The Health Value of Choral Singing

As a long-time choral singer, I appreciated these tidbits that came across my reading last week:

1) Philosopher J.D. Trout on one way he managed to stay out of trouble during a tough adolescence.

The Tanglewood Festival Chorus, the all-volunteer group that supports the Boston Symphony Orchestra

I was able to steer clear of trouble in part because I was involved in activities that crowded out a lot of the unpleasantness that kids face. Choral singing is incredibly wholesome, and doing it well imposes a discipline that frustrates the temptations of idleness in a permissive world. I know that sounds Victorian, and it is, in a way. But it is also a contingent fact about humans that they form (mal)adaptive preferences, learning to like the often objectively bad practices in their orbit. Staying busy with work and singing, and having thoughtful, captivating, and funny friends, left little time or desire for idle, pointless wondering about whether my life could be better if I learned to steal money, enjoy cocaine, or sleep till noon. None of that ever sounded very fun to me, nor was I much in the orbit of its pull.

From the interesting series, “What’s it Like to Be a Philosopher?”


2.  Daniel Pink, who has praise for choral singing in his new book on timing, When.

Q: Share with us a striking insight from your research on timing.

Pink: Let me offer two:

  • People are twice as likely to run their first marathon at age 29 as they are at age 28 or age 30. Forty-nine-year-olds are three times more likely to run a first marathon than 50-year-olds. Endings—simply being aware of an end—dramatically shape our behavior.

  • Choral singing is the new exercise. Research shows that the benefits of singing in a choir (not singing alone, but singing together) are massive: higher pain thresholds and reduced need for pain medication, increased production of infection-fighting immunoglobulin, reduced symptoms of depression, increased sensitivity toward others, improved mood, and much more. There’s something about synchronizing in time with others that is profoundly human. 

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