Why is singing good for you?

By Kari Olsen-Porthouse


I could blind you with science and talk about the increase in serotonin (happy stuff) when we sing, the decrease in cortisol (stressy stuff) when we sing etc but I think the answer might be simpler….


I am Kari, a freelance choir director. I have run school choirs, community choir and workplace choirs for the last 10 years and the results I see are the same. Singing brings joy and when we sing together, this joy is amplified.


My community choir in West Bridgford where I live is enormous. I’m very bad at turning people away. Why do they come to sing together once a fortnight? It’s not always about the actual singing! They come for friendships, to be a part of a community with the shared goal which happens to be singing and they come to feel a sense of belonging.


What if I can’t sing?!


People can be very rude about their own singing! “It rains when I sing” or “I was kicked out of the choir at primary school because I was so bad” but actually, in the setting of the community choir, the individual voices aren’t heard. Quite simply, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. When we sing together, those with less confidence blend with those with more, creating a wonderful overall sound. A great sound can be achieved with as little as 12 singers, our choir has 130. This enormous swell of sound does something to us inside, there’s a warmth and a pride in belonging to that sound, which has a value far more than what singers are paying for their session.


Singing combats loneliness


We managed to keep this spirit, this community belonging alive during the recent lockdowns by singing on zoom. I think the most successful session was when we all wore our choir T shorts. Again, that belonging, that feeling of being together even though we were apart really shone through.


I love this choir…..it’s great for a laugh, to meet friends, to feel a real sense of achievement and to relax – it’s definitely good for you!


Laura Marsh (West Bridgford Liberty SIngers)


These feelings of harmony are also evident in the workplace singing sessions I have run. It’s difficult to ‘measure’ the success of a choir, but the feelings that people have and the connections they make are evident in their behaviour and communication afterwards.



“I can honestly say that introducing a singing group at Hillarys has had a really positive impact on engagement. Whilst we may not have a solid measurement for this you can clearly see and feel the energy this has generated.” This has also improved cross-functional relationships and there is a better understanding and appreciation of what other people do in the business.”


Julie Rutherford Group Head of HR Hillarys


I regularly check in with singers and ask how they’re feeling and how singing together is benefiting them. I worked with NHSBT recently on a zoom choir which was funded by NHS Together (Captain Tom’s money)


"Even in the dark, I could log on and just listen, no pressure to participate or have to be up for it. I was included without having to explain pr put up a mask and say “I’m fine’ when I wasn’t. The open invitation made it easy to attend and simply, it’s helped, the light shines a little brighter."


NHSBT Liberty Singer (anon)


What's next for you?


So the message is… don’t say “I can’t sing’!!!


If you enjoy singing and feel ready to get involved, find a community choir and go for it! There are loads available (thanks to Gareth Malone) so give it a go, take a look on your local Facebook community or on notice boards to find what’s running near you.


If you don’t like one, try another - they run very differently, some with sheet music, some without etc.


Find a choir where you like the people, enjoy the repertoire and admire the leader. You won’t regret it.

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