Story Submitted by Sheri Whittington

It’s More Than Just a Choir

In an article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette dated February 2, 2020, Jeremy Reynolds writes: “1 in 6 Americans sings in a choir — and they’re healthier for it”. He continues, “more than 17% of adults in the U.S. participate in a choir of some sort, up from 14% in 2008. That’s about 1 in 6 adults, according to a recent study by the service organization Chorus America. The study identifies numerous beneficial reasons: Singing in groups has been linked to better mental and physical health, a sense of belonging and feeling connected to others, better social skills, increased civic engagement and volunteering, developing leadership skills and much more.”

So that study represents over 54 million adults who were singing together in an organized setting when the article was written on February 2, 2020. As we now know, seven months into this pandemic, singing in a choir today, is possibly one of the deadliest things you can do. We also know now that the virus is airborne and is spread very expediently through the deep breathing, articulation, and projection required for choral singing. That is over 54 million Americans who were singing in choirs both community and religious, and both professional and amateur who represent now a large group of isolated, displaced Americans.

There have been many studies like the one referenced in the article that prove that singing in a group or choir has many physical and psychological benefits. Extraordinary discoveries like breathing and singing together can cause the members heartbeats to synchronize as well. There are reports and new findings in neuroscience of the effects of how singing together can be a transcendent experience, and it can have measurable calming effects to the mind and the actual heart muscle. Science is starting to understand perhaps why music sooths the savage beast, and why music in the form of rhythmic drums, moving, dancing, singing, chanting, etc. has been part of human history for as long as we have records. I believe it positively moves the soul, brings us viscerally closer to our fellow humans, and brings us closer to our God or higher power source in a way science can’t yet define, and we can’t yet fully understand.

As one of the 54 million Americans, I have been heartbroken and lost without my choir. I know the reasons above definitely make up part of the positive benefits I’m missing, but again, in that way we can’ t explain, I am also missing some extraordinary people. I have a fabulous family, and I’m thankful for them every day. However, my choir family is that added family that I choose. We try to keep in touch now through the pandemic, but in so many ways, we are each other’s touchstone. I can’t begin to list the ways this group of amazing individuals cares for each other and supports each member from birth through death. I truly don’t have words to describe the depth of community, love, and acceptance, that I am blessed with by my choir. It would be the same as trying to scientifically define love. We can’t explain it, but we can feel it!

Reference articles if interested:

Article: 1 in 6 Americans sings in a choir — and they’re healthier for it by JEREMY REYNOLDS – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Chorus of America & National Endowment of the Arts, and others.