Opinion pieces

How to sing your way to a new community

As a socially awkward seven-year-old, I put my shy little hand up to join the school choir. A non-religious child in a very Catholic school, I wanted to feel included, and the hour spent each week singing along to hymns as part of an off-pitch, passionate assembly of classmates made me feel powerful and confident. The choir leader told us this feeling was God. To me it was the feeling of being connected.

 

I soon discovered non-religious choirs and ran to them with open arms. In a choir there’s no such thing as a stranger, whether you’re a group of 12-year-olds or senior citizens. One song in, and you’re already bonding.

 

Western religion, especially Christianity, has a historic side effect of creating communities in the form of “congregations”. We who don’t belong to a religion or church are challenged with creating and finding our own ‘people’.

 

In Religion for Atheists, Alain de Botton encourages the non-religious to stop“

 

Communities are so often based around institutions and workplaces that it can be a struggle to escape your demographic. Choirs are different; people of different ages, careers and interests all coming together to sing.

 

I’ve been in six choirs in the last 14 years, and they have introduced to people who I may never have crossed paths with, and have made closer relationships with people who I saw every day. As an extroverted child, I was able to show off, and once that wore off I enjoyed the teamwork of singing in harmony and forming a little family in my section. In an Australian survey the majority of group singers said they regularly socialise with other choir members outside of their singing sessions- singing openly and confidently with people means you get to see a side of each other not usually revealed, creating bonds and sometimes lifelong friendships.

 

Plus you just feel better when you’ve had a good ol’ group sing.

 

The positive effect isn’t imaginary. Not just in terms of hormones, endorphins and syncopated heart rates, but mental health. Over 90% of singers in a choir rate their psychological health as good or higher and are more likely ask for support from their friends.

 

Time Magazine explains the pleasure of group singing as our ‘evolutionary reward’ for spending cooperative time together instead of hiding in our respective caves. You don’t even have to sound good- regardless of skill levels you still reap the same benefits, plus there’s always the endless joy of watching a large group of 20-60-year-olds dissolve into primary school level chaos as the adrenaline kicks in—to the usual dismay of the choir leader.

Various studies show that group activities (including singing) create ‘social capital’, closer communities, a greater tolerance for diversity, and generally more ‘philanthropic’- basically, singing in a choir just makes you a really, really good person.

In the last six years, over 10 million people have caught onto group singing and it’s continuing to grow. It’s cheaper than therapy, you get to hang out with amazing people and you get to make beautiful music together.

There’s over 1000 community singing groups on the Sing Australia and ANCA databases but a quick Google is sure to bring up anything else near you.

Join us. Come to the choir side. We have cookies.

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