Association Of British Choral Directors

Do you know what’s happening to the voices of your choral singers during rehearsal?

Do you know what's happening to the voices of your choral singers during rehearsal? Is the rehearsal paced to allow the singers adequate recovery time? What effect does different repertoire have on the health of the voice? Is Rock more tiring than Verdi? Are your singers singing the right voice part in the choir? For hundreds, if not thousands of years, singers have enjoyed participating in group singing. We know now that there are measurable benefits to overall health and welfare from singing in choirs. What we don't know is how the choral singing itself is affecting the vocal health of the individual. Of course, these questions have so many intrinsic variables that there can be no simple answers.

A research team linked to York University will be undertaking a project to unravel some of these mysteries: Professor David Howard, Dr Gillyanne Kayes, Dr Jenevora Williams, Dr Helena Daffern along with Dr Christian Herbst joining us from Salzburg. This project is only a small part of a Europe-wide initiative to look at choral singing in seventeen different countries. VOICE, or Vision On Innovation for Choral music in Europe, is running from 2012 to 2015. It is covering such diverse areas as a major choral festival in Italy, an urban youth choir festival in Sweden, singing as a tool for reconciliation in Cyprus, two sessions of the Eurochoir for young singers in Czech Republic and Hungary, training courses and seminars for conductors and managers in France, Italy and Sweden, a conference on Mediterranean Music in Spain, a symposium on singing and music education in Hungary, a vocal training programme for teachers and a cooperation programme with the world of education in Belgium, research programmes on the growth of young people in relation to their singing voice and on vocal health of amateur singers, done from Belgium and United Kingdom, an international collection of lullabies and databases on choral life, voice-training and conductors' training in Europe.

The methodology starts with a simple survey of choral singers. We are hoping for thousands of responses to this, it takes about 90 seconds to complete and will give a baseline for more detailed assessment of voices. Please do ask your choir members to complete the survey and feel free to forward on to other choral leaders and conductors. We need choirs of all types and from any country to complete the survey:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ChoirSinging

The next stage will be to work with three choirs, one of the newly formed 'work choirs' inspired by Gareth Malone, a mainstream choral society and a community choir. The singers from these choirs will fill out a more detailed vocal health survey. Twelve singers will volunteer to be audio recorded, and with a laryngograph, for the duration of a rehearsal. They will also visit a hospital ENT clinic for a nasendoscopy examination. This will give a large amount of detailed information from which we hope to gain more insight into the vocal activity and the vocal health of these singers. We will have some answers within a year, and hope to report these in articles and presentations, as well as to disseminate the findings in a more practical way to individual choral groups.

Posted: Tue 09th September 2014

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