I’ll take a harmony with my wine

I’ve been singing rather a lot recently, and have become somewhat addicted to making harmonies. It all started when I joined the SoulSong community choir at the beginning of the year. (Or maybe it started at the Christmas Eve carol service, when I remembered how much I love choral singing…)

Anyway, after turning up weekly to choir for a few months and learning a bunch of new songs and realising how much fun it is to hold one strand of a three or four part harmony, I’ve been hanging out with fellow harmony addicts on the occasional Friday night as well. We gather around a kitchen table, eat well, consume wine, and then get out the song books. One or two of us will hold down the melody, while the others improvise harmonies to their hearts’ content.

This is on top of our weekly SoulSong gathering, which we manage to extend by half an hour by volunteering to wash all the coffee cups after the others have gone home. The kitchen in the church hall where we meet has excellent acoustics…

What strange paths our lives can take.

A year ago, I never would have predicted that harmony jam sessions would form a new and important part of my social life. I’m hanging out on a semi-regular basis with a bunch of women I did not know this time last year, and loving every minute of it.

Our choir leader flagged an article recently by a researcher (Carol Dore – La Trobe University, Bendigo) who is exploring the lived experience of community singing. She writes:

“Music making and/or listening is thought to result in the release of endorphins into the bloodstream… A surge of endorphins can create a unique feeling of belonging and a strong social bond between people who make music together.”

Speaking from recent experience, I really believe this is true. Singing together makes you feel completely connected with each other. No wonder the tradition of singing is so important in just about every culture.

Our favourite songs to sing in the kitchen include a 3-part arrangement of Hallelujah by Ma Muse (see clip below), and River by Kavisha Mazella (3-part harmony arrangement). Or the latest song we’ve been learning…

This post is a belated response to this week’s WANAFriday theme, which was to share what song is stuck in your head these days and what draws you to it. I invariably have one of the above-mentioned, or one of the other songs we sing with SoulSong in my head — which include  folk tunes from all kinds of cultures (in all different languages). And I sing them often.

Check out these other WANAFriday posts on music that feeds the soul…

What song is on your mind today? Have you felt the endorphin rush from singing with others?

21 comments

  1. Sounds wonderful, Ellen! The quote about endorphins is exactly my experience with singing. I was in a church choir for a couple of years, and we had a really excellent director. 14 people was just the right size as far as I was concerned — enough so we never had to hold down the part alone, but few enough that we could hear our own voices (I’ve sung in bigger choirs and, even though massed voices are cool, it just isn’t the same for me). I loved it. Sadly, I moved away and got involved in folk dance instead. I truly love dancing, but someday I’ll get back to making music as well.

    Like

    1. I agree – 14 people is a fabulous number. We did a 8-person harmony workshop (which I really should have mentioned in the post – doh!) and had two people per part, which was marvellous! And that’s what’s so good about the kitchen time, when there are only one or two of us on each part. It’s a much purer sound.

      I’ve long wanted to take up folk dancing too, ever since attending our National Folk Festival several years ago. It looks like such a fun way of getting some exercise and meeting people. It’s still on my list!

      Like

    1. Aw, Erin, I bet it’s not as bad as that! And, besides, that’s where choirs are so good. You have people to help you along, who you can follow, so you don’t stand out. I don’t have a soloist’s voice, that’s for sure. Everytime I hear a recording of me singing I cringe and wonder why they put up with me!

      Like

  2. What a lovely clip! Ma Muse has such a pretty sound – I’m trolling their website right now 😉
    And yeah, you know I’m a big fan of choral singing. As much as I love harmony – and I’m an alto, so you know I do – what really gets me is singing a long Gregorian hymn with a small group. The discipline required to create a pure unison sound, along with the trance thing that happens after a few repeats through the melody, is incredibly cool.

    Like

  3. I’m so excited and happy for you that you’ve reconnected with a passion of yours and you get to indulge in it each week. And I’m SUPER envious of anyone who can sing well. I so, so, so wish I had a great voice. The enjoyment I get out of listening to a song like River or Hallelujah (I *almost* chose that as my song-on-repeat for my post – LOVE that song) is, I’m sure, nothing compared the high you get when singing it with a group of people.

    Like

    1. I think it’s cool you even knew the Ma Muse song, let alone nearly chose it for your post. (Unless you were thinking it’s the Leonard Cohen Hallelujah, which is also wonderful, and which we also sing for our warm-up…) But, yes, singing together does bring a great high. Having said that, I can be moved to tears by simply listening to amazing harmonies as well.

      Re singing well, see my response to Erin’s comment!

      Like

      1. I was thinking of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. And now I want to hear Ma Muse’s because if it’s anything like River, then it must be simply gorgeous.

        And as for singing well, I’m sure my off-key voice could be covered up and compensated for by better singers in a group, but I’d hate to put other people through that kind of torture. My favorite way to let loose and belt it out is in the car with the tunes cranked up high. That way, I can’t even hear myself and can pretend I’m as good as the singers coming through my speakers. 🙂

        Like

  4. I love listening to harmony singing… and I miss my baby brother who used to sing around the house all day…oh, well he grew up and moved overseas. Ellen, what a positive way to meet people and spend time. ‘Harmony jams’ has a ring to it. The creativity is just oozing out of you. Enjoy!

    Like

    1. I joined SoulSong because I recognised I needed more creative experiences in my life. I needed to get out there and live, rather than being a slave to the digital screen. I am certainly very happy with the outcome. 🙂

      Like

  5. I sang in choirs throughout high school and college. I never went beyond *following* when it came to harmony, but I experienced the endorphin rush none the less. A truly magical experience. Your harmony hang outs sound like such fun!

    Like

I'd love to hear from you...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s