I sing because of how it makes me feel: happy, connected, energized, peaceful, focused, calm. Singing releases all kinds of emotions and grounds me as my soul soars. Music is central in my life and I have sung in various choirs and choruses in churches, in college, in Jerusalem, in Boston. I’m not a soloist, but joining the second sopranos in a pick-up chorus to sing Handle’s Messiah in December is satisfying beyond any professional concert I might attend.
I sing with Sing Out Detroit Chorus. It is a wonderful counterbalance to my work, listening. I love being part of the group, but there’s no pressure to talk, gossip or argue. We stretch individually and we give each other shoulder rubs as we warm up. We sit in rows, in sections, listening to each other,following the director Jeremy’s rhythm (with his new baton!). We breathe in unison, learning to feel the breath in our lungs, use our diaphragms for controlled exhales. We match sound quality and tone, first loud, then soft.
We discover a oneness while singing parts! I am mesmerized as we sing a hypnotic song “Ding-a Ding-a Ding” where all four, and later eight parts, seamlessly intertwine in different rhythms and patterns. Being trained as a pianist, I am used to listening to interplay of all the parts and harmonies and dissonances. Others, trained as singers, teach me to listen only to my part and not be swayed by another part’s differences, intended or in error!
So, it is a bonus to read about Norwegian and Swedish researchers studying the benefits of singing.
Their research demonstrates that benefits of singing in a choir include well-being, emotional release, social connectivity and sensitivity, but also heart health! Singing slows down and then synchronizes choir members’ heart beats to the tempo. Comparing choral singing to meditation and yoga, Musicologist Bjorn Vickhoff reports: “When you exhale (as you sing) you activate the vagus nerve, we think, that goes from the brain stem to the heart. And when it is activated, the heart beats slower.” (Ibid) Controlled breathing seems to have benefits for mental and emotional health. “Songs with long phrases achieve the same effect as breathing exercises in yoga. In other words, through song we can exercise a certain control over mental states.” (Ibid)
So, there you have it. Good scientific reasons to sing in a group. And Sing Out Detroit is more than singing. It is a caring creative community that sings, dances, is silly and serious, laughs and cries together, and above all, we create beautiful music and healing bonds among participants and also with our listeners. Come hear us sing! No, better yet, come JOIN us in singing!