I have written many blogs about why we sing in choirs and why we just…well, love it. Some reasons might be that you enjoy meeting other like-minded people. Or that you love to sing with others and in harmony. Last month we discussed that some come for those special endocannabinoid advantages such as for feeling more relaxed, less stressed, less anxious/depressed. Well how about this bonker balls idea… Come to choir for your cardiovascular health! I bet you never thought you would affect your heart by coming to rehearsal. But singing and heartbeats are deeply connected, more than we ever thought.

Heart beats sync when people sing together. Another magical element to choir!

Heart beats sync when people sing together. Another magical element to choir!

For our upcoming spring concert we are singing a piece by the young American composer, Zachery Moore called Always Keep This Close. I was drawn to this piece for its “Whitacre like” harmonies and emotional content. The vocal lines are sweeping in nature and demand a full voiced choir-something that Cantala does very well. The text does a wonderful job encapsulating the feelings that people have when it comes to singing in Cantala. Especially intriguing is the line “And all those hearts that have learned to beat in time”. I dug around and found the research behind this text. As it turns out there is one scientific study out of Sweden in 2013 that found some exciting findings about singing and heart beats.

The research group, led by Björn Vickhoff, assessed the heart rates of fifteen 18-year-old students who performed several vocal exercises including monotone humming, chanting, and singing the familiar Swedish hymn “Härlig är is jorden" (Lovely is the Earth). Choir members singing in unison not only caused their voices and breathing to be synchronized but their heart rates as well.

Isn’t that neat?

So not only does choral singing create a community of physical and emotional belonging, its actually powerful enough to change group cardiovascular behaviour.  That is a much more profound way than I could have ever imagined singing to accomplish.

We all know that we make more than music here……now to always keep it close.

Here is the Poem’s full text :

Always Keep This Close  

Always keep this close
and you’ll never need more,
your world is here
with the familiar voices
that linger in the air
and all those hearts
that have learned to beat
in time with each other.
You make more than music here.
No notes are as connected
as the souls that sing them
and no soul is happier than when
she is surrounded by her sisters.
Even when you leave
this does not leave you,
when you are lost just listen
and you will always
find your way home.
It is impossible for something
to go from your life
without first becoming part
of who you are.
You are another,
I am you,
we are one.

~Colleen Carhuff (b. 1992)
The Greatest Thing We'll Ever Have