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Tunes, singing and community in a global pandemic

Every single other Wednesday, my ritual had come to be these types of that I was fortuitous adequate to devote 90 minutes singing and instructing and learning songs with the volunteer choir at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Danbury.

As the new music director at UUCD, I am the beginner to the team due to the fact I started in May 2019. Numerous of the singers and musicians have very long been a section of this congregation and welcomed me with open arms and minds.

Rehearsals were being brimming in excess of with singing and storytelling and laughing and aggravation with new music and intricate harmonies and grappling with how to immediate a choir and accompany them on piano at the same time, all though attempting to assure exact pitches and acceptable type and diction for the tune, not to mention lyrical interpretation and conversation. Any individual who has ever made tunes or art understands how elaborate and tough it can be. But, the camaraderie, friendship and electric powered synergy we would obtain superseded any of the complexities.

Analysis has indicated several situations around that when we sing jointly, we are healthier and happier. Definitely.


Jacques Launay, a postdoctoral researcher in experimental psychology at the College of Oxford, states, “The physiological positive aspects of singing, and tunes a lot more frequently, have very long been explored. Songs creating exercise routines the brain as nicely as the entire body, but singing is significantly effective for bettering breathing, posture and muscle rigidity.”

Launay proceeds, “Improved temper almost certainly in element comes specifically from the release of constructive neurochemicals these kinds of as β-endorphin, dopamine and serotonin. It is also possible to be affected by variations in our perception of social closeness with some others.”

Social closeness with others.

For the myriad explanations I enjoy singing with some others, I have the moment and for all discovered that social closeness with other folks is exactly the purpose I retain accomplishing it. So considerably of what we do in a congregational setting is rooted in this notion of togetherness and group.

When every little thing came to a screeching halt in mid-March as the COVID-19 world-wide pandemic started to rear its hideous head in the United States, I felt completely misplaced. How could we continue to keep possessing providers? What in the world am I going to do for the songs? I’m the music director. I guess I’m intended to know what to do? But, all of this was new and I undoubtedly experienced in no way deemed that we would at any time not be together on Clapboard Ridge Highway.

Enter Zoom.

We, at UUCD, are unbelievably lucky to have a congregation with infinite gifts. 1 congregant and congregational chief experienced by now expended many many years jogging on-line activities for quite a few corporations by her very own corporation, The Creter Group. She was significantly farther in advance of the game than any of us. She patiently taught us, rehearsed with us, dilemma solved seem troubles, assisted strengthen backgrounds and display screen positioning, and offered an unbelievable level of complex aid. That which felt extremely hard promptly became feasible. We pivoted to expert services on Zoom and have not stopped considering the fact that.

Admittedly, at the commencing, I was not especially optimistic about how I could ever try to direct a team of persons in music without in fact listening to any of them sing. But, someplace along the way, it began to truly feel rather, dare I say, regular?

Though I am hopeful that we are looking at a glimmer of light at the conclusion of a never ever-ending tunnel, I have observed “social closeness with others” through tunes to be one of the only matters I can rely on in the course of this weird time. Turns out, it was actual physical distancing extra than social distancing.

I’ve produced an even additional profound gratitude for UUCD, its people, the songs we make and our commitment to remaining in local community despite what has felt like extremely hard circumstances. As we close to a full year of remaining not able to be with each other in the very same room, I am longing for the day wherever I can listen to their gorgeous voices in harmony ring out by way of our halls. This will surely go and when it is above, all those voices are going to seem sweeter than they ever have right before.

Jerry Phelps is the songs director at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Danbury, 24 Clapboard Ridge Road, Danbury, CT 06811. He can be contacted at [email protected]