Uplifting Your Audience

SBO Staff • ChoralOpening NotesSeptember 2009 • September 30, 2009

Programming concerts can be especially challenging for choirs, orchestras, and other ensembles in difficult economic times. While it may take some creativity to convince attendees hurt by the recession to pay for tickets, musical performances do have the power to raise the audience’s spirits. In school music programs, this may have a broader application that goes beyond the audience, as performances can have a beneficial impact on the students, themselves, who may need to overcome challenging emotions stemming from parents’ job losses or other difficult situations, all while providing an educational learning opportunity.

According to the Rye and Battle Observer Web site in the UK, Feb. edition, “Singing is certainly a recession gloom buster and our spirits are always high after rehearsals in the Memorial Hall on Monday evenings, especially after we’ve sung the Grand March from Verdi’s Aida as fortissimo as we can muster or one of the great choruses from Rossini’s sublime Stabat Mater.” Over the past year we’ve all been bombarded with retailers who are selling us their own “stimulus and bailout” packages to entice us to purchase their products. What better way to “market” the choral experience than to highlight the fact that you’ll certainly feel better about life after hearing (and performing) some fine choral music!

The journal, Science Daily, Nov. 12, 2008, notes “Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine have shown that the emotions aroused by joyful music have a healthy effect on blood vessel function.” Conversely, they also indicate that certain types of music made volunteers feel anxious actually narrowing blood vessels, as opposed to the dilation that occurred when listening to joyful music. Obviously, it is the contrasts in music that allow the multitude of emotions to be felt in each listener and performer and it would be antithetical to present only “happy” music. However, it is insightful to recognize that programming certain types of works can certainly provide a psychologically positive impact on the students who perform, as well as the audiences who come to listen, especially during these troublesome times.

A recent edition of the Barbershop Harmony Society reports that “singing strengthens the immune system, according to research by scientists at the University of Frankfurt in Germany. The scientists tested the blood of people who sang in a professional choir in the city, before and after a 60-minute rehearsal of Mozart’s Requiem. They found that concentrations of immunoglobin A proteins in the immune system which function as antibodies and hydrocortisone, an anti-stress hormone, increased significantly during the rehearsal. The researchers, who included Hans Guenther Bastian from the Institute of Musical Education at Frankfurt University, concluded singing not only strengthened the immune system but also notably improved the performer’s mood.”

Perhaps it is for these reasons that we often see many students leaving choral class with a bit more optimism, a bit less stress, and perhaps even a bit better health…

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