Pot Pourri


Recently British singer-songwriter Joan Armatrading presented a series of 15 minute programs on BBC Radio about choirs, from gospel to world music and classical. In one, she interviewed medical practitioners who describe the various benefits that singing can have on both mental and physical well-being, as well as talking to several people whose own lives have been completely transformed as a result of starting to sing in a choir.

Professor Stephen Clift of the Sidney de Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health at Canterbury Christchurch University in the UK, has conducted the first major European survey on the effect of singing on physical and mental well-being. The Centre is committed to researching the contribution of music and other participative arts activities in promoting the health and well-being of both individuals and communities. Professor Clifts survey provides evidence that singing in harmony with others, such as in a choir or in parts, is particularly beneficial. The outcomes reported include increased happiness as well as reduced stress levels; singing in unison also helps people cope with and recover from mental illnesses such as depression and schizophrenia. Singing therapy is now being used to treat people suffering from dementia and stroke; even if you lose the ability to speak as the result of a stroke, it doesn't necessarily interfere with your ability to sing.

One of the Centre's aims is to unearth the scientific evidence that singing can measurably improve people's lives, whether young or old. Its goal is to introduce a practical scheme for 'Singing on Prescription' in the UK, to which people could be referred by their doctor, in a similar way to existing arts and exercise schemes, which have been very effective in increasing both the physical and psychological health of participants.