Daniel Pink discusses the physiological benefits of choral singing in his book, When (Cannongate, 2018): “The research on the benefits of singing in groups is stunning. Choral singing calms heart rates and boosts endorphin levels. It improves lung function. It increases pain threshold and reduces the need for pain medication. It even alleviates symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Group singing — not just performance but also practices — increases the production of immunoglobulin, making it easier to fight infections. In fact, cancer patients who sing in choirs show an improved immune response after just one rehearsal.” He goes on describing added psychological benefits of singing in a group, “Several studies demonstrate that choral singing delivers a significant boost to positive mood. It also lifts self-esteem while reducing feelings of stress and symptoms of depression. It enhances one’s sense of purpose and meaning, and increases sensitivity towards others. And these effects come not from singing per se but from singing in a group. For example, people who sing in choirs report far higher well-being than those who sing solo (195).” This research proved evident while listening to the Chicago Chamber Choir perform the conclusion to their twenty third season with Sergei Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil at St. Ita’s Church in Edgewater.
As sunlight trickled through large, colorful, stained glass windows, smooth and warm voices filled the church’s expansive space. The Chicago Chamber Choir voices harmonized and resonated throughout St. Ita’s Neo-Gothic architecture as they completed fifteen beautiful Russian chants. The chant style is unique and heartfelt with the blend of female soprano alto expression. Following along with the English translation of each section connected the audience to the power of the choral experience. Through song a pleasurable synchronicity produced a light ringing, echoing all around. Sensual unison heightened sensitivity and admiration for the strength of vocal tones and melodies. There was no need for any instrument other than the choir’s majestic flow. Incense surrounding and lighting up different senses created a delightful immersion.
At the helm of this 40 person ensemble, Christopher Windle is the artistic director in his second season with the Chicago Chamber Choir. Mr. Windle has conducted and arranged several choirs from Chicago to Baltimore, Philadelphia and Minnesota. He quotes a poem by Hildegard von Bingen, who is considered to be the founder of scientific natural history in Germany as well as a visionary, writer, composer and mystic, with her phrase “Most noble evergreen with your roots in the sun…you burn like a flame of the sun.” Fire illuminates and causes change. With purposeful reflection, growth occurs. Seeking to evoke action through the power of voice, the conductor flawlessly executes a seamless euphonic transition. The Chicago Chamber Choir struck a chord emanating from inside, inspiring feelings of comfort, warmth and hope.
The Chicago Chamber Choir’s mission is “to create experiences that engage our community in high quality choral art” and “…use music to affect positive change in the world.”
For more information visit the Chicago Chamber website or call 773-920-SING
Photo Credit: Carl Alexander