Creative Spotlight: Singing

Singing is arguably one of the most popular of creative activities; belting out classics on a road trip, serenading your neighbours from the shower or slurring words in a karaoke booth.

We engage with singing so often, it’s a big part of our daily life. We spoke to musicians to explore how singing benefits our wellbeing, creates community and promotes fun.

 

Whether you’re a member of your local community choir, or prefer hitting those high notes solo in the shower – there’s nothing quite like the feeling of getting lost in a good song. But you don’t have to have the voice of an angel to take part, people of all ages and abilities can get involved in singing.Bupa

Matt Finch is The Edge’s Choir Leader and founder of MyPubChoir, his passion for singing is incredibly infectious and his sessions are extremely well-loved. Hear from Matt about why singing is important, and how he’s adapting to online classes…

I find that currently whilst being furloughed it is lovely to have a booked event happening during the week. I really look forward to it every week. It’s lovely to see other faces on the call, Matt does an amazing job of arrangements so you can listen to all parts whilst singing along with him. All inhibitions of singing in front of others are lifted and after my spirits are lifted and it really puts a bounce in my step.Choir member

You can join our Wellbeing Choir for just £3 a session, whether you’re a professional singer or a professional shower singer, all are welcome.

We got in touch with musician India Bourne who performs with world-renowned artists to find out how singing impacts her, how she’s staying creative and her top tips for singing during lockdown…

 

So India, introduce yourself!
Hi! I’m India, I’m a musician from Devon. I sing, play cello and bass in Ben Howard’s band and A Blaze Of Feather, and have also spent time touring with Australian singer-songwriter Ry X. I’ve been in Ben’s band since he started out, which has been an exciting ride and has involved a decade of touring around the world and recording several albums. I’m also a solo artist under the name Tender Central and am currently working on finishing my debut record to release later on this year.

Singing has always been a passion in my life, and I’m lucky it’s been a major part of my career. In 2015 I set up the choir The Big Skirts, born from a wish to keep singing regularly as well as write more songs, and setting up a choir I could also write for seemed the perfect thing! Beginning with just family members and close friends it’s now grown to be a group of about 20 women singing a cappella arrangements of alt-pop, folk, and world music as well as a few of my own.

How are you managing to be musical during lockdown?
I’m a full-time mum at the moment because my husband is luckily still able to work from home. This means there’s not much spare time in my studio but it has taught me that creativity doesn’t have to be something solely possible when I am on my own songwriting or playing cello; it can bubble up on a walk in the woods by my house with my 2-year-old, or when I’m dreaming up stories to tell him, or playing with paint in the garden. Lockdown has given me that space to slow down and see what I have at my fingertips all the time, wherever I am.

How does singing and writing vocal music help you in life?
There is something very powerful about working with the voice. You cannot escape yourself; what comes out is you. There is a certain braveness required to give it a go which can be exhilarating and empowering. Research professor Brené Brown says, “Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage”.  I have seen this working with my choir and I know it for myself too. We have a motto in The Big Skirts which is ‘Sing it loud, sing it wrong’ – meaning just give it a damned good go and have fun. I encourage them all to take the fear out of singing and realise we are all in it together. There is also magic in the active creation of singing together in harmony; it is hard to be anywhere but in that moment. That feeling of community alongside the freedom and timelessness of being in the present not to mention the physical vibrations of singing together feels to me a very powerful force for wellbeing, and one I certainly benefit from.

Do you have any singing tips for people in lockdown?
Yes! There are a tonne of resources online but this is a highly recommended website Estill Voice to go to. If you are singing for the first time and trying online exercises without a teacher just make sure you don’t strain your voice and always do what’s comfortable. A lovely warm-up we always start within my group is making a ‘brrr’ sound with your mouth closed and slowly siren up and down gradually increasing the range. It’s a nice way to wake up your voice gently. Also, I definitely recommend getting involved with an online choir, like The Edge’s Wellbeing Choir with Matt Finch. Singing with a group in this time can be the best antidote to isolation, just look at the Italian balcony singers for proof of how music can unite and bring joy in hard times.

Find out more from India on her website, Instagram and Facebook.

We also spoke to our campus community to ask what singing means to them; hear from Ross Hamer, Chair of Choral & Orchestral Society (ChaOS); Alex Clarke, Music Producer and Tavia Lewis, Arts Scholar.

Discover more research on the benefits of singing...

“Choir singing improves health, happiness – and is the perfect icebreaker”
University of Oxford

“There’s nothing quite like the feeling of getting lost in a good song”
Bupa

“Community singing promotes fun and happiness, study finds.”
Psychology Today

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