The Power of Singing
Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at 5:59PM
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This article was featured in the BBC Magazine- Thanks to Merrill Dresner for sharing it with the website!

There is evidence that regular participation in group choral activity can significantly improve physical and mental health, according to Grenville Hancox professor of music at Canterbury Christ Church University, and co-director of the university’s Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health.

Research carried out with choristers in the UK, Australia and Germany identified a number of benefits. Improved breathing, posture and stature, were some of the positives.

And there was evidence singing could counter feelings of “being down in the dumps or depression”, says Hancox.

“We carried out a study under strict experimental conditions over a 12-week period with people who had never sung in a choral situation before. There was a marked improvement in people’s mental health. In the following 12 weeks, this improvement wasn’t maintained, it declined.”

The De Haan centre would like to see group singing prescribed on the NHS. “If we medically intervened in this way, it’s possible that the health of the nation’s population would be better.”

Hancox uses the metaphor of Welsh miners, who are famed for their singing. “After they had been underground in the darkness for, say, 12 hours at a time - what did miners want to do when they came out? They wanted to sing - twice a week.”

If someone is going though a difficult time, singing can be like the miners’ light at the end of the tunnel, he says.

“When you sing [in a choral situation] your brain is flooded, it is totally occupied, everything else is sent away. And when people come together to sing, there is a strong collective effort. Someone who has felt isolated feels part of something.”

Article originally appeared on The UK's Leading Mixed Voice Jewish Choir under the musical direction of Benjamin Wolf (
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