Exploring the benefits of singing with the Wellbeing Choir in Southport

PUBLISHED: 00:00 31 December 2019

Leader, Caroline Darbyshire (right) and the Wellbeing Choir at The Atkinson Gallery, Southport

Leader, Caroline Darbyshire (right) and the Wellbeing Choir at The Atkinson Gallery, Southport

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Members of a Southport choir are boosting their health by singing

Leader, Caroline DarbyshireLeader, Caroline Darbyshire

Caroline Darbyshire knows better than most the benefits of singing. She has taught music and singing for years and has seen how performing, especially as part of a group, can help people boost their physical and mental health.

'Singing reduces stress and anxiety,' she said. 'It improves confidence, co-ordination and posture; it's good for the lungs; it improves your mood; it boosts mental and physical health; it stimulates memory and it's good for the brain - there are so many benefits.'

Now those benefits are staring her in the face every week.

She is coaching a Southport choir who came together for the first time in October. The Wellbeing Choir was the brainchild of Matt Dodd, a centre manager at The Atkinson in Southport. A keen runner, he was interested to watch a documentary comparing the health benefits of pounding the streets and singing. Presenter Michael Moseley found both pursuits gave very similar boosts to both mental and physical health.

Organiser, Matt Dodd and Choir Leader, Caroline Darbyshire (fore) and members of the Wellbeing Choir at The Atkinson Gallery, SouthportOrganiser, Matt Dodd and Choir Leader, Caroline Darbyshire (fore) and members of the Wellbeing Choir at The Atkinson Gallery, Southport

'They presented all the science and showed that the same endorphins are released when you're singing as when you're running,' Matt said. 'Singing is one of the first things you experience as a child and it's one of the last things you lose. Songs can bring back memories and can move people.'

He suggested founding a Wellbeing Choir and the Atkinson Trust agreed to fund the idea so it would be free for anyone to join.

The choir proved an immediate hit, with more than 20 people turning up at the museum and gallery every Tuesday to sing and enjoy each others company. Few of the choir members knew each other before they came together, but firm friendships have been forged.

Wellbeing Choir at The Atkinson Gallery, SouthportWellbeing Choir at The Atkinson Gallery, Southport

Mo McDerby has been singing with choir since its first meeting. 'I find music very uplifting. I'm a widow and I find the choir gives me something to look forward to each week. It's nice for me to do something for myself and there's a lovely group of people.'

Brian Tuson returned to the UK last year after living in Spain for 18 years. On the day Lancashire Life attended one of the choir sessions, Brian was one of three men in a group of 17 singers.

'I have always loved music but I could never play an instrument and I thought it would be great to come along and sing,' he said. 'I really enjoy it. I find myself walking down the street practicing and getting some very funny looks. 'When you're singing you really feel good, even if you feel down when you come in through the door. I've never done anything like this before but they're a really nice group and I enjoy it every week.'

And Eileen Dickinson added: 'I'm a carer for my husband and son so it's a real outlet for me each week - a few hours just for me and that's really important. Singing does me a lot of good. I always feel better when I've been here.' Caroline, who runs a singing academy at Rufford, said she can see the group growing in confidence and ability each week.

Wellbeing Choir at The Atkinson Gallery, SouthportWellbeing Choir at The Atkinson Gallery, Southport

'I enjoy it as much as the members of the choir do,' she said. 'I always feel if they walk out smiling that I have done my job. And they always do. They are loving it, and so am I. It has given them a new lease of life and you can see their confidence growing every week.'

The Wellbeing Choir performed around Southport in the run-up to Christmas and Caroline is hoping for more public performances during 2020, possibly including a new song she is writing specifically for them about the benefits of singing.

And she added: 'Singing on your own is good for you but you definitely get more out of singing as part of a group because you can see everybody else enjoying themselves as well. 'It boosts the mood - I see it every week. If people have got problems at home, they seem to melt away while they're singing.'

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