Want to make new friends, exercise your brain and memory and reduce stress? All these health and well-being benefits come from something simple, practical and ageless: singing with others. In her beautifully researched and eloquent book, Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness Singing With Others, author Stacy Horn chronicles her 30 years with the Choral Society of Grace Church in New York City and how singing makes hers and all of our lives so much happier and healthier.
“Music brings us together,” writes Horn. “Singing is the ultimate communion.” It is also a life-sustaining physical and spiritual practice that has well-documented benefits. Perhaps that’s why over 32 million adults sing in choirs in the U.S. and when you include children, it’s more than 42 million. Why does singing feel so good?
Horn notes that no matter how anxious, weary or stressed she and chorale mates are before rehearsal, afterwards they always feel so much better. A recent NPR article notes that when people sing together their hearts actually beat in unison. If community singing calms the heart, deepens the breathing and strengthens connections, what else can it do for us?
Singing brings us together and teaches us about teamwork. Beyond religion and politics –those things that so often divide us — singing is all about listening to each other so intently that you discover “the blend” of perfect harmony. Her volunteer community choir has sustained Horn through depression, broken engagements, deaths of loved ones and even a stay in rehab. “When you sing you cannot be sad for long,” she says. “Sing with as much sweetness and tenderness as you can muster. Nothing less than eternity is at stake.”