It all started with a dream!
I woke up one night, sat bolt upright in bed and started singing, “Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer,” much to the shock and surprise of my wife! I had been watching an inspiring arrangement of this great old hymn on Songs Of Praise, performed by a male voice choir. I couldn’t stop thinking about the huge potential for a community choir in our own area and within a couple of weeks, it was launched.
In 2010, even though I was rapidly approaching retirement age, my wife Sarah and I re-opened a derelict NHS Chapel on a decommissioned hospital site. Graylingwell Chapel became the venue for our first choir rehearsal. The word got around and people invited friends and within 18 months we had a choir with 200 members of all ages singing pop, rock, gospel and soul music. What a wonderful way to keep fit and healthy and what a great missional opportunity for the church.
I am 70 years old now and run three community choirs. People frequently tell me that singing has been a life-saver, especially in retirement years when life can have additional challenges. I personally found that music and singing played a huge part in my own recovery as I battled with cancer four years ago. So it’s not surprising that all the latest research shows clearly that singing is good for you in body, mind and spirit.
Here is my Top Ten list of the benefits of singing together:
1. The immune system is strengthened and reinforced.
The University of Frankfurt got choir members to sing Mozart’s “Requiem” and after taking blood tests, their research showed that the number of proteins in the immune system that function as antibodies were significantly higher immediately after the rehearsal.
2. Singing keeps you in good physical shape.
Singing can be an excellent form of exercise, especially in this day and age where many of us live quite sedentary lives. Our lungs get a good workout and circulation is improved. It is also very likely that singing can increase aerobic capacity and stamina.
3. Good posture is encouraged.
At our choir rehearsals, we work on good body posture, which takes us into a stress-free zone and can relieve tension and aches and pains.
4. Sleep patterns can be stabilised.
A clinical trial by Exeter University and the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust, showed that the singing exercises which strengthen certain throat muscles, also alleviated symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, a condition in which people stop breathing during deep sleep.
5. There are anti-depressant benefits which happen naturally when we sing.
Endorphins are released. These are the feel-good factor brain chemicals that make you feel uplifted and positive. Scientists have identified a tiny organ in the ear called the sacculus, which responds to the frequencies created by singing. The response creates an immediate sense of pleasure, regardless of what the singing sounds like. (Which is a great encouragement to those who think they can’t sing!)
6. Singing gets those brain cells moving!
Mental alertness is improved when blood circulation and an oxygenated bloodstream allows more oxygen to the brain. The result: Mental alertness, concentration, and memory enhancement. Our method of “Sing & Repeat” aids this process, as the brain focusses the mind on picking up harmonies and listening to instructions. The Alzheimer’s Society has even established a “Singing for the Brain” service to help people with dementia and Alzheimer’s maintain their memories.
7. Mind, body and spirit are rejuvenated.
Retirement need not be restrictive. Singing in a choir helps to release feelings of freedom and liberty – you can be yourself in the presence of like-minded people who are also on their own personal journey of self-discovery and liberation!
8. Community choirs build community.
In our choirs, we have all kinds of people from different backgrounds and because we have a common goal, we work together, make new friends and build on friendships of old, which often take on a new lease of life.
9. Singing boosts self-confidence.
I have seen this happen time and time again with choir members who come with all kinds of personal hang-ups and anxieties and often with very low self-esteem. But after a few months, confidence starts to grow with a, “I can do this” attitude.
10. Developing communication skills
Singing with others is great fun and builds community and communication skills.
So there we have it.
Singing is very good for you! We should embrace it, enjoy it and celebrate the benefits!
If you’d like to know more about joining a choir or setting one up for yourself, read my new eBook, “Sing Your Way To Health In Body, Mind And Spirit.” Includes singing exercises and warm-ups. Click the link: http://www.steveflashman.biz/sing