Singing for Joy and Good Health

by Elise Letourneau, M. Ed.

Choral singing is a part of life's balance for many adults. There's the joy of singing for self-expression, and there's the fun that comes from singing with a group. Choral singing engages the complete person: body, mind, heart, spirit. As a singer, your body is the instrument. Reading, understanding, and interpreting music engages the mind. Singing with passion and commitment involves the heart. And there are wondrous and fleeting -- yet very real - moments, when a singer moves beyond the print music and becomes a part of the music itself. This is a spiritual experience.

Choral singing differs from solo singing in two ways. First, it’s a non-threatening group environment, often with enjoyable social aspects. Second, the final product is far greater than the ability of any one choir member. 

Health benefits

There are also many health benefits to choral singing, according to studies from several different countries. These include:

  • improved breathing or respiratory function
  • improved overall health
  • a heightened immune system or ability to fight infection and disease
  • improved brain function in older adults
  • emotional benefits, such as increased confidence or a sense of joy and well-being
  • more energy
  • better posture and balance.

(photo above)
Elise Letourneau conducting the Capital Vox Jazz Choir.
(Photo courtesy Tonia Hearst)

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Singing for Joy and Good Health

Great for both men and women

In most parts of North America, women seem to embrace the idea of singing more readily than men do. But choirs need men, and men can achieve the same health and social benefits. Researchers in Montreal interviewed members of a small choir for homeless men. Four themes emerged from what the men said:

  1. Group singing eased depression and enhanced emotional and physical well-being.
  2. Performing for an audience built self-worth and provided a vehicle to re-engage socially.
  3. The choir was a supportive context for the men. They could develop social skills and work as a team.
  4. Singing required the men to concentrate on learning music well enough to perform. They thought less about their own problems.

Joining a choir

How can you find a choir that’s right for you? Ask around in your community. Your place of worship may have a choir. Music stores often have information about local choirs. Or, visit www.choralcanada.org, and click on the “Links” tab to find  listings of choirs in your area.

An excellent book for older singers is Sing Better As You Age: A Comprehensive Guide for Adult Choral Singers, by Victoria Meredith.

Enjoy your singing journey!

About the Author:
Elise Letourneau, M. Ed. is a multi-award winning choral composer and the music director of Capital Vox Jazz Choir and Vox Eclectica Women's Chamber Choir. She has an active performance schedule and she teaches voice and piano at Carleton University and Alcorn Music Studios. Elise lives in Ottawa ON. Please visit www.eliseletourneau.com for more info.