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Keeping older voices healthy through song

We’ve all seen on social media over the last couple of weeks viral videos of Italians singing together from their balconies and online choirs across the UK.

It’s no surprise that, in a time when we’re all feeling a little bit scared and uncertain, we’ve turned to singing to make ourselves feel better.

One of the most encouraging phenomena we have begun to see in response to social distancing laws are the innovative ways that people are starting to bond with each other, particularly through singing. We also see from research that when we sing, our social brains are activated to produce oxytocin, this is a brain hormone closely linked to the way humans socialise with each other and is released when we form social bonds or when we are intimate with others. This is why some refer to oxytocin as the “cuddle” or “love” hormone and I see this research played out every day in my lessons.

I graduated from the Royal Northern College of Music and spent many years as a performer working with major UK Opera houses such as Glyndebourne Opera, Scottish Opera and Grange Park. After having a family I wanted to stay home a little more and decide to stop touring and focus on teaching singing and concert singing. For the last twenty years have taught at many schools across the North West, Yorkshire Young Musicians and Manchester University alongside my private studio. I have enjoyed concert opportunities singing at the Bristol Hippodrome, the Royal Variety Show and the Proms.

I now focus on older voices, and love it! As a singing teacher, I run a private studio that caters for all ages and vocal styles ranging from classical, musical theatre and choral singers to actors and popular singers. I thought moving my vocal lessons online would be difficult but having put videoconferencing to the test I’ve now developed new online practice guides and techniques for my older students and they have really embraced the technology, even the song classes (groups of five) have really inspired the whole group during the lockdown.

For older voices learning to sing or rekindling the joy of singing requires regular practice, focussing attention on detail and really getting to know your voice and how to use it. Many of my older students come to me with vocal issues such as loss of power, vocal hoarseness, loss of upper range and flexibility and together we have worked through these issues with surprising results. The human voice continues to mature throughout life and through singing and I see increased self- confidence, reduced anxiety and self-esteem in all my older students.

Julia, a retired student gave these kind words; ‘Having only recently started taking singing lessons after many years of singing in choirs I have been hugely encouraged by the progress I am making and the pleasure to be gained from understanding more about the music and the process of singing itself. Good for the body and the soul!’ One of my students aged 65 has been with me for nearly three years now and recently sung in one of my virtual song classes for over 50s and she brought me to tears, through her piece I saw her confidence, her beauty and hearing the group members give such positive feedback was truly wonderful.

I’m really pleased to be working alongside Silversurfers and I hope my advice inspires others to get singing again whether it’s in the garden, in the shower or with loved ones over the Internet.

Silversurfers Response

Sally will be working with Silversurfers over the coming months offering online taster clips of how to improve your voice, keep it healthy and how to include daily practice in your day to day. We are also planning a live Q&A with her in the near future. You can also reach out to her on her email if you’d like to discuss singing lessons or getting involved in her song class for the over 50s.

Who knows we may have our own Silversurfers Choir in a few months!

You can find more information on Sally and her contact details through her website www.sallyjohnson.info

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BrendaW261
30th Jun 2020
0
Thanks for voting!
My partner David says: 'It is an excellent idea to get people of all ages singing together. I have been singing all my life from Choir school in the 1940s to today in the Cheddar Male Voice Choir, (until lockdown!) and such activity has helped to keep me sane."

David Cound
BrendaW261
30th Jun 2020
0
Thanks for voting!
I still love to sing, but these last few years have lost 'lung power'. However, having read Sally's stimulating article, I might just have a go and see if I can improve with practice.'
Cebertowicz
27th Jun 2020
1
Thanks for voting!
Over the last few months my life has been more energised by participating in performances with several online choirs. It has been wonderful to know that I am connected to so many others when I sing. It really aids my physical and mental well being, especially now.

Thanks to musicians like Sally, the opportunity to learn and sing a wide variety of pieces is now available to those of us who are happy to Skype friends and family, but never thought that could extend to singing.

The work I have done with Sally over the last two years has transformed my voice, given me greater vocal stamina, developed my confidence and deepened my understanding of the art of singing. She is a warm and encouraging instructor; perceptive and able to identify the potential and strengths of those she teaches, whatever their age. I am currently having lessons in lockdown and they really are something to look forward to.

It's great that Sally is keen to work with members, we never stop learning and the taster sessions a great way to discover and develop our abilities.
Margaret Hart
27th Jun 2020
0
Thanks for voting!
I haven’t actually heard that comment generally but ve been aware for a long time of the value of singing of old songs with those who have Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia as it takes them back quite naturally to words they knew really well and have a good chance of being stuck in their brains. The same goes for reading books to them which they used to read think singing is the one thing to be OST useful of any.
SallyJ253
27th Jun 2020
1
Thanks for voting!
Hi Margaret

You’re right, music can help stimulate and bring long-forgotten memories flooding back. We also know that singing can help reduce anxiety and depression, help maintain speech and language for those suffering with dementia.

I’ve done bit of research and there are a few organisations like Singing for the Brain, Music for Life, Lost Chord and Golden Oldies that offer that type of programme. I’m very much focussed on getting people to rekindle their love of singing and helping the many thousands of amateur singers out there. I’m currently working with a student in her 60s who has Parkinson disease and we work through tongue twisters, movement and shaping the sound to help her voice and her condition.

All the best, Sally

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