Sing (and tell the blues so long)

STH Choir shot1.jpg

So goes the title of one of the most famous songs from the father of Australian Rock n Roll, Johnny O’Keefe, “Sing (and tell the blues so long)”. Whilst the lives of music stars can be a roller-coaster, and Johnny’s was as much as any, they’re still never more happy than when they’re singing.

We all live existences with variable degrees of twists and turns and ups and downs We need time for more coasting and less for rolling. Those in Doctors’ Orchestras would tell you about how relaxing it is playing an instrument in that setting – it takes you to another zone, removed from life’s and practice’s multiple stresses.  No different is the escape of singing. There’s been quite a lot written on both the “feel-good” and the health effects of singing, particularly in a choir

Researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, found that choristers’ heartbeats synchronize when they sing together bringing about a calming and meditatory effect that is as beneficial to our health as yoga. Singing soothes the nerves and elevates the spirits. These benefits have variably been suggested to be the result of the release of endorphins or oxytocin or to lower levels of cortisol. Studies have shown singing lessens the feelings of depression and loneliness (“tell the blues so long”). It has been said that group singing is certainly cheaper than therapy, healthier than drinking, does not put on calories and is certainly more fun than working out. It is one thing in life where feeling better is pretty much guaranteed.

In America, group singing is on the rise. According to Chorus America, 32.5 million (13% of 242 million) adults sing in choirs, up by 10 million over the past 6 years with over 270,000 choruses across the country. Singing groups vary from casual affairs with little in the way of audition to church choirs and more serious chorales. Google “joining a choir in New South Wales and 389,000 results come up. There’s plenty to choose from Street to District and Philharmonia Choirs whilst Church Choirs are in abundance. The Australia National Choral Association with over 1000 members, has choirs representing every age, style and genre.

Professor Graham Welch, Chair of Music Education at the Institute of Education, University of London, has studied health benefits of singing for 30 years, citing the physical benefits as an aerobic activity increasing oxygenation and exercise of upper body, laryngeal and facial

muscle groups with the psychological benefits, including in addition to those already stated, the increased sense of community and belonging to a shared endeavour. Singing in groups is one of life’s great natural team activities.

A joint Harvard and Yale study showed that choral singing increased the life expectancy of the population of New Haven, Connecticut, concluding that singing promoted both a healthy heart and an enhanced mental state. Another study at the University of California has reported higher levels of immune system proteins in the saliva of choristers after performing a complex Beethoven piece.

Other benefits of singing variably cited are: an increase in poise, self-esteem and presentation skills; strengthening of memory and concentration; improved lung capacity and posture; animation of body, mind and spirit; expanding, via singing beautiful lyrics, one’s imagination and appreciation of the world around us; an improved ability to listen; a greater appreciation of the art and talents of great singers or groups; an ageless enjoyment therapeutically, physically and emotionally.

Singing is in all our genes and in human nature. The urge to sing – and to hear others sing – is in all of us. Singing, like laughter, play, sunshine, countryside and exercise, helps underpin our well-being and happiness. It is fundamentally enriching. Everyone will join in a Happy Birthday, national anthem, church hymn, football chant or child lullaby. It may be a matter of extending that range and gradually developing the confidence to sing more often individually, socially and perhaps even join a choir. Learning to sing develops an ability to multi-task. It can be a move out of one’s comfort zone, though all challenges, when we overcome them, make us feel good. Take the challenge, start singing more, perhaps look for a choir. For those men who’d like to step up, and earn to sing anything from Verdi to Queen and whatever might be in between, our 103 year old choir provides all the above physical and emotional benefits for its members. Most of us are keen amateurs, not wannabe soloists. The odd off-key note or wrong lyric won’t detract from how good singing makes us feel.

Bernard Haylen MD             Ron Brown FCA      

2nd Bass                               2nd Bass

Well if you want to be a-happy, sing a happy song

Come on a-sing (sing), sing (sing), si-i-ing               

Everything’ll be a-right that you thought was wrong

If you sing, sing, sing

When your best friend steals your clothes from you 

You’ve gotta sing, sing, si-i-ing

‘Cause tomorrow you’ll find a love that’s true

If you sing, sing, sing

                                     Johnny O’Keefe


Gary Withyman