternatively at least wait three days before anyone else plays, though we don't know for certain how long the virus lasts on hard surfaces. And what do organ builders recommend to clean and disinfect surfaces with?

Lest this seem paranoid overkill there was recently reported the case of a women who flew back from the USA to her home in China took a lift on a single occasion to get to her apartment to go into quarantine and stayed there for her period of quarantine, totally symptom free. As more and more people in the apartment block fell ill suspicion fell on her and her movements and over seventy people were eventually found to have caught coronavirus just through her one use of that lift.

There is growing concern that the coronavirus may linger suspended in air rather than just in cough droplets. Singing, shouting and playing wind instruments are therefore cautioned against, and indeed there have been some serious outbreaks in church choirs around the world due to the forced expiration of virus-laden air amongst people in close proximity to one another. The rules banning choirs and church singing at present are certainly based on scientific facts around increased risk. This also explains the increasing focus on wearing face coverings in enclosed spaces since as the evidence for the virus being airborne  grows, the case for searing something that interrupts airborne transmission becomes more compelling.

Moving and disturbing air has been advised against specifically in health and care settings. Even on hot days hospitals and care homes should not be using fans because of the risk of stirring up air and potentially transmitting the coronavirus. I wonder therefore if that is what is driving the Welsh advice since the organ blower is effectively a giant fan with theoretical potential to blow air around the building. However that has to be viewed in context; poorly ventilated crowded indoor spaces create the conditions for coronavirus to be transmitted. Health and Safety Executive guidance reiterates the advice that buildings need to be well ventilated using for example ceiling fans, and stagnant air should be avoided to reduce the risk of transmission of coronavirus. An organ blower might filter the air as it comes into the air intake, and might source the air from outside the church. How many litres of air does an organ blower shift per minute?

This of course is where a sensible risk assessment is required. Organs do contain fans that move air. But they are often  a long way from congregations and may even be halfway up the wall of a church on a gallery somewhere. Congregations often include elderly people who are particularly susceptible to the virus. Fortunately in most areas of the UK the number of new cases is currently going down - whether that will continue or whether we will see another big increase during the winter is anybody's guess right now though. And if the risk of there being someone in the congregation who is unknowingly infected, but they are self-distancing from everyone else and not singing, there is little prospect of the organ spreading their infection. On the basis of our current understanding (which is changing all the time) therefore I would be more concerned about ensuring that the keys and other touchpoints of the console were clean and not liable to transmit virus from an asymptomatic organist to another player; the likelihood of an infected person being in church and sitting right next to the blower air intake of the typical church organ is probably pretty low. However I would not want to attend any church service in a densely packed building with a low ceiling and poor ventilation right now and if such a church has an organ right next to the congregation I wouldn't want to categorically dismiss the remote possibility it could contribute to spread of virus via the air it disturbed if members of the congregation were carrying it. I would be astonished however if the wind from a pipe organ ever does get implicated in the spread of coronavirus.

So where does this leave us? Above all we must follow sensible precautions around social distancing, handwashing or decontamination on entry to a church building, we should consider the possibility of contamination on touchpoints on the organ console depending on how often it is played and by whom; and we should strictly not going anywhere if we have symptoms of new cough, fever, change of taste or smell - in other words the possibility of a COVID-19 infection. These measures are both to protect others as well as to be protected from others. And worth remembering that if we do have a significant rise in cases in an area we amy all be required to go back to a stricter lockdown in which case noone will be going into the church for a while in which case all the above is moot.

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9 hours ago, Contrabombarde said:

And what do organ builders recommend to clean and disinfect surfaces with?

A small amount of Methylated spirits on a cloth is sufficient to wipe over keys and stop knobs but never soak them.

Peter

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On 16/07/2020 at 09:14, P DeVile said:

A small amount of Methylated spirits on a cloth is sufficient to wipe over keys and stop knobs but never soak them.

Peter

Hi

That's what all the organ tuners I've dealt with (including Peter!) have used - apart from the one who never cleaned the console at all!  

Every Blessing

Tony

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On 15/07/2020 at 12:10, Dafydd y Garreg Wen said:

Whilst public worship is now permitted in Wales the use of the organ is not.

“You are advised only to play musical instruments that are not blown into. Playing organs which require air to be pushed through the mechanism should be avoided.“

Yes.  Nonsense.

I mentioned elsewhere on this forum that I have been watching weekly organ recitals from Cologne Cathedral on YouTube.  I think it has now been five, and each is by a different organist.  There has been quite a wide range of composers and few, if any, of the more hackneyed pieces. 
I am fortunate to be able to watch this on our large TV set with a good sound system, using a Firestick.

Incidentally, the cathedral appears to be well populated for these recitals, though sensible 'distancing' is applied.

If Cologne can do it, why can't Wales?  Silly over-reaction, I suppose.

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The ban remains, tho’ with helpful clarification about practice and maintenance. At least the Welsh bishops are arguing against it now:

“Organs: Maintenance work to organs can now be undertaken. A pipe organ may be played for practice or maintenance purposes when the building is closed to the public. Organs (other than electronic) cannot at this time be played as part of public opening, services, marriages or funerals. We are lobbying for a change in this provision.”
https://www.churchinwales.org.uk/en/clergy-and-members/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance/

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2 hours ago, Dafydd y Garreg Wen said:

The ban remains, tho’ with helpful clarification about practice and maintenance. At least the Welsh bishops are arguing against it now:

“Organs: Maintenance work to organs can now be undertaken. A pipe organ may be played for practice or maintenance purposes when the building is closed to the public. Organs (other than electronic) cannot at this time be played as part of public opening, services, marriages or funerals. We are lobbying for a change in this provision.”
https://www.churchinwales.org.uk/en/clergy-and-members/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance/

Let's hope this ridiculous situation is rectified.

I really did need to read the thread title twice as I've never heard such utter rubbish in my entire life.

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