Community choirs are often the heart of a village or town. They’re places for local residents to congregate, make new friends and improve their singing skills. Although community choirs are popular all year-round, they become particularly busy at Christmas, when there is more desire for people to sing Christmas songs, go carolling and put on Christmas shows.
Singing in later life can improve both physical and mental health. But, not only can singing bring a number of health benefits to retirees but singing is also a great way to have fun and live a happier, healthier life.
To look more closely at the health benefits of singing in retirement, we spoke to an expert.
I first discovered my love of singing in my school choir. We met once a week during lunchtime and grouped around the teacher and a piano to prepare for singing in school events.
I was beyond chuffed when I was chosen to play a solo singing part in the school production, where I had to lay on the grand piano as the villain!
“Singing is accessible for everyone, including all ages, abilities and backgrounds.”
All other lunchtimes when the choir wasn't on, I could usually be found practising the songs with a few friends in the playground (I've got a feeling I was trying to lead even then).
My love of harmonies really shone after going to my first arena concert, where I saw Stevie Wonder. His musical presence, talent and pure passion had such an impact on me at that young age and I knew from then I wanted to pursue music in my life in any way I could.
Is singing accessible for everyone?
Singing is accessible for everyone, including all ages, abilities and backgrounds. Most people love to sing in the shower or car, belting out their favourite choruses. The change in mood this can create can be magical. I hear so many people tell me “oh, I can't sing”, but they can!
While not everyone will have a voice that can sell out arenas, that doesn't mean they ‘can’t sing’. Obviously if you're not very confident, then a solo at a karaoke session wouldn't be the best start, but you can grab a friend for support or join a group of like-minded people who want to sing at a community choir.
What advice would you give to someone who is reluctant to sing?
My advice to someone reluctant to sing would be my usual Choir Director motto ‘sing loud and proud, strong and wrong’.
“For those in retirement, singing with others can create moments of togetherness where new friendships are formed.”
Confidence is usually the main issue in most keen singers I meet. But, once you overcome this, you’ll open a world of opportunity and discover a voice you didn't realise you could produce. As a Choir Director, I have seen the shyest of people turn around within months. They become visibly less fearful and much more positive.
What are the main health and wellbeing benefits of singing?
Research has shown that singing releases ‘feel good’ hormones like endorphins. The choice of music has a big part to play, too. Your music should invoke memories, touch your emotions, make you tap your foot or make the hairs on your arms stand up.
Singing within a group can also help you feel part of a team. Many of my choir singers start the rehearsal after a bad day yet leave bouncing on a high. They often tell me that they wish they could bottle the feeling!
Anyone going through a tough time can benefit from singing, as the change in mood that singing creates is priceless. Those with breathing issues can also benefit, as singing is one of the only times when we force ourselves to breathe deeply and properly.
Loneliness is also a big issue nowadays, as McCarthy & Stone has previously highlighted. For those in retirement, singing with others can create moments of togetherness where new friendships are formed.
What are your favourite songs to sing and why?
I love and adore harmonies; the richer the better. Whether it be pop, jazz or classical, the sound of voices passionately singing in close harmony is like nothing else.
I love the 70s sounds of Earth, Wind & Fire, the choral works of John Rutter and the enormity of a big power ballad or soft rock song. For me, my pleasure comes mostly in seeing the pleasure others get when perfecting a song they've been learning and receiving a big applause from the audience.
What ways can people with a casual interest in singing take it to the next level?
I would suggest joining a community choir to everyone! They're all different in music choice, commitment, teaching style, formality and size, so anyone will find somewhere to suit them.
“Family and friends also benefit, as they come along to the concerts, watch the singers grow and be in their ‘happy place’.”
I run Funky Voices, which now has around 800 singers and my aim is for them to feel the passion of music that I did and steer clear of a cloned choir. I like them to ‘jig’ to the beat in their own way and customise their uniform to suit their personalities.
I also like to offer as many opportunities as possible, including touring and competing abroad, recording albums, performing on stage and running workshops with established singers.
Some singers sign up for everything going and others just attend when they can. Family and friends also benefit, as they come along to the concerts, watch the singers grow and be in their ‘happy place’.
Christmas Choirs at McCarthy & Stone
With the social benefits of singing and the obvious health benefits of singing for retirees, this Christmas could be the ideal time to start.
Remember that our retirement developments will be hosting choir sessions over the Christmas period and beyond, so if you’re a resident watch out for notices in your development and ask your House Manager if you have any questions.