In the next in a series of guest blogs, Frances Lake tells us about how she has enjoyed a long singing career and what the benefits of singing are.
When I was at Primary School in the 1950s every week we would settle down in our classroom to listen to a radio broadcast for schools for half an hour. The programme was called ‘Singing Together’ and as far as I know, most schools in the country did the same thing.
We did some singing and learnt about music, but it was the title that was important because that was linking thousands of children all doing the same thing at the same time, just like an online experience today.
The Importance of Choral Singing to Me
Choral singing has been for me, almost the most important thing in my life.
From school choirs to the best and biggest choirs in London, I have sung my way through my life and it has lifted me to the heights, seen me through huge life changing events when I thought there was nothing that could help and given me opportunities I would never have had otherwise.
I have sung at prestigious venues around the UK, Europe and America, performed at many prom concerts, lost one husband and gained another through the medium of choral singing and made many friends along the way.
Going on tour with a choir can be the best experience of all. There is that feeling of freedom from what you have at home, the social side, things that can and do go wrong in unfamiliar surroundings, all part of that feeling of ‘Singing Together’. Liaisons are formed and unformed,( perhaps because of that feeling of freedom ).
There is a saying in the musical world “What goes on tour, stays on tour”. However perhaps it should be stressed for anxious partners reading this, it is not always like that and should not be assumed that it is an obligatory part of touring!
Creating Something Magical
What is so life affirming is that feeling of creating something magical together when you perform. A collective buzz which a choir feels at the end of a performance.
One memorable performance of ‘The Sea Symphony’ I was in, certainly gave the choir a few collective anxious moments as our new, rather unstable staging swayed with us as we sang about the ocean waves and there was relief all round at the end that none of us had actually gone overboard with it!
Sometimes, those of us that have been choral singing for years, can be heard to sigh when we hear our choirs’ plan for next years concerts. “Oh not another Mozart Requiem, or another Handel’s Messiah “ and we are perhaps a bit superior at rehearsals with those who haven’t performed these works before, but in the end it doesn’t matter how many times we perform them.
When we stand up, behind an orchestra with an audience in front of us we love it all over again and go home afterwards with that feeling of euphoria that is so addictive, unable to sleep that night because the music is still going round in our heads.
Health Benefits of Singing
The benefits to mental health of singing has been known for a while now, particularly for people with dementia or just simply lonely and in need of something to focus on.
It can be physically challenging as well – standing for maybe a couple of hours in sometimes rather squashed spaces holding music out in front of you, but for those with a disability, there is usually a way round this and usually the discomfort fades away as you lose yourself in what you are singing.
I mentioned that it can be addictive and it is! The release of endorphins is similar to when taking strenuous exercise and it can help your posture too.
In order to breathe effectively and fill your lungs with air standing up straight is essential. The diaphragm is the key to good breath control when singing and good posture helps you to use it effectively, which is why choirs tend to sing better when standing up rather than slouched over a score sitting in a chair.
We will all moan when the conductor asks us to stand up to sing. It’s the end of the day quite often, we are a bit tired and possible grumpy! But we know in our hearts it is easier to sing all those long runs of notes when we can fill our lungs properly.
It May Help with Snoring Issues!
A further benefit is to those who snore! Singing exercises the throat and airways which has been shown to help snoring and sleep apnea. Who would have thought giving the throat a work out could have such benefits!
There are opportunities for everyone to join a choir, it doesn’t have to be the traditional classical style that I like. That’s not for everyone.
Rock choirs are mushrooming everywhere as people discover the joy of performing with other like minded people. Many hospitals and big businesses have choirs. They help the people who work there to forget about the stresses of the job for an hour or so and meet others from different parts of their workplace.
I urge anyone who can hold a tune to try it. The musical world is huge and there is room for everyone to share in it any way they like.
Author: Frances Lake is a long time choral singer, now living in Folkestone, Kent and singing with Folkestone Choral Society and Canterbury Choral Society.