Guest Blog: Everyone Can Sing! – Jack PetersPosted on
Everyone Can Sing!
by Jack Peters
If you can speak, you can sing — maybe not as you’d like or think you should, but you can make a tone and that is a start. Maybe you, like a billion or so others, have said, “I can’t sing” or heard from loved ones, “please, don’t sing!” However, singing is a very natural thing we can do from our very first cry. Everyone is entitled to its proven pleasures, as most were born with the ability to utter sounds for a reason. It could even be more important than talking itself, with talking a by-product of why we utter sounds. Singing is simply a form of melodious talking with some learnable refinements along the way. This article is intended to give us all hope and guidance to one of the easiest ways to find enjoyment during our lifetime. For most of us it will be “finding happiness singing with others” (1).
People sing together; from children’s choirs, theater arts, religious gatherings to the coal mines deep in the earth. It’s the “together” thing that makes it easy, enjoyable, and beneficial. Many studies and articles have been published about the health benefits of singing. People feel good when producing live music, memories are stimulated, learning improves at all ages, and friendships are built. Stress is relieved, attitudes improve, altruistic needs are served, and most people love to hear the results when music is created with human voices. Pushing fresh air in and out of one’s body is refreshing, cleansing, necessary as water, and singing helps that happen instinctively. What researchers are beginning to discover is that singing is like an infusion of the perfect tranquilizer, the kind that both soothes your nerves and elevates your spirits.
Dr. Jolene K. Johnson, a researcher who has focused on older singers, recently began a five- year study to examine group singing as an affordable method to improve the health and well-being of older adults. She found group singing cheaper than therapy, healthier than drinking, and certainly more fun than working out. Here’s the answer to staying young! It’s one of the things to do in life where feeling better is pretty much guaranteed. Even if you walk into a chorus rehearsal exhausted and depressed, by the end of the night you’ll walk out high as a kite on endorphins and feeling rejuvenated.
Obviously, our voices are as varied and unique as snowflakes. We often believe the ability to sing means to have perfect pitch, sing like a songbird, or need to read music; none is true. We were born with two vocal cords (folds) in our necks that vibrate from the passage of air directed through them from our diaphragm. Thus, Everyone Can Sing if you can utter a sound by raising and lowering the tone at will. The question is; do you have an ear to hear where a note should be. To find out, sing Happy Birthday out loud and see if it sounds like the Happy Birthday you think it should be. If not, try again and let your mind / ear direct you to where your voice should be singing. Kind of like in sports — you visualize the shot before you make it and your mind will help direct it. If you’ve ever played an instrument, you probably developed your ear to hear where the note played should be and that’s a big plus when singing.
Many opportunities await you to investigate and develop this true life-changing gift. For Stacy Horn, author of the book, Imperfect Harmony, regardless of what is going on in her world, singing in an amateur choir (the Choral Society of Grace Church in New York) never fails to take her to a place where hope reigns and everything good is possible. She’s not particularly religious and her voice is not exceptional, so she says; but like the 32.5 million other chorus members in this country, singing makes her happy. Group singing, for those who have done it, is the most exhilarating and transformative of all. It takes something incredibly intimate, a sound that begins inside you, shares it with a roomful of people and it comes back as something even more thrilling: HARMONY!
It’s not surprising that group singing is on the rise. So, to enjoy the benefits of singing right now and without any previous formal training, you should sing in a group of similarly passionate folk.
Many people think of church music when we talk of singing groups, but there are over 270,000 other types of choruses across the country. They include gospel groups, show choirs, school choirs, jazz, classical, male only, female only, mixed groups like seen in “Glee” and “The Sing Off”, and strictly amateur groups like “Choir! Choir! Choir”!
The largest amateur men’s singing organization in the world is the Barbershop Harmony Society, headquartered in Nashville, TN, with approximately 700 localized chapters in the U.S. and Canada, plus affiliated organizations across the globe. Barbershop harmony is largely thought of as a barbershop quartet with four fellas, each singing his own part. The largest form of participation in the Society, however, is the experience of many men harmonizing in four parts with several voices singing each part, which forms a barbershop chorus. Women sing barbershop too, in Sweet Adelines International and Harmony Incorporated, and the Mixed Barbershop Harmony Assocation, where men and women sing together in the barbershop style.
Go online to discover more about these wonderful organizations. Click here and enter your zip code or city to find a local chapter to visit. Weekly meetings assure the constant teaching of singing techniques as you develop your own voice over time. The art of reading music is not required.
For other choral singing organizations near you, Google “choir in (your area)” to join a choir or find a wealth of groups that are always looking for members. Churches, cities and schools also offer many group singing opportunities.
“We can’t reverse aging but we can embrace and enjoy it. Spending time creating music with others is enjoyable, no matter your age.” “Music idealizes emotions, negative and positive alike”! (2)
Choral Director Robert Shaw wrote; “The basic premise of making music is unity – and unanimity – and in its non-liturgical sense, communion.”
Find a group and go visit them. Scary, I know, but you’ll no doubt find people just like you who were apprehensive at first, but quickly learned the joys of joining voices with others to create live, exhilarating music.
Sing somewhere – do it now – do it often. You’ll enjoy life more by singing, at any age!
(1) (2) From the book “Imperfect Harmony, Finding Happiness Singing with Others” by Stacy Horn, 2013, published by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Mr. Peters is a two time chorus International gold medal champion, past President for a AAA men’s chorus, Vice President of Marketing & Public Relations for an 8 time world champion chorus, Membership Chairman for the four state Far Western District of the Barbershop Harmony Society and is now retired.