There is a growing body of evidence which shows that singing as part of a group can have a range of health benefits says The Bach Choir, one of Britain’s best.
‘The benefits of singing – in particular singing in a choir or group – are plentiful and scientifically proven,’ says David Hill, Musical Director of The Bach Choir and Principal Conductor of Yale Schola Cantorum.
Nick Stewart, from Oxford Brookes University, who led a recent study into the benefits of singings, says: ‘Research has already suggested that joining a choir could be a cost-effective way to improve your well-being. Yet we know surprisingly little about how the well-being effects of choral singing are brought about.’
Dr Julia Palmer, London-based NHS Consultant Psychiatrist and Bach Choir member, comments: ‘The social, emotional, and physical benefits of communal singing are increasingly well known, with the result that choirs are springing up across mental health services in the UK. A mental health community choir based in Harrow, North West London, has proved incredibly popular; I have sung with it and found it tremendously enjoyable; I remember singing Hello Dolly with gusto. Likewise, The Bach Choir’s Outreach Programme engages primary school children in singing, and it is heartening to see their enthusiasm and uninhibited enjoyment.’
World famous baritone soloist, Roderick Williams, who has performed with The Bach Choir, comments: ‘Sharing an active musical experience with fellow singers is uplifting in a way that is difficult to describe to anyone unfortunate enough not to have tried it and The Bach Choir is the perfect place to find a particular blend of enthusiasm, passion, discipline, and the pursuit of excellence. But, above all, it’s huge fun.’
Singing in a choir can boost your mental health, a new study has found. Researchers carried out an online survey of people who sang in choirs, sang alone, or played team sports. All three activities yielded high levels of psychological well-being – but choristers stood out as experiencing the greatest benefit.
ITV news anchor, Alastair Stewart OBE, says of the Choir: ‘The Bach Choir is simply magnificent: constantly attracting new talent and always displaying the beautiful merit of music for practitioners and audiences. One of the finest.’
Besides its clear health-giving qualities there are other important human issues that centre on singing. Singing in groups is an important human activity with all sorts of benefits says the distinguished philosopher, Roger Scruton. Speaking on a recent BBC Radio 4 programme about choirs, he said: ‘Choral singing is one of the things that defines Europe from the rest of the world. It is unique to Europe. It’s not about ethnicity or tribalism but it is about nationality, about this place.’
Research shows that there are physical improvements brought about by singing. It exercises the lungs, and tones the intercostal muscles and diaphragm; can improve sleep; improves aerobic capacity, which benefits the heart and circulation, and decreases muscle tension; improves posture; can improve mental alertness; opens up sinuses and respiratory tubes; releases pain relieving endorphins; boosts the immune system and helps fight disease; and can help reduce anger, depression, and anxiety.
Emotional improvements that singing fosters: Increases self-esteem and confidence; increases feelings of well-being; enhances mood; reduces stress; is spiritually uplifting; increases positive feelings; encourages creativity; can be energising; evokes positive emotions; and increases understanding and empathy between cultures.
Social benefits of singing: Facilitates meeting new people; brings people together and encourages a sense of community; offers a forum for fun and laughter; provides support; provides a safe environment to learn new skills.
Choir singing, previously best known in church is becoming increasingly popular, boosted by TV programmes such as Gareth Malone’s The Choir which follows the choirmaster.
While the feel-good effects of singing have long been recognised, there is growing evidence that it can have a positive impact on a range of physical and psychological conditions, leading to campaigns for singing on prescription.
Swedish research has suggested that singing not only increases oxygen levels in the blood but triggers the release of ‘happy’ hormones such as oxytocin, which is thought to help lower stress levels and blood pressure.
Previous studies have found that a group of singers actually synchronise their heartbeats. Further research needs to be carried out to establish why singing in a group has such powerful effect. At the moment it is speculative, but it could be that singing in a group gives us something that we have lost as a society.