Sing Like No-one is Listening… Spring 2019 issue 1

It is a well-documented fact that singing makes you feel good and thanks to Tabitha Beaven you don’t need to have a good voice to join a choir and belt out your favourite tunes.

What’s special about your choir and how did it come to be? I deploy a very special type of singing in the choirs I run.  I call it ‘carefree’ singing.  The kind of singing where you really let rip like you would in the shower or in the safety of your car when no one is listening!  My journey with ‘carefree’ singing started in 2016 when I launched a community franchise of ‘Tuneless Choir’ – known as the ‘choir for people who can’t sing’.

This differs to what we call a ‘proper’ choir where you’d usually split into a number of different parts depending on voice type, work on a small number of songs and polish them up for a performance.  In a ‘Carefree’ choir there is no intention to be any good and no intention to be any better at the end of a session. It’s about making a choice to embrace whatever sounds come out of your mouth and celebrate the effort you put in rather than the result.

Who can take part in ‘carefree’ singing? I often say that ‘all noise makers’ are welcome so pretty much everyone and anyone.  Of course, if someone can sing in tune, it might be they get more value from a ‘proper’ choir where the aim is creating beautiful music together.  But as a key element of ‘carefree’ singing is to let go of inhibitions and judgment we place on ourselves, ‘in tune’ singers also reap the benefits of having an exuberant time-out, being compassionate towards less fortunate singers and feeling part of a team. It’s a great leveller of a hierarchy as everyone is equal in a carefree choir.

What are the mental and physical benefits to singing? There are so many benefits to singing.  I love that it’s an activity that benefits mind, body and soul.  On the physical level, making singing type noises (whether they sound good or not) releases a tidal wave of happy hormones in the body.  This includes endorphins which make us feel good but also combat levels of the stress hormone cortisol.  When we have high levels of cortisol it negatively impacts our immune system so regular singing keeps us healthy.  When singing in a group, we also release oxytocin, the hormone that helps us feel more connected to others.  We increase oxygen flow which is great for energy, motivation and productivity. From a mental perspective it provides a much needed ‘time-out’ – it’s very hard to worry about what’s on the to do list when you’re immersed in belting out a power ballad!  Because it’s a full-bodied practice it has a magical way of connecting us to ourselves and to others – it lets us ‘feel’.

The concept of ‘carefree’ singing also works for team activities, can you explain how you are able to tailor what you do for corporate groups? There are a huge number of transferrable skills developed using music that translate to the workplace. Music is a really powerful memory anchor so can be used to punctuate the key messages and help delegates remember conference content – even better if it’s a session where delegates co-create new words of a song to capture their take-aways and perform it together.

Carefree singing is a pressure free time-out that builds confidence as people not only ‘find their voice’ but make a choice to embrace it.  It encourages risk taking by gently helping people to widen their comfort zone and is a great practice in letting go of judgments which improves collaboration and how people connect with each other.

It’s a readily accessible, fully inclusive team activity that levels any hierarchy instantly. It can also be applied to personal development workshops for example ‘Feel the Fear and Sing it Anyway’ and ‘Change the Record’ are both personal development workshops that develop risk taking.

Finally, there is a great wellbeing message of taking a mental time-out and making choices to do activities because they make us feel good and help us recharge the batteries.