SUBMITTED PHOTO The Barkley Sounds Community Choir is now preparing for their Christmas Concert on Sunday, Dec. 3 at the ADSS Theatre.

Consider the health benefits of joining community choir

Barkley Sounds Community Choir Christmas concert will take place on Dec. 3 at ADSS Theatre

The Barkley Sounds Community Choir is now preparing for their Christmas Concert on Sunday, Dec. 3 at the ADSS Theatre, but would still like to welcome new members to their weekly practices on Wednesdays at the United Church from 6:45 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

The Choir is now in its 17th year. Remarkably some members, who have been in since the beginning, say emphatically that they feel younger and healthier than when they first joined. A wild claim, but the health benefits of singing should not be underestimated.

Composed primarily of seniors and boomers, the 50-member choir has some health-challenged participants, but most of them find that singing makes them feel better.

Good singing requires controlled breathing, and this comes with help from conductor Bonnie Wallbank. She runs the choir through a whole gamut of voice contortions as a warm-up to each rehearsal, testimony to the fact that voices, like bodies, need to limber up. People who suffer from various breathing disorders have found that exercising their vocal chords has helped, proving there is definite physical benefit from singing.

Choir founder Sylvia Springer says, “As well as singing, there is a lot of laughter, and by the end of the rehearsal I feel more energized than I did at the start.”

Soprano Kathie Gregory agrees. “I thoroughly enjoy weekly practice for the sense of well-being and camaraderie that comes from singing as a group,” she said. “I’ve made some good friends that I would otherwise not have met were it not for this very enjoyable activity. Recent scientific research has found that not only are the ‘feel-good’ endorphin hormones released during group singing, but also oxytocin, which is associated with bonding relationships. In addition, there is a decrease in cortisol levels (a stress hormone) all of which explains why we feel invigorated and relaxed at the same time.”

Tenor Peter Schroeder supports this concept. “Sometimes, on winter evenings, I find it an effort to get out to rehearsals, but once I am there, I am hooked into my singing and, by the end of the evening, I feel rejuvenated.”

Many well-known singers have endorsed the theory of endorphins, saying they reduce stress and relieve pain. Singing is also known to increase oxygen in the blood system and improve posture and balance.

The Barkley Sounds Community Choir certainly lives up to its name, entertaining regularly around the city of Port Alberni, As well as two major concerts a year with Phil’s Harmonics String Orchestra, they sing at the annual Choir Festival and for all seniors’ care homes at Heritage Place. On several occasions they have been “on the road” to participate in other choirs’ concerts, for example the Village Voices in Qualicum and the Sooke Community Choir.

So for weekly social interaction and to improve your health, do consider joining this energetic and engaging group of singers. You’ll be sure of a warm welcome. Whether you like classical, rock or gospel, there’s something for all tastes and it is not necessary to be able to read music. Concerts always feature Phil’s Harmonics String Orchestra as well as guest artists.

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