The past few weeks I’ve been riveted by this new book by New Yorker writer John Colapinto, who takes a deep dive here into all things related to the voice. It’s truly fascinating stuff. But I’m particularly enthralled by the second last chapter, “Swan Song”, where he says things like: “Science is learning what millions of people have known for millennia: singing heals spiritual malaise”. He talks about the power of choral singing specifically, noting that, “the act of blending your voice with others in song causes the brain to secrete the chemical oxytocin, a hormone that creates the warm sensations of bonding, unity and security that make us feel all cuddly toward our children and others we love–or infuses us with spiritual awe”. Group singing, apparently, among other things, builds sociality, loyalty and gives “solace in moments of shared grief and pain.”
I found this idea poignant this week, as I returned to teaching voice lessons and leading opera rehearsals in person after such a long hiatus. Amongst the students I could feel the unbridled joy of reconnecting, of making music together, that was literally balm for their wounded souls. It feels like this connection, this bonding, is just the medicine we all need as we gingerly and cautiously emerge from the pandemic. And the medicine is singing!
For the brave few who follow this blog regularly (and for any of you who may be reading for the first time), the words of Bill Murray (quoted in this book) resonated profoundly with me: “something really different happens when you sing, it’s not like talking or telling a joke. When you sing, it’s really, you are expressing yourself. It is a representation of yourself.” Yes. This is exactly the reason why I began writing this blog two years ago. Because I believe voice and identity are inextricably and magically linked, and John Colapinto’s book tells us more about why. Highly recommended. Sing on!