THE CHOIR – IN PRAISE OF SINGING TOGETHER!
Updated: Sep 14, 2020
At a time when singing in any public context is being strongly discouraged due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the launch of a new website to promote “Music for Voices” may seem a strange irony!
Music is a powerful, health-giving, life-enhancing medium, as testified by centuries of human experience and a great deal of recent academic research. Music has been shown to enhance learning, listening, memory, recovery from sickness, child development and so much else. This was wonderfully celebrated by the writer Rhidian Brook in his brilliant 2018 BBC Music Day poem, simply called “Music”, from which this is just one brief extract:
… Listen to the music
Thank you for the music
Who can live without it
God only knows what we’d do without it.
It gives soul to the universe
Wings to the mind
Evokes without words
Our greatest joys our deepest fears …
You can hear the whole poem, which was broadcast as a Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4, at https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06mdczl. It has also been published in Brook’s collection of reflections from the programme, entitled “Godbothering” (SPCK, 2020).
Music, of course, does not have to be vocal to be powerful, but there is no doubt that vocal music, particularly taking part in singing, brings additional benefits. It has been documented that singing relieves stress, improves sleep, posture and lung capacity and can help relieve pain. Researchers have noted additional emotional and physical benefits if the singing is in a choir, including positive impacts on heart rate, improvement of the symptoms of depression and the many advantages that come from engaging in purposeful social interaction.
All in all, music and singing are crucial for general good mental health. Singing in particular is one musical activity that anyone can take part in, because it does not require intense musical training – though, of course, practice is always beneficial! For our personal and community health and sanity, we need music, we need singing, we need choirs!
So despite the temporary setbacks and restrictions, we need to plan for all those important future opportunities for singing together with others in choirs of all kinds – community choirs, church choirs, concert hall choirs, chamber choirs, online virtual choirs and any others that we can find, large-scale or intimate. We need to nurture our choir members who are so missing their choral collaborations, and to care passionately for the well-being of our choir leaders. As we emerge from pandemic concerns, and especially when they are finally behind us and we move towards a new healthier normal, we will need to sing and sing again and sing more.
This new website and the collections of vocal and choral music that it displays can hopefully be part of that process of moving towards community musical good health. I hope that you’ll enjoy exploring it – as a means to a greater end when we’ll all be able to enjoy singing together again!
FOOTNOTE: INSTRUMENT OF PEACE – CORRYMEELA
The most recent collection that features on this website is Instrument of Peace: Songs of Peace for Choirs. It includes a range of songs on peace themes, written over a period of more than 40 years, many of which have been written and performed in association with the Corrymeela Community, and especially by the Corrymeela Singers (1974-2004). Corrymeela has been a major influence in my life, and not least in my music-making, so all proceeds from the Instrument of Peace collection are being donated to the work of Corrymeela for peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland and beyond. At the time of writing Corrymeela, like so many other charitable organisations, is trying to meet the difficult challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. So please support Corrymeela in this way and in any other ways that you can!
A few clips from recordings of some of the pieces from Instrument of Peace can be found elsewhere in this site; and there is much more information about Corrymeela at the website www.corrymeela.org.