What song do you sing in the shower? My default tune is Rule Britannia. I particularly relish the trill of notes on the word 'first' ('When Britain first at heaven's command') not least because I have recently learned the correct musical term for a syllable sung with several notes in succession is 'melisma'. Warbling first thing in the morning lifts my spirits so much that singing should be prescribed on the NHS! That may not be as daft as it sounds because singing is good for physical and psychological health.
Singing improves circulation and digestion, and being an aerobic exercise also increases oxygen levels in the blood. Lung capacity is expanded and when airflow is enhanced in the respiratory tract, bacteria have less chance to flourish so this can counter cold symptoms. And because it requires deep breathing singing is a stress-buster, lowering blood pressure, and is good for the nervous system. It boosts immunity by producing proteins that function as anti-bodies. Even muscles in the face and the stomach are toned and it improves posture. Forget Pilates - just join a choir.
And there's more - the psychological benefits. Singing triggers the release of feel-good endorphins which make a person feel happier and more positive. Those endorphins are also natural pain-killers, and natural anti-depressants. Happier people often have fewer physical health problems. All that just by opening the mouth, and it doesn't matter if you're out of tune. Sing hallejuiah come on get happy!
This year at the Christmas carol concert in my Yorkshire Dales village the congregation chortled when the organist announced that we would sing Whilst Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night and then struck up the unmistakable chords of On Ilkley Moor bah't 'at. Try it, the words fit perfectly. We sang with gusto and for those minutes were bonded in our joint laughter and enjoyment of the subversion of a traditional carol. Then we all went to the pub and even people who did not know each other were smiling and chatting happily at the adaptability of Ilkley's anthem.
Singing is fun, joyful and uplifting - giving us a natural high. Witness the crowds in Liverpool's Kop singing You'll Never Walk Alone and the Barmy Army belting out Swing Low Sweet Chariot. It's an incredible adrenaline rush. And it's not just the singers who benefit - the sportsmen on the pitch do too by being one of the tribe - even it does not always translate into a winning result.
Choirs and singing groups are flourishing around the country helping people connect, make friends, and form social bonds. David Cameron and the Big Society take note - people in choirs may be more likely to be involved in their communities.
I rue the passing of the era when people gathered for a sing-song around the old Joanna because I grew up with memories of my great aunt Sabina hosting jollifications which always ended with everyone singing into the early hours. No-one ever refused an invitation because fun was guaranteed. And as for the health benefits of singing - aunt Sabina lived to 101 years.
In memory of that wonderful woman and the joy she brought, I am on a mission to encourage more people to stand and sing around pianos whether that is in a pub, village hall, or at home. I'm lucky because part of my work involves producing musical events so I know professional opera singers and a brilliant pianist, Emily Leather who can play almost any song you request. If you want a thrill try hitting some high notes in a duet with an opera singer. Whatever anyone ever says about chocolate, white water rafting, or sex, that is even better!
My New Year's resolution is to inspire more people to sing opera karaoke to lift the spirits during the winter months before the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and Olympics and Paralympics celebrations start in Summer. So all you budding Carmens and Simon Boccanegras get ready - you may end up at the Royal Opera House - even if it is just busking outside.
Message to Secretary of State for Health: Mr Lansley how about allocating some of the health budget to the installation of karaoke booths in every community hall in the land. Just think of all the money that could be saved overall when the feel-good factor of singing translates into a healthier population. After all as the saying goes 'He who sings frightens away all his ills'.
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