Durham News: Opinion

Singing together – good for what isolates you – Michele Lynn

Michele Lynn
Michele Lynn

In my secret (but not for much longer) fantasy life, I am the lead singer in a rock band or a musical theater star on Broadway.

While I can more or less carry a tune, my singing voice isn’t one that anyone is clamoring to hear, so I don’t expect to start touring any time soon. But I have been able to indulge my inner diva during regular outings to PopUp Chorus over the past two years.

PopUp Chorus brings together a wide variety of community members to sing songs most of us know and love. It’s a simple concept: people attend the sessions that are convenient for them; Amelia Shull and Spencer Harrison, the conductors, teach us two songs; and then we stand and sing our hearts out while being filmed and recorded. A few days later, we get the thrill of seeing online the music video that’s been created.

One of the things that I love about PopUp Chorus is the welcoming atmosphere. Once my fellow singers and I enter through the door, we are all members of the PopUp community. While the group is different each time, there are always familiar faces. Chorus members have joined together to sing “Happy Birthday” to one another and have danced together to songs new and old.

At July’s session of PopUp Chorus, I sat in front of a couple, Jeff and Kerri, who drove from Detroit to attend. They had seen PopUp Chorus videos online and planned a Triangle vacation around a PopUp date. After Jeff, Kerri, my husband, and I bonded over two hours of singing “Love Train” and “Don’t You Forget About Me,” they invited us to look them up if we ever travel to the Motor City. That’s the power of community building.

When we sing moving songs like “Peace Train” by Yusuf/Cat Stevens and “Starman” (soon after the death of David Bowie), an electric connection is created among the singers in the room. When the evening’s songs are pop confections such as “Dancing Queen” by Abba or “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars, the vibe is joyful.

One of my favorite song selections was “Downtown” by Petula Clark, which brought me back to childhood and memories of my mom singing that song to me as we walked hand-in-hand on the sidewalks of The Bronx. And when the chorus sang Pat Benatar’s “We Belong,” I felt as though we truly did.

While I love my work as a communications consultant, I spend a lot of time on my own, working at my computer. Singing with others is a wonderful way of coming together cooperatively, instead of each of us working alone or staring at our cell phones. I look forward to each PopUp Chorus knowing that I will receive an infusion of happiness and close connections that nourish my soul. Everyone leaves Pop Up with a smile on their face, no matter what kind of day they had before showing up.

There is something powerful and instinctual about singing in a group. The joy and connections are visceral. Scientific studies have found that when you sing, musical vibrations move through you, altering your physical and emotional landscape. Research has also shown that hearts beat in unison when people sing in a group. A Time magazine article about how singing changes your brain for the better says, “Group singing … takes something incredibly intimate, a sound that begins inside you, shares it with a roomful of people and it comes back as something even more thrilling: harmony.”

I don’t need researchers to tell me that singing produces hormones that are associated with feelings of pleasure and that alleviate anxiety and stress. I can feel that for myself each time I am at PopUp Chorus. I look forward to joining together with friends and soon-to-be-friends at The ArtsCenter to create music and delight.

When she isn’t singing at PopUp Chorus or in the shower, Michele Lynn can often be found working with community organizations and universities. You cna reach her at michele@michelelynn.com