Health choirs: let’s have singing on prescription
By Jo Carlowe
LONDON, UK — Once the domain of the blue-rinse brigade, choirs are certainly on-trend. The Choir of the Year competition, the UK’s largest amateur choral contest, last year saw entries increase by a third, while the TV show Glee (series 3 starts next week) has even made singing cool for teens.
There are all-gay choirs, cappella groups for doctors and choruses for lawyers. But while the feel-good effects of singing are well-documented, experts now believe that joining a choir could improve the symptoms of a range of health problems including Parkinson’s, depression and lung disease.
At a conference of the Royal Society for Public Health in London last week, Grenville Hancox, professor of music at The Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health, Canterbury, described the changes that can take place through singing together as “extraordinary”.
He told how he and colleagues have witnessed people with respiratory problems learning to breathe more easily, those with depression beating the blues and patients with Parkinson’s disease standing tall and singing loudly.
Prof Hancox is the founder of Skylarks, a new choir for people with Parkinson’s. This disorder of the central nervous system makes normal movements difficult and weakens the voice as the muscles in the face and vocal chords deteriorate.
Prof Hancox and his colleague Stephen Clift, the centre’s professor of health education, are undertaking research to find out if choral singing can help with Parkinson’s symptoms, especially those affecting the voice, with choir members undergoing computer-assisted acoustical voice analysis at the start and finish of the study.