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Singing for health: ChoirFest performers reveal how singing improves mental health and wellbeing

19 December 2023

Choirfest poster

We all know that singing is fun – when our favourite song starts playing, many of us would agree that it’s impossible not to sing along, dance or at least tap our feet. Now, research has revealed that singing with others by joining a choir can have a positive impact on mental health and other health-related outcomes, regardless of age, gender or ability.

Several studies have found that group singing improves both physical and psychological wellbeing in people with and without chronic health conditions, with the range of health benefits including strengthening the immune system, increasing pain threshold, improving lung function, and enhancing memory in people with dementia.

In 2016, researchers from Oxford Brookes University carried out an online study, titled ‘It’s better together: the psychological benefits of singing in a choir’, which asked 375 people who sang alone, in choirs, or were members of a sports team about their experience of these activities. All three activities reported high levels of psychological wellbeing – but choristers stood out as experiencing the greatest benefit.

Collide: A Choirfest Experience is a specially commissioned show which celebrates the joys of group singing whilst providing an opportunity for local community choirs to sing alongside Karen Gibson MBE, famed for leading the choir at the Royal wedding of the Sussexes, Harry and Meghan.

Taking place on 30 March 2024, at Northampton’s historic Royal and Derngate Theatre, the event will include 200 voices performing all genres of music together, boasting a mix of ages, demographics, and cultural backgrounds, proving that singing can connect individuals that may never have ordinarily crossed paths.

One of the organisations performing in the show is Northants Sings Out (NSO), which has over 10 years’ experience creating local choirs across the county and beyond, incorporating over 450 voices across adult and child-based choirs.

One of these choirs is One Voice Choir, which is made up of Northants based Foster Carers, Adoptive Families and their support networks, Family Link workers, Children's Key Workers, Social Workers, and everyone involved in fostering and adoption.

The choir provides members with support and a safe place to have some time away from the ups and downs of foster caring and adopting, as well as the opportunity to learn to sing.

As a social worker, this choir connects me to our wonderful Carers and Adopters. It supports my well-being. It really is joyful, full of laughter, lots of fun and a circle of love and kindness. I always feel energised after our sessions and have amazed myself at how much we have achieved together. Performing on stage will always be a precious memory. It has kept me sane, smiling and through lockdown helped me truly value the power of community.Choir Member
One Voice Choir is simply amazing to be part of. As an Adopter and Mum of a big family there is not much time to feel yourself. The choir gives you the boost that you need to keep going when things are tough – it’s the best form of self-care and I look forward to and cherish the weekly sessions so much. Not only does the singing simply bring pure joy but the support and laughter with like-minded, wonderful people just gives us all a lift and our wellbeing is improved as a result. Thank you, One Voice.Choir Member

The benefits of joining a choir are not limited to any specific age group, gender, or demographic, as Music Director of the Northampton Male Voice Choir, Stephen Bell confirmed. As a long-established award-winning choir with around 90 singers from across Northamptonshire, the impact of singing together for men has been powerfully demonstrated.

I’ve noticed many solid friendships form in the choir over the years. There’s a real sense of ‘can do’ too, a team working together for a common goal: great singing performances! Singing brings tremendous benefits for participants. There’s the camaraderie for starters but best of all is the mental stimulus and sense of well-being that comes from rehearsing and performing together.Stephen Bell

And over 2.8million people who have joined choirs in the UK alone, clearly agree. Common mood-related issues such as loneliness, anxiety, depression, anger, low mood, and isolation can all be addressed through participation in a choir. Learning a new skill and the confidence built in doing so has also been considered a key reason many are seeking out all ability choirs across Northamptonshire.

In West Northamptonshire we have a diverse range of local and community choirs which play an important role in improving many people’s physical and mental health and wellbeing.

As well as generally being a cost-effective way to socialise and learn a new skill, choirs provide the perfect space to relieve stress and combat loneliness – and you don’t have to be the greatest singer to get involved.

Collide: A ChoirFest experience provides the perfect opportunity for people to discover the unique talent we have in West Northamptonshire and discover the benefits of choir singing for themselves while coming together to enjoy a showstopping musical production.
Councillor Adam Brown, WNC’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Housing, Culture and Leisure

For those interested in experiencing the benefits of group singing there are many across the local area including ChoirFest performers Northants Sings Out, which operates across Northamptonshire and includes a range of community choirs for all abilities and musical genres, as well as The Queen Eleanor Choir, Northampton Male Voice Choir and the NMPAT community choir.

Tickets for Collide: A ChoirFest Experience are on sale now, available from the Royal and Derngate website.

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