Choral Communities: The Social Impacts of Singing Together
The magic of a choir is that everyone has a role to play in creating something beautiful…graceful, alluring music, and a strong, welcoming community.
Ever since colonial times, choirs have been an important part of American musical culture. Even in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, they seem to be safe from losing their participants. In modern times, fewer people are going to regular events in their community such as religious events and social gatherings. However, the number of Americans in a choir or chorus has risen from 14% to 17% since 2008 (Chorus America). Choirs are not just surviving the change; they are thriving. Why is this?
Anne Miller, a longtime choir director at an all-girls school in Vienna, Virginia, said it best: “A chorus is a group of people working for a common cause, but a lot of soul-searching goes on. You’re singing as part of this group, but what are your own feelings? And you get to know how others are responding. A chorus is unified but contains the individuality of each person, along with their personal history,” (Weber). In today’s fast-paced life, it can feel difficult to find a place where you fit in. Choirs help with this because they create the time and space to make friends. In a choir, people don’t have to struggle to come up with a common interest to talk about. They have this the second they walk into the room: singing! They don’t need to be smart, athletic, or even good at singing. All they need is a love for music.
The benefits of choir are also backed up by thorough research. Scientists have known for a long time that endorphins, the “happy hormones” which give us a sense of wellbeing, are released when we sing. But in 2015, three scientists at Oxford University tested if singing in groups makes us humans feel connected. The study tested two groups, one which took art and writing classes together, and one which sang together in a choir. Each group had regular meetings for seven months, and the scientists asked the members questions four times during the experiment. The results were that, while both groups felt connected at the end of the study, the singing group felt much more connected much sooner (Pearce, Launay, Dunbar). This is called the “ice-breaker effect.” Even though choir is beneficial for everyone, this study suggests that it can really help shy or quiet people who may struggle to make friends. Singing makes social bonds, so a choir can help quiet people be confident enough to voice their opinions and extroverts conscious enough to listen to them.
Choirs are everywhere: in churches, schools, child care programs, and even in their own organizations. They bring people together in a space founded upon creating music together, and creating social bonds through singing. The magic of a choir is that everyone has a role to play in creating something beautiful…graceful, alluring music, and a strong, welcoming community.
Pearce, Eiluned; Launay, Jacques; Dunbar, Robin. “The Ice-Breaker Effect: Singing Mediates Fast Social Bonding.” The Royal Society Publishing, 2015. “https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsos.150221”
Weber, Charlie. “A Choral Reckoning With the Imperfect History of the United States.” Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, 2020. “https://folklife.si.edu/magazine/choral-reckoning-imperfect-history-of-the-united-states”
Chorus America. “The Chorus Impact Study: Singing for a Lifetime.” “https://www.arts.gov/sites/default/files/Research-Art-Works-ChorusAmerica.pdf”.