If you aren't sure whether the Wilful Choir is right for you try us out for free any Monday, although nearer the start of term is better as there are more likely to be other new people.
We have wonderful end of term informal performances with lovely food and drink too! We do performances for local charities when we can.
Recently we have supported SPEAR, a local charity for rough sleepers.
How did we get to be called the Wilful Choir?
The choir was started by a young woman called Roshi around 2005 at the Cricketers pub in Kingston, then it was passed to Hannah Rose Tristram and finally us!
Roshi had named it after the Wilful Theatre Company she’d been in as a teenager in Wales, which was defunct but she thought it would be nice to keep some of the spirit of it going with her new choir venture.
I was a member of the choir when Hannah Rose led it for about 5 years and when she moved to Brighton I really wanted it to be kept going so I offered to teach it. Aaron and I started running it in April 2015. Now he has moved on and I'm running it with Laura Stephenson, a fabulous musician, from January 2019.
For more info on why singing is good for you and more please see
What is a natural voice choir?
Laura and I are both members of the Natural Voice Network (NVN) and the Wilful Choir is a mixed community choir run on natural voice principles.
In a natural voice choir, all songs are taught by ear, and no-one has to be able to read music. There are no auditions and everyone is welcome. In the Wilful Choir we sing a wide variety of songs from many eras and cultures from World, Folk, Jazz to Gospel, Latin and more.
We believe that singing is everybody’s birthright. For thousands of years all over the world people have sung - to express joy, celebration and grief, to aid healing, to send us to sleep, to accompany work, prayer and devotion and the rituals of life - without worrying about having a ‘good’ voice or ‘getting it right’. Singing has been a part of life, a way of binding communities. And singing together has a great many benefits to the individual and their community.
What is the natural voice method?
Many people see themselves as ‘non singers’ because of previous experiences of criticism and judgment. Many are excluded from singing activities because they do not have music-reading skills or trained voices. Our work aims to counteract these experiences and give people confidence in their voices by providing them with a supportive learning environment and a suitable repertoire.
We do physical and vocal warm-ups to build confidence and to help us prepare to sing and look after our voices. We often have a lot of fun with these and we know that laughing as well as singing is good for us. A lot of people would like to sing but feel that they’re not good enough for various reasons, so we encourage everyone to try things out, but there’s no pressure.
Is singing good for you?
Absolutely - singing is a physical and mental workout! There are countless physical, mental and emotional and social benefits to singing, especially in a group. Singing inspires our creativity, confidence and wellbeing and can help create and bind communities together.
Singing can widen your circle of friends. Whether you’re in a choir or simply enjoy singing karaoke with your friends, one of the unexpected health benefits of singing is that it can improve your social life. The bonds you form singing with others can be profound, since there’s a level of intimacy naturally involved
Singing can promote wellbeing and mental health There have been lots of recent studies and reports about the benefits of singing, especially in a choir or group. In November 2017 a study of self-reported data from 1,779 choir members around the world provided "confirmatory evidence to support choral singing as a means of improving wellbeing," the authors wrote in Perspectives in Public Health. Participants claimed making music fostered social connection, cognitive stimulation, mental health and enjoyment.
At a psychological level, singing increases positive mood and decreases stress. The process of singing is known to release endorphins, the brain chemical that makes you feel uplifted and happy (like chocolate but less fattening!). It releases stored muscle tension and decreases your levels of cortisol which is a stress hormone.
A singing session releases stored muscle tension and decreases the levels of a stress hormone called cortisol in your bloodstream and this can help to alleviate depression.
In addition, scientists have identified a tiny organ in the ear called the sacculus, which responds to the frequencies created by singing. The response creates an immediate sense of pleasure, regardless of what the singing sounds like. Not only that, but singing can simply take your mind off the day’s troubles to boost your mood.
We’ve had singers say that coming to the choir is their therapy, and and it makes them feel more creative and confident and increases their sense of wellbeing.
Singing has a wide range of physical benefits too It helps your circulation and your immune system.
We also do fun physical and vocal warm-ups to facilitate vocal health and confidence.
Your breathing and posture improve as singing uses your back and abdominal muscles and opens up your chest and shoulders. And you also increase muscle tone in your face, neck and jaw, which gives you you a natural face-lift!
Others have said that their lung function and memory have improved – and there is even research to say that singing helps stop snoring!
