Birds do it! Angels do it!
Even dolphins and whales do it!
Let’s do it, let’s SING A SONG!
Forgive me for taking liberties with a classic Cole Porter lyric but I had a sudden realisation a few days ago. I was listening to a Todd Rundgren song from the 1970’s which I often used to sing along to in my younger days. As those memories came back, it gradually dawned upon me that I couldn’t remember the last time that I‘d sung out loud. It certainly wasn’t just a few days before and could even have been several weeks – I had no idea when I last took a breath, filled my lungs and sang!
I found this realisation to be quite disturbing because for so much of my life, singing was something of a habit for me. Indeed my earliest memory is of singing “Champion the Wonder Horse” in a packed church. Actually, that’s not quite correct. What I really sang was “Champion the Wonder…. OW!!” as my performance was interrupted by a slap across the knees from my Mum; it was her way of letting me know that Sunday Mass at St. Bernard’s church was neither the time nor the place to sing TV theme tunes.
I mustn’t let this story give the wrong impression of my mother because she loved music and did much to pass on that love to me. She had a good singing voice and like most women in the days when full time working mums were the exception rather than the rule, she would spend lots of time teaching nursery rhymes and children’s songs to me and my sisters. My school days provided further encouragement: music lessons often involved singing, hymns were always sung at school assemblies and the secondary school choir provided an outlet for those like me who were particularly keen singers. By the time I left school, the singing habit was well and truly engrained within me and I’d invariably join in with songs playing on the car stereo as I drove down the motorway and could be relied upon to gather people around the piano for a sing song at parties.
So when did I lose this habit and why? Perhaps it’s because as I’ve grown older, I now struggle to reach the higher notes when singing along to songs on the radio. I can’t however hide behind this excuse and as a composer who teaches others how music can play an important role in aiding health and healing, I feel ashamed that I’d neglected singing and hadn’t even realised it. After all, one thing that practitioners of both orthodox and holistic medicine can agree upon is that singing is good for you.
Health professionals have recognised for years that singing exercises major muscle groups in the upper body and as an aerobic activity that improves the efficiency of your cardiovascular system, it encourages you to take in more oxygen leading to increased alertness, stress reduction, longevity and better overall health. Perhaps more difficult for orthodox medicine to explain is the growing body of clinical evidence which supports what music therapists have known for years; that singing can play a key role in stimulating mental function of people with brain-based conditions, such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s or those in rehabilitation following a stroke. It’s also comforting to know that you don’t need to be able to sing like Mariah Carey or Luciano Pavarotti to be able to get the health benefits that singing can bring. Indeed, even if you can’t sing a note in tune, you can still practice extremely powerful vibrational healing techniques such as Light Voice Toning, as taught by Jennifer Warters.
If you sing with others, there’s even more benefits. Scientists from the University of Gothenburg monitored the pulses of people singing in a choir and discovered that this caused their hearts to slow down and also to beat in synchronisation, leading them to conclude that when people sing together, their hearts beat together. Recent research has also shown that singing in choirs can boost immune system activity in people affected by cancer.
So I’ve made a new resolution: from today I will sing something every day and encourage my wife and children to do the same. After all, with multi-channel TV, videogames, personal stereo systems and other distractions that have popped up in the last twenty years or so, there is a real danger that the younger generation might never get into the habit of singing during their childhood. How sad it would be if they were to miss out on the joy and well-being that comes from raising their voices in song.
So all together now….
“Birds do it! Angels do it! Even dolphins and whales do it….!