Wednesday 22 May 2019

Working it out: A good old sing song . . . with Google!

Garth Brooks
Garth Brooks

Like many people who know less about the tastes of the nation than we think we do, I was surprised that Garth Brooks could have sold more tickets than there will be voters in the upcoming referenda. The five days was just the tip of the iceberg. They should put in a third referendum in which the nation undertakes never again to stop the pleasure of a few hundred thousand people who want to go to a gig. If that many people want a good night out, a way should be found on the basis that it will do us all good.

During the recent all-too-short barbeque season, I was approached by a host with a fiendish look in his eyes. And a Garth Brooks compilation CD in his hand. He put in on and within thirty seconds most of the crowd were singing "If tomorrow never comes" at the top of their voices. And they knew the words. All of the words. And most of this lot probably hadn't even bought tickets. They were still in the closet.

The night continued and by the time the anthem came around again, everyone was singing at full power, all holding phones. People had cottoned on that you can google the lyrics of any song and join in. The night continued with a pattern. When someone picked up a guitar to sing there were always a few joining in from the beginning. By the chorus, Google had supplied the missing words and things increased to Fields of Athenry volume. Google have unwittingly revitalised the Irish sing song and you don't have to be Celine Dion.

Paul McCartney should know better than most. He sings about chatting through the night and then "we always come back to the songs we were singing at any particular time." Now those would be sessions worth being a fly on the wall at.

Anyone who sings will tell you that it feels good, be that in the shower, the car, in a choir or at a party. But most of us don't put in the work. We don't learn the words and we don't sing often enough. However, I have been surprised by the number of people who have quietly admitted to me in recent times that they have taken singing lessons. Why? Because they want to have a party piece. They needed to get back their confidence.

There are many psychological studies on the effects of singing. And they are all positive in terms of benefits to well-being. The chemicals that show we are stressed are lowered. Anxiety and depression levels are improved. Some of this may be due to the social interactions that take place around singing - choirs seem to be very beneficial, possibly because of the combination of concentration and learning along with socialising and feeling part of a group. Many people say that the most terrifying social experience that they can imagine is speaking in front of a group. But if you can overcome the singing fear?

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