. by Chris James
A community that sings together stays together you could say. What is it about singing that can turn complete strangers into family?
‘I have never met anyone here before, but I feel like I know everyone,’ a newcomer said in amazement at the end of one of our regular choir Northern Rivers – Voices on Fire choir meetings. To her this was the most exquisite point of the evening. It was not about hitting the right note or knowing the words of the song – it was the connection that we naturally developed as we came together as a group of people from all walks of life and varying ages. All pre-concepts were dropped as we were faced with the actual beauty of what we had achieved – humanity in harmony.
As we connect to the pure joy of singing, the pressures of the day drop away and we can see our neighbour for who they truly are, because we are that too. Personal harmony turns into musical harmony.
This is the key – bring personal harmony to a group, and the rest naturally follows.
Conducting a study into why group singing promotes wellbeing, researchers from the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden measured the heart rates of choir members and found that when a group sings together long enough, everyone’s hearts start beating as one, in a unified rhythmic pattern.
And what could the benefits of this be?
From lowering the stress hormone cortisol in the blood stream to toning our intercostal muscle, improving oxygen levels to the brain and boosting our immune system – the physical health benefits related to singing are widely recognised. But not only this . . . there is so much more to this group activity.
Without losing a skerrick of our uniqueness, we can move and sing in union in a choir. And so too in the way we live our lives, we can bring a universality that openly declares union and brotherhood as the basis of its foundation, and a celebration of true community.
The Swedish study goes on to say. . . ‘singers may change their egocentric perspective of the world to a we-perspective . . . ’This touches on the fundamental question of why music is a universal phenomenon. . . ‘if collective singing creates joint perspectives, it would indeed be bonding in the deepest sense.’
Out of our heads and into our hearts!
The motto of our choirs is ‘Everyone is born with a beautiful voice’ and you don’t have to know to ‘how to sing’ to be a member. In fact we often joke with nervous newcomers that a prerequisite of our choir is that you have to ‘think that you can’t sing’! But, boy oh boy, when we let go of any tension, let go of the mind, lift our voices and sing . . . all of a sudden the resounding sound of a choir of angels power-fills the room! The natural musicality that is in us all plays out, and we come into tune together, literally, and in every conceivable way. It’s amazing what ‘opening our hearts’ can do.
As a microcosm of human life, how we are in a choir speaks volumes about the way we interact with each other in our day, and also gives insight into how we can be. The untapped potential we have when we connect together is enormous, and mostly incredibly undervalued. We can so easily inhabit separation and ‘individuality’ in our ‘little worlds’ under the illusion of being ‘safe’. But truly, there is no safe space here . . . only a nervous and fearful breath is to be heard within the walls of this chosen parameter.
When we truly open up, to and with each other – revealing all the beauty, fragility and vulnerability that we naturally are – with no perfection, just the simplicity and honesty of living and learning with life – we become truly free.
Expression in all its honesty and truth shines out, held by a foundation of joy and connection . . . it’s our natural state!
And all this and more happens in our local community choir.
For more information on the Northern Rivers Community Choir – Voices on Fire singing group please email:
Singer, musician and voice coach, Chris James teaches about the healing power of the Natural Voice internationally.