Forget the traditional message of Easter. For many, this weekend is all about chocolate. Everywhere you look there are chocolate eggs calling out to be eaten and chocolate bunnies just waiting for someone to bite their head off. Ok maybe that’s just my childish instinct? A number of my choristers told me they had given up chocolate for Lent – I assume the main reason for this is to then spend most of Easter Sunday, and the following Bank Holiday Monday, eating as much chocolate as possible without feeling guilty? I did encounter a few choir members who claimed they had given up wine for Lent, although I find that much harder to believe!
Whatever your take on Easter, it seems we cannot avoid the chocolate egg. Now of course I am, as usual, being very stereo typical and assuming that everyone likes chocolate! I’m sure some of you can’t bear chocolate in any form. But for those who love chocolate, Easter is a great time to indulge. Never mind the suffering of Christ on the Cross and the Glorious Resurrection, Easter is ultimately all about eating Chocolate eggs. The rest of the time, however, we are usually reminded that too much chocolate is very bad for us. In fact, according to the scientists, all the nice food is ultimately bad for us. Instead, we should probably be eating grains and drinking water.
By contrast, we are often told that singing is good for us. Heart Research UK have an entire article on their website which says that research has proven that singing has significant health benefits. According to Professor Graham Welch of the University of London, “Singing has physical benefits because it is an aerobic activity that increases oxygenation in the blood stream and exercises major muscle groups in the upper body, even when sitting. Singing has psychological benefits because of its normally positive effect in reducing stress levels through the action of the endocrine system which is linked to our sense of emotional well-being. Psychological benefits are also evident when people sing together as well as alone because of the increased sense of community, belonging and shared endeavour.”
I’m not going to argue with the health benefits of singing, there is too much evidence to suggest otherwise. But, does that alone mean that singing in a choir is good for you? I’ve set out below the alternative viewpoint?
1. Being in a Choir takes up a lot of spare time
I am always conscious of the amount of time some of my choir members give up to be in my choirs. It’s not just attending weekly rehearsals, but also the concerts and all the other social activities too. A few weeks ago, my Female A Capella Choir, The BlueBelles, were singing at a concert in Cirencester on a Saturday evening. By the time they had then been to the afterglow with my Male Voice Choir afterwards, most probably didn’t get home until gone 1am! Despite this, they still want to go and do it again!
2. Singing in a Choir can be expensive
I always try to make sure my choirs are value for money and keep subs between £3 and £5 a week. For this you get a fully trained Choirmaster (ok, you get me!) and usually a professional accompanist, rather than backing tracks. I hope this represents value for money. For example a 1 to 1 singing lesson would be £30 an hour, so an hour and half of singing for £3 isn’t too bad. But nevertheless, it adds up especially if you sing in more than one choir. That’s before you consider the cost of the choir uniform and travelling to concerts.
3. You could end up being apart from Family at the weekends
This is a tricky one for many choir members. When you work full time during the week, do you really want to give up your weekend as well? I think there is a balance which is why I try not to have too many concerts or events close together, but instead spread them across the year. Saturday nights are still the preferred time for a concert. But I am increasingly moving away from long rehearsals on the day to limit the amount of time which has to be given over to singing at the weekend.
4. You will end up spending a lot of time in the pub
One of the reasons why I tend not to believe choir members who claimed they had given up wine for lent is the amount of time most spend in the pub after rehearsals. It’s a tradition amongst many choirs to head to the nearest public house after a rehearsal. Well certainly seems to be common amongst my choirs anyway!
5. Singing can be Addictive
Not only will your family start complaining about the amount of time you spend going to rehearsals and concerts, but they will also have to listen to you practicing your singing at home! Before long you will be singing everywhere!
So, if you are thinking about joining a choir, just beware, it could take over your life. However, on the plus side, it will be lots of fun and you will make lots of new friends.