Ever felt the urge to break into song beyond the confines of the shower? What if we told you that raising your voice in song – especially in a group setting – could make you happier and healthier?
The benefits of singing in a group are numerous. It releases mood-enhancing endorphins, improves brain meta-plasticity, posture and blood-flow. By promoting controlled breathing techniques, singing can also help decrease blood pressure. Studies show that overall it makes people happier, healthier and more creative.
And, as reported by the NY Times last week, people over the age of 55 who performed in professionally led choirs were observed to take fewer medications, experience less depression and visit their doctor less often.
For the past seven years, Toronto’s Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre (MNjcc) has been running a Daytime Choir for seniors. No experience is required. And accessibility is key.
“Understanding the importance of singing for improving social connections, mood and cognition, we made the choir both a drop-in and audition-free,” says conductor Gillian Stecyk, adding, “There is also no expectation that they come to every rehearsal – snowbirds are welcome!” She says arrangements are chosen to be challenging enough to “stimulate without overwhelming” members.
In British Columbia, the first international chapter of Sing for Your Life has been operating since 2008. Originating in the U.K. and developed with research from the Canterbury Christ Church University’s Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health, the organization co-ordinates community singing groups, called Silver Song Clubs, for those 65 and over. The sessions are 90 minutes and professionally led..
And for those looking for a bit more vocal challenge, the MNjcc also runs a Community Choir, for which auditions are required. It culminates each season with a live concert. Participants in the program may have never performed live or even read sheet music before, Stecyk notes. Last season members received operatic training, no less, by the centre’s international artist in residence, renowned conductor Maestro Alvaro Gutierrez.
To find a choir near you, try ChoirPlace, which keeps a database with groups from around the globe including more than a hundred choirs across Canada. You can customize your search by type (community, church, etc.), music genre and even whether you want co-ed or not.