Asia-Pacific

Women sing the praises of joining a choir

Women sing the praises of joining a choir
Women sing the praises of joining a choir

SBS World News Radio: A Sydney women's choir has been selected to represent Australia at an unique international competition.

A weekly singalong for the Circular Keys Chorus is about more than just belting out a few tunes.

Vickie Dwyer has been directing the chorus, based in Sydney's suburban Baulkham Hills, for seven years.

She says it is also about connecting with others in the community.

"I get to have an amazing group of friends. I get to work with these fantastic women who give their absolute all every week, and I think that's just an amazing thing to experience. Everyone comes to do their absolute best all the time. "

The Circular Keys Chorus is part of Sweet Adelines International, a worldwide not-for-profit movement with over 23,000 members promoting musical education for women.

Sweet Adelines Australia team coordinator Kate Hawkins says a sense of community is harder to find in modern society, meaning more people tend to feel disconnected.

She says singing in a group has many benefits, for her and others.

"We get a connection with other women, communities that we don't have in society anymore. We all come together each week. We have fellowship, we have friendship, we have fun, and it's a real connection we get with one another. And we've got a network of women here who look after one another, who are there for each other, we can call on them. But it's not only in Australia that we have this network. We can call on people all around the world."

The Circular Keys Chorus has been chosen to represent Australia in the Sweet Adelines 2018 International Harmony Classic competition.

But it is not just about winning for the women -- many join at a time of transition in their lives.

It could be times of loss, of grief or maybe illness.

Rina Pinto joined after being diagnosed with cancer.

"I'm a survivor of breast cancer, and it was a really hard time, and when I sing I just forget everything else that's happening. You're forced to just get into it. You leave everything behind, and you sing. And after 15 minutes of rehearsal, the endorphins are released, and you're on a complete high. Even after rehearsal, it takes at least an hour or so to wind down and just get back ... It's such a fantastic feeling."

Reduced cortisol levels and elevated endorphins are just some of the documented benefits of singing.

Research also shows social benefits, including the opportunity to build friendships and overcome isolation.

Western Sydney University music researcher Dr Jennifer MacRitchie says it is a myth that not everyone can sing.

"Everyone can sing. Some people, it might take more training than others, (but) everyone can sing. So, you've got a voice, and use it."

Dr MacRitchie says singing is a powerful way to connect with others -- and one of the most accessible musical instruments.

"Singing is a lot like playing a lot of different musical instruments. So any instrument that you can play actually involves quite a lot of your brain processes when you're trying to make a note. So singing is one of the most accessible instruments we have. When you're trying to produce a note, your brain is firing messages in order to control parts of your body. You're then using your ears to process some of those messages and compare them to what you think it should sound like. And then you're adjusting it as you go along. So singing in choirs is becoming popular worldwide. It's one of those things that they recommend if you move to a new country, or a new town or a city: go join a choir, because you'll meet a lot of people and you'll bond with them very fast."

The Circular Keys Chorus will compete in the international competition in the United States in 2018.