“I feel better for singing.”

New research shows why choir singing is “the new exercise” for all!

It’s amazing how often I hear people ‘explain’ to me that they just can’t sing. They say they wish they could sing, or they wish they could sing like they used to, all the while calmly explaining that in spite of their desire, they just can’t.

This is all the more jarring as more and more research comes out that shows that joining a choir is one of the best things you can do for yourself physically, emotionally and mentally. Research showing that the idea of “tone-deafness” is more or less bunk. Research showing that an evening of group singing is good for lung function, blood pressure, the immune system, chronic pain and more.

“I think there’s something physical about singing in a choir that does you good,” says one member of the Harmony Choir in Edinburgh, Scotland, a group founded by a clinical psychologist as a two-month research project to explore the impact of singing on wellbeing and mental health. This particular chorister, in her 60s with a history of depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder, continued, “For me it’s coming together, and the wellbeing I feel as a result of it. There’s a general improvement in my mental health. I feel better for singing.”

This is probably why, though started originally as a two-month experiment, Harmony Choir is still going strong. Recent research also shows benefit for those suffering from COPD, high blood pressure and chronic pain from group singing, But this is just the beginning. Singing together regularly also exerts a powerful effect on communities.

Tania de Jong makes the case that people singing together can change the brain.

Neurological and anthropological studies are coming together to illustrate that singing together not only makes people healthier, it makes communities stronger. Researchers have shown that the unified attention and synchronized breathing also have the effect of lowering barriers between strangers. Called the “ice-breaker” effect, folks singing together create a level of bonding and comfort in just two weeks that is the equal to bonds created between strangers collaborating on a shared project for three months. It seems that the shared focus and experience opens minds and makes it easier to see that across age and social groups, we really have more in common than not.

Quite simply, it’s easier to make friends, and the ripple effects for communities, especially rural communities, are profound. Add the benefits of increased cultural tourism, improved small business awareness, plus a deeper sense of civic engagement and it’s easy to understand why communities with higher levels of this kind of arts participation are stronger in every way.

And this is why you should consider joining the Great Bend Chorale. You’ll make some new friends in a supportive musical environment in ways that will do you, and our community, a world of good!

— Matthew Melendez, Great Bend Center for Music General Director

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