Number 25. Sunday, 19th February, 2017

GPs should be singing the praises of joining a choir

By Hilary Reynolds

I recently found in an article written by Sinead Moriarty for the Irish Independent the convictions I have held for years resoundingly confirmed.
Through pointing out the results of recent scientific research on the effects of choral singing, as well as adding a very personal anecdote about the experience of her widowed mother, Sinead Moriarty makes a very strong case for what I have been saying all my professional life: 'The mental and physical benefits from singing in harmony make it an uplifting experience.'
Sinead recalls: 'When my mother joined a choir recently, I was delighted and hoped it would help lift her spirits. My father died 18 months ago and it hasn't been easy for her. When I called her after her first choir practice, she was on a high. That night was the first time she had slept through since dad died. She came home, went to bed and woke up with the birds singing.'
Further on in the article, she presents the medical evidence: ''A Swedish study – 'The Body's Musical Score' – found that singing in a choir had a calming effect on participants' heart rate.' Furthermore: 'Singing has also been found to boost the immune system and help singers stay mentally alert as they have to learn lyrics and memorise tunes.'
It is also my experience, as Sinead writes, that: 'A large number of choristers have noted that being in a choir has improved their confidence and their emotional well-being. Meeting new people and making new friends helps ward off feelings of isolation.'
For those of you who think that singing in the bath is therapeutic enough, read of this study done recently: 'A British research team led by University of Bath psychologist Nick Stewart carried out a study featuring 125 choral singers, 125 solo singers and 125 team sport athletes. The first finding was that choral singers and team sports players “reported significantly higher levels of well-being than solo singers.” Second, they found choral singers experienced a greater sense of being part of a meaningful, or 'real' group than team sport players.' Backing up these findings: 'The chief executive of the Association of Irish Choirs, Dermot O'Callaghan, said older members often comment that their self-esteem increases and their emotional and physical well-being is enhanced when they are involved in choral activity. “Singing is good for mental, emotional and physical health,” he said.'
I feel, however, that it is the last paragraph of Sinead's article that is the most telling. She concludes: 'If one night of singing in a choir can allow my widowed mother her first full night's sleep in 18 months, then, as far as I'm concerned, it's miraculous. If you are looking for a New Year's resolution, my suggestion is to start singing!'
I would like to invite anyone who has been inspired by this article and 'resonates' with these words to come along and experience it for themselves on Monday nights from 8 pm to 10 pm with The Orpheus Choir in the Fermoy Community Youth Centre. Feel free to ring, email or text me: 087 7924105 / hilaryreynolds.choir@gmail.com.

(This article was first published in The Avondhu on 12th January 2017)