In small and large ways, community singing may be healing.
My recent travels for the Australian German Association fellowship provided a rare treat for the community music maker: the chance to observe many diverse choirs in rehearsal and performance; to speak with their leaders and managers about factors that contribute to their successes; and above all the chance to interview and hear from choir members themselves.
Members told me about the roles and day-to-day impact upon their lives of their membership of a community choir. For some the contribution of choral singing is in their view relatively minor – a place to gather, to learn, an opportunity to connect with other like-mindeds and share a smile and a song. It can create communities and ameliorate feelings of loneliness and social isolation in a big and diverse city such as Berlin. For others singing in a choir may have a profound and life-changing impact. It plays a crucial role in sustaining health and wellbeing. These are noble goals that testify to the importance of choral singing in creating and sustaining communities.
There are of course a range of psychological and physiological impacts of singing on health, set out in a host of research papers, articles and blogs. I’ve provided just a small sample below.
In Australia, peak community music organisations such as Community Music Victoria in my home state provide invaluable support to those working in Community Music. Their resources pages offer plenty of insights and supporting research.
For those interested in Laienmusik in Deutschland, I recommend a look through the Laienmusizieren section of the Deutsches Musikinformationszentrum that includes a summary of key German language literature, media articles and speeches.
Here are a handful of other useful English-language resources that have influenced my journey so far, exploring music, health and wellbeing and the uses of music in (Australian) communities:
- John Lieff, MD, on Music and the Brain
- The work of researchers at the Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health at Canterbury Christ Church University, and in particular a systematic review of non-clinical studies from across the globe on the topic of singing and health, conducted by Stephen Clift and collaborators at the Sidney De Haan Research Centre
- For a systematic and detailed study of the music-health-wellbeing nexus, a 2013 Oxford University Press publication entitled Music Health and Wellbeing.
- Professor Jane Davidson examines closely the uses of music in daily life – see for example a recent article with co-author Sandra Garrido in The Conversation.
- On the policy options and implications of music education programs in Australia’s schools, Richard Gill makes regular and inspiring contributions to this field. From the perspective of a music therapist working in communities, I recommend Katrina McFerran’s recent writing.