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Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 24, 2014

Chamber Singers of Southeast Iowa looking for new vocalists

Aug 23, 2013

The Chamber Singers of Southeast Iowa are inviting new members for its 2013-14 season.

Members of the 22-year-old group sing and perform choral music; some choral experience is needed. They rehearse Thursday evenings.

According to Elaine Reding, director of the Chamber Singers of Southeast Iowa:

“We all know that music rejuvenates our spirits, but the health benefits that come with it may be less well known. Rather than being simply an amusement, luxury or pastime, music is a basic human need. It helps us make sense of our lives and express feelings when we have no words — our hearts grasp what our minds cannot.”

According to Reding, the ancient Greeks understood music and astronomy to be two sides of the same coin. Dr. Karl Paulnack of Boston Conservatory, in an address to parents of new students, explained astronomy studies the relationships between observable, external objects, and music is the study of invisible relationships between internal objects.

Markham Heid in Men’s Heath magazine says, “Brain scans conducted by Stanford University show that classical music — especially complex, continually changing symphonies like those from Baroque composers like Bach and Handel — actually help your mind focus and sort out information. Cognitive stumble (love that phrase) — when your mind expects to hear something, but is surprised by an unanticipated chord or harmony — helps engage and sharpen brain regions responsible for attention and anticipation.”

According to Reding: Music reaches into our internal structures and helps us come into harmony with ourselves, to be healthy and happy, and to share this wellness with others. By slipping beneath our conscious reality to get at what’s really going on inside us, music serves as therapy for the soul. It makes us feel alive and addresses our unquenchable desire to know and express who we are.

She continued: Our voice is our most intimate instrument, and in every culture and society it is human nature to join together in song. After the tragedy of 9/11, the nation’s response was to gather in community groups and sing. At weddings, church services, funerals, graduations, milestone events and even during daily activities, we sing.

Group singing has a profound capacity for connecting people in mourning or rejoicing and eliciting a collective cathartic experience that nourishes all the participants. The experience of group singing in harmony engenders a transcendent quality that we yearn for — a quality that provides solace for our souls.

As summarized by Stacy Horn in her article “Imperfect Harmony,” research shows the greatest health benefits from singing come from group singing in a chorus. For those who summon the courage and make the time to sing in a chorus, there are documented neurochemical rewards:

• Group singing releases oxytocin, a chemical that manages anxiety and stress and enhancing feelings of trust and bonding.

• The thrill of group singing rises beyond each individual’s contribution, causing a surge of endorphins that alleviates pain.

• The voices of other singers surrounding our ears as we sing stimulates the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain that is associated with feelings of pleasure and alertness.

• Group singing lowers cortisol, a chemical that signals levels of stress.

• Group singing releases serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of euphoria and contentment.

The neurochemical cocktail that our brains feed us as we sing in a choral rehearsal can explain why choral singers, who feel tired before rehearsal, often feel revived and exhilarated afterward. The inner and outer harmony that choral singing creates may have something to do with this.

As author Horn writes, “The world doesn’t open up into a million shimmering dimensions of hope and possibility when I sing alone, or even with other people in unison. It happens when I’m surrounded by my fellow choristers, and all the different sounds we’re making combine to leave us thrumming in harmony — lit up together like fireflies flashing in synchrony by whatever masterpiece is currently racing through our brains, bodies, and hearts.”

Choral singing is an activity that increases well-being and is affordable and accessible. Just by showing up for choir practice, you can improve your mood, reduce anxiety and depression, and increase your happiness and joy, said Reding.

For information about the Chamber Singers or to audition, call 472-1539 or email elaine@lisco.com.

 

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