I don’t know about the rest of the world, but Aussies get all weird about singing in public, unless of course it’s at a sporting event, a concert, or you’re drunk. Combine all three and singing in public becomes almost mandatory, especially if the song in question is defacto Australian anthem ‘Khe Sanh’ by Cold Chisel.
But at 11am on a Sunday morning? Hungover? Fuhgeddaboudit, mate.
We’ve even had a few people tell us they weren’t coming back to Sunday Assembly because the singing weirded them out.
As MC at our March Sunday Assembly in Brisbane, I started by asking the audience if they liked science. Of course, 99% of the hands went up! They probably thought I was about to introduce our guest speaker, astrophysicist Dr. Tamara Davis, but no! It was a sneaky way of getting them to SING.
After the audience confessed to a love of science, I hit them with some data about the science of singing in public (courtesy of the Music In Our Bones website).
Instant Super Health
Well maybe not instant. But professor Graham Welch, Chair of Music Education at the Institute of Education, University of London, has studied developmental and medical aspects of singing for 30 years. He explains: “The health benefits of singing are both physical and psychological. Singing has physical benefits because it is an aerobic activity that increases oxygenation in the blood stream and exercises major muscle groups in the upper body, even when sitting. Singing has psychological benefits because of its normally positive effect in reducing stress levels through the action of the endocrine system which is linked to our sense of emotional well-being.”
A recent study from the University of Stockholm showed that we get an oxytocin high when we sing. Oxytocin is also released during pregnancy and lactation, and sex! It’s not surprising then that singers speak of the huge sense of well-being they experience during a singing session.
Research by Dr Kreutze at Frankfurt University’s Music Department in 2002, sampling singers saliva before and after singing proved that the secretion of antibodies is increased when we sing, so our immunity is boosted too. This, interestingly, did not happen when singers listened to the same music. We have to actively participate in singing to reap its full benefits.
There’s A Bonus For Public Singing
Professor Welch from the University of London explains further: “Psychological benefits are also evident when people sing together as well as alone because of the increased sense of community, belonging and shared endeavour.”
A Sidney de Han research project reports that singing in harmony with others “engenders happiness and raised spirits which counteracts feelings of sadness and depression.”
Their findings tell us that singing in harmony with others “involves education and learning, keeps the mind active, gives a sense of achievement and counteracts the decline of cognitive functions.”
Heart Research UK‘s Sing For Your Heart programme has produced studies showing that singing in a group helps to reduce stress and depression, improve memory and reduce anxiety.
Why is group singing so beneficial?
- Memorising words to songs improves brain function, including the ability to store and retrieve memory.
- The exercises associated with group singing improve deep breathing which has the added benefit of adding to relaxation and stress reduction.
- Performing in front of an audience and as part of a group inspires confidence and self esteem.
- Group interaction in a singing group ends social isolation and fosters relationships of all kinds.
- Group participation is fun and allows people to get away from daily stresses and worries.
So, as I explained to our members, if you believe science you have to sing.
I even told them that for every note they didn’t sing, a little atom somewhere in space will die, all alone. I’m not sure they bought the last part. It was a tough crowd. But they SANG.
You should too.