Other physical benefits These include aiding circulation and helping the lymphatic and immune systems. Your posture improves as singing uses your back and abdominal muscles. Standing up straight is part of correct technique as you’re singing, so with time, good posture will become a habit! As your chest cavity expands and your shoulders and back align, you’re improving your posture overall. (In the Wilful Choir people are free to sit if they can’t stand- and we are also fully accessible.)
Singing strengthens the immune system According to research conducted at the University of Frankfurt, singing boosts the immune system. The study included testing professional choir members’ blood before and after an hour-long rehearsal singing Mozart’s “Requiem”. The researchers noticed that in most cases, the amount of proteins in the immune system that function as antibodies, known as Immunoglobulin A, were significantly higher immediately after the rehearsal. Interestingly, the same increases were not observed after the choir members passively listened to music.
Singing is a workout For all of us, including elderly, disabled or injured people, singing can be an excellent form of exercise. Even if you’re healthy, your lungs will get a workout as you employ proper singing techniques and vocal projections. Other related health benefits of singing include a stronger diaphragm and stimulated overall circulation. Since you pull in a greater amount of oxygen while singing than when doing many other types of exercise, some even believe that singing can increase your aerobic capacity and stamina.
Singing helps with sleep According to a health article in Daily Mail Online, experts believe singing can help strengthen throat and palate muscles, which helps stop snoring and sleep apnea. If you’re familiar with these ailments, you know how difficult it can be to get a good night’s sleep!
We now have strong evidence of the physiological benefits of singing, too
- singing leads to a reduction in cortisol. Music in any form is relaxing. Singing releases stored muscle tension and decreases the levels of a stress hormone called cortisol in your blood stream
- singing can lead to an increase in immunoglobulin A.
- singing leads to activation of a whole network of cytokines, which are also involved in our immune response.
What about the social benefits of singing?
In many ways, singing is a ‘perfect circle’ of social, physical and community benefits.
Singing boosts your confidence Even those who suffer from ‘stage fright’, for example when giving a presentation at work, find performing well and receiving praise from friends and family can be the key to eventually overcoming their fears and boosting their self-confidence. With time, you may even find it easier to present any type of material in front of a group with poise and good presentation skills.
Singing increases your ability to appreciate other singers and musicians Sometimes, you don’t realize how difficult something is until you try it yourself. As you grow from an amateur to an intermediate student and beyond, you’ll be looking to the masters for inspiration. You might even find a new style of music to appreciate that you wouldn’t normally listen to!
In the last decade there has been a massive growth in research over the benefits of group musical activity. We got in touch with one of these researchers, a Dr Jacques Launey of Brunel University
“While singers have known for a long time that singing is a great activity, scientists are catching up, and working out what causes such positive effects.”
In addition to these psychological and physiological effects, evidence suggests that singing is an especially good social bonding activity, and music could even have evolved specifically to help humans create communities.
There are great emotional and social benefits in joining such a group, “Singing together is simply the best way to build lasting communities “ says Alison Burns of the NVN Natural Voice Network?
Creating an accepting community is an essential element of our approach: a community where singing together is a natural experience that is open and accessible to all levels of ability from complete beginners to more experienced singers.
Recent reviews into health suggest a strong community is one of the most important predictors of how long people live (better even than quitting smoking!), so anything that strengthens social relationships is very important to our wellbeing.)
Taken together this evidence shows that musical activity in a group is effective because it increases happiness, decreases stress, and makes us socially connected – all of this leads to a stronger immune response, and reduced risk of health problems.”
The delights of singing go beyond merely enjoying the beauty of your own vocal talent. All of these benefits may make you want to join a choir or start taking voice lessons right away! If so, don’t hesitate to get started – have fun with it, and do you what you enjoy!
Lynda Daroga, from Petersham and Richmond Friends of Shooting Star says, “You are a truly wonderful teacher and inspire great confidence in people like myself. I never thought I could sing and now I am thinking of joining a singing group.”
There are no auditions for the Wilful Choir and everyone can try us out with a free taster session on a Monday evening at the Canbury Pavillion 7.30-9.30pm during term times, next one starts on Sept 9th 2019
Come and hear more of our songs and special guests at our Winter Warmer Sat 7th Dec 8pm - see our website for more info www.wilfulchoir.com