Facts, Facts, Facts, Facts………

by | 7th October 2009 | 0 comments

If you are at all like me, you look at a piece of research with a mild level of scepticism. It’s not that you don’t believe what’s written, or the excitement that surrounds the findings, but more a case of “Well exactly how many people took part in the study and can it really be rolled out as representative of the whole country?”

As one who has used ‘facts’ gathered from many sources, as part of his former professional life, I am someone who adopted the Nietzsche principle on facts a long time ago.

There is no such thing as fact, there is only interpretation

I’ll leave you to ponder that statement for yourselves. For me, it’s a truism for I always like to interpret a ‘fact’ and see how the evidence affects me, or relates to my own experience. So with that in mind, let me give you some examples of research evidence that is widely available today. Where appropriate, I will comment from my personal point of view, but I would love any additional comments you may have on what is written here.

Let’s hear it for Sweden

CHORAL singing is good for health, a Swedish psychologist has reported, after conducting research into the long tradition of choral music in Sweden.

The psychologist, Dr Maria Sandren, from the University of Stockholm, presented her findings at a seminar in Canterbury Christ Church University in Folkestone, UK during 2008.

Choral singing has a long tradition in Sweden and one out of five people sing in a choir.  Results indicated that choral singing had strong effects on the well being in that positive emotions increased significantly and, in turn, negative emotions radically subsided.  In conclusion, I found that choral singers, particularly women, are happier, more alert and relaxed after a rehearsal.

The Conductors View: So do the Swedes have a magic formula? I can say absolutely, that in both the choirs I currently conduct, I have many examples of increased wellbeing that emerges from the singing experience. Even after a tough rehearsal, I have members who come up and say how much better they feel from the physical act of singing.

Dr Sandren did not comment in her research on how the content of the songs they sang affected the singers health. I have seen a lot of anecdotal evidence, albeit the words, the melody or how those two vital components combine within the piece they are singing.

Singing is a great work out

Regular exercising of the vocal cords can even prolong life, according to research done by leading vocal coach and singer Helen Astrid, from The Helen Astrid Singing Academy in West London.

It’s a great way to keep in shape because you are exercising your lungs and heart. Not only that, your body produces ‘feel good’ hormones called endorphins, which rush around your body when you sing. It’s exactly the same when you eat a bar of chocolate. The good news with singing is that you don’t gain any calories! Not only can it increase lung capacity, it improves posture, clears respiratory tubes and sinuses, and can increase mental alertness through greater oxygenation. It even tones the muscles of your stomach and back, that is if you’re singing correctly.

The Conductors View: It’s definitely true. We always do breath exercises before each rehearsal, I see how good posture helps my singers reach the notes that previously, they found hard to reach. As for chocolate, I believe the research, but think I would find it hard to convince my singers to abstain completely.

More time to Sing

Singing even helps you live longer according to the findings of a joint Harvard and Yale study which showed that choral singing increased the life expectancy of the population of New Haven, Connecticut. The report concluded that this was because singing promoted both a healthy heart and an enhanced mental state.

Spit it Out

Another study at the University of California has reported higher levels of immune system proteins in the saliva of choristers after performing a complex Beethoven masterwork.

The Conductors View: Who am I to argue, I will tell you in about 30 years if it’s true for me. Mind you, I had a choir with an average age of 81, so they certainly proved it kept them fit

Singing on Prescription?

The Sidney De Haan centre undertakes research and provides evidence to support their aim of getting the NHS to provide “singing on prescription”. Professor Grenville Hancox, director of music at the university and co-director of the centre, says,

We are convinced that it is a powerful tool. Research we’ve just done involving international choirs and over 12,000 people identified several particular benefits of regular group singing, including specific examples of people who say it helped them recover from strokes or heart attacks.

The Conductors View: Yes, yes, yes. I have had two serious brain bleeds and a heart attack (bit of a job lot really!), I am only surviving an illness with a 3% survival rate because I had both my music and my singing. Make no bones about it, a conductor gets as much from hearing his choir singing, as the singing itself.

Give us your comments, or should that be your interpretations of the ‘facts’ reported here.