DID YOU KNOW that singing is indisputably good for us? As a matter of fact, there are those who say that singing, particularly choral singing, may be the new exercise. Have you ever considered singing with a choir?
“Choral singing calms the heart and boosts endorphin levels. It improves lung function. It increases pain thresholds and reduces the need for pain medication,” says Daniel H. Pink in his book, “When, the Perfect Timing of Scientific Secrets.” It also seems to improve one’s outlook, boosting mood and self-esteem while alleviating feelings of stress and depression, especially when singing in a group. “People who sing in a group report far higher well-being than those who sing solo.”
There are a number of advantages to singing in a group. Although people who join choirs don’t always realize what those positive aspects are, many become addicted and continue to sing their entire lives.
Even in urban communities, such as downtown Los Angeles, choir singing is being used to bring disenfranchised individuals together, such as the homeless, through the Urban Voices Project.
From the Urban Voices Project in Los Angeles website: urbanvoicesproject.org, the most important reasons to sing in a choir are:
Singing requires controlled breathing that regulates the heart rate, triggers a relaxation response and brings the system to a homeostasis that generates feelings of wellbeing. Vocalizing improves posture, releases muscle tension and reinforces a mind/body connection.
Singing demands focused concentration, improves mood, invites exploration and self-expression of difficult emotions and gradually builds self-esteem.
Singing eases isolation and loneliness, quickly builds bonding in groups, encourages and supports positive social interactions, and ultimately combats the disintegration of communities and improves broader social networks.
I have been singing my entire life. When I was 8 years old, I joined my first choir and have been singing in groups or conducting ever since. I cannot live without it.
You may be familiar with the old adage: Cleanliness is next to G-dliness. I believe that Singing is next to G-dliness. I raise my voice to G-d as a cantor almost every day. As a singer in a group, we all raise our voices to G-d and to each other as we share an almost otherworldly experience.
Of course, we have to practice. We strive not for perfection, but for harmony, a sharing of sound and space that is beautiful to the ear, which ultimately leads to sharing the physical experience which is singing. There is nothing like that feeling. The sharing is the experience of being together, of striving for a common goal, of reaching the stars with our voices.
In July, the LA Master Chorale sponsored the first “Big Sing” in the state of California. The main site for the singers was the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. In addition, there were five satellite sites: San Diego, Riverside, Fresno, San Francisco and Sacramento. A total of 10,000 singers sang together virtually, being conducted by a number of well-known people from the Los Angeles site.
Ten singers from Kol HaEmek Jewish Community Chorale of the San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys were there. Members of the Urban Voices Project participated. A young man who had been my conducting intern brought members from his current choir. All joined together by a love of singing. One of my choir members told me that it was the most exciting experience in her life.
If you like to sing, and can carry a tune, then singing in a choir is one experience you shouldn’t miss.
I know it is difficult for busy people to find one evening a week to go to a choir rehearsal. However, it is a responsibility. When one commits to singing in a group and is absent, that person is missed. Each person is part of the mix and absence leaves a hole, a space in the sound. Each person is needed.
Kol HaEmek is looking for new members. We sing all kinds of Jewish and Israeli music: contemporary and traditional, modern and classical; in different languages: Yiddish, Ladino, Hebrew, and English. We perform in various places throughout the greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys; on occasion we have traveled to other places, including the North American Jewish Chorale Festival in the Catskills in 2017.
We would love to have you check us out. If you are interested, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cantor Judy Sofer is the Jewish Federation’s Cultural arts Program Coordinator for Kol HaEmek and a contributing writer to Jlife magazine.