It’s absolutely true that more and more people are looking to join their local community choir to get their kicks and find some release from the fast and relentless pace of LIFE.
It seems to be something of a phenomenon during the last eight to ten years - maybe around the time that Gareth Malone introduced us to reality TV shows such as The Choir back in 2007.
Teaching people - who had never sung - that they could learn how to, that they could improve on technique and tone, harmonise, exercise their vocal chords, that they could learn to breathe deeply and above all to be part of something big, rewarding and exciting made for compelling TV.
Most choirs are relatively cheap to join – it's great value for your hard earned cash.
If a couple of beers in your local pub costs you around £9.00 and a coffee and cake in Costa £6.00, a prescription £8.60, a massage possibly somewhere around £40, a yoga class £10.00 and a decent bottle of wine £10.00, then it’s no surprise that we are all flocking to be part of the fun that these singing people seem to be having.
I often describe singing, or those moments when you are totally lost in the music, as being in the ZONE - much like a runner breaking through the wall on a 26 mile marathon.
When you surrender.
When you let it go.
When you are tuned in to your own self and the rhythm of your breath.
Then you are free.
For some it could be described as feeling closer to God or a feeling of deep connection.
For others it has become their religion.
A surge of endorphins such as dopamine rush through you, acting as neurotransmitters, sending signals of happiness and pleasure to your brain. Singing releases serotonin which reduces stress and depression thus increasing levels of happiness and wellbeing. Music also lowers cortisol which is a chemical that signals levels of stress.
It’s a fact that when you sing together in a group and in harmony your hearts beat at the same time. What greater connection could there be?
I myself have suffered over the years with a mild form of OCD and it has been such a relief to me that when I’m on stage with a band or standing in front of one of my choirs that the counting disappears, the worry melts and the fears vanish - much like meditation and mindfulness.
The escape is a healing thing.
How can it be that sufferers of Alzheimers who can’t even recognise their own children, can sing along to a favourite song, word perfect and in time?
Heart patients, Cancer survivors, those suffering from depression, autism, illnesses such as bi-polar, the bereaved, people in pain, all turn up week after week to sing and feel a whole lot better.
Music therapy is also being used to treat people with Tourettes and speech impediments.
It’s true that B.B. King suffered from a stutter but discovered the power of music could heal his problems. These are the opening lines to his autobiography….
I struggle with words. Never could express myself the way I wanted. My mind fights my mouth, and thoughts get stuck in my throat. Sometimes they stay stuck there for seconds or even minutes. As a child, I stuttered. What was inside couldn’t get out. I’m still not really fluent… Words aren’t my friends. Music is. Sounds, notes, rhythms. I talk through music.
Sufferers of anxiety-driven tics are all learning to relax through the art of playing music. I remember watching a documentary about a young guy who had Tourettes and he had zero control over the movements in his body until he got behind a drum kit. He was suddenly in complete control and played with great discipline and ease.
As Shakespeare said in Twelfth Night,
"If music be the food of love, play on,
Give me excess of it; that surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.”
Play on and sing out!
Let’s keep our appetite rich and infinite. In fact let’s be gluttonous and feed our faces till we are packed full and overflowing with the good stuff.
Feed your souls and stuff yourself with happiness until it’s running over like the bath water. Let us feast on melody, song and harmony and let us find that connection and get into the groove, the pulse and the ZONE.
Go join a choir.
You'll never be hungry again.