World Choir Games Flanders 2023

Why singing together is a great healer

  • [A version of this article first appeared as a post on my blog From the Front of the Choir]

    The world can be a scary and upsetting place. When I wrote this back in 2016, here in the UK we were witnessing political infighting, uncertain futures, austerity measures and a rise in racism (so, what else is new?). And now we have a pandemic.



    Singing together (even on Zoom) can be a great antidote. Here’s why.

    Whatever your personal beliefs the world can be a scary and upsetting place from time to time. Whether its your individual circumstances (loss of a loved one, financial problems, unemployment, poor health) or the society around you (racism, politics, terrorism, global warming).

    Singing together can help ease those burdens. Although not a cure for them, it can act as a momentary respite, a reminder of the good in people, and brief escape from the troubles of the world.

    Here’s how it works.

    • no space for other thoughts – whilst you’re singing together, learning songs, remembering lyrics, listening to the other parts, paying attention to your conductor, there is no space in your mind for other thoughts. Any problems you brought with you are temporarily forgotten.
    • sense of belonging and togetherness – singing together (as opposed to on your own in the shower or car) brings with it a sense of belonging and being socially included. It’s as if you’ve come home to your ‘tribe’.
    • good for your well-being – singing together is good for your well-being. Breathing deeply, slowly and rhythmically and stretching in warm ups are all good exercises for your lungs, heart, stress response, muscles and more. Recent research has even shown that singing together synchronises the heart beats of the singers. Singing together helps to reduce anxiety and stress about the big bad world out there. There are plenty of other benefits of singing in a choir.
    • strength in unity – singing together offers the opportunity to present a united front. The obvious example of this is the protest song when a group of individuals can express their concerns as one. You are not alone.
    • allows public expressions of emotion – there aren’t many opportunities for groups of human being to express collective emotions. The rare occasions when it does happen (e.g. the funeral of Princess Diana) are remarked upon precisely because of their rarity. Maybe watching sports is another. But when singing together society ‘allows’ you to express big, collective emotions as much as you like. This can be a wonderful release. Not only is it cathartic, but it also reminds you that other people are feeling the same way as you are.
    • reminder that people are basically good – it’s very easy when you’re having a bad time to forget that people are essentially good. Singing together is definitely a team game. Everyone needs to pull together towards a common goal.
    • there’s a always a song to fit the bill – no matter what is going on in your life, there is bound to be a song somewhere which expresses exactly what you’re feeling at that moment! Even if your troubles are personal (e.g. a recent bereavement), being able to express those feeling through song in the company of others can help you feel better.


    There are bound to be loads of other ways in which singing together can help. If you think I’ve missed anything out, do leave a comment and share your experiences. I’d love to hear from you!

     

     

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    Chris Rowbury

    website: chrisrowbury.com
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