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The joy of singing!

They say singing is good for the soul!!

Medical studies have shown that singing has considerable physical, emotional and psychological attributes - it is the only human pursuit which uses every part of the brain. Its physiological benefits are evident, working the lungs, the diaphragm, abdominal muscles and the vocal chords, at the same time requiring deeper breathing, thereby enhancing posture and stimulating circulation. It also releases endorphins which invigorate and uplift, it strengthens the immune system and has a very definite de-stressing effect. People who sing are generally healthier than those who don't.

I've always absolutely admired anyone with musical talent...but for anyone whose instrument is indeed their own voice, that's most certainly a God-given gift and ever so special. And whilst I simply love to listen to music, and have a wide variety of taste (refer an earlier blog of mine : More Music Therapy), I've never been able to sing properly, or if I'm brutally honest, even hold a tune, and it has become even more painfully obvious now that I find myself surrounded by so many wonderful voices in our new church community. What note should I start on? Why do I always follow the soprano rather than the tenor or baritone? why do I gasp for breath in all the wrong places? why do I almost drown in my own saliva? and more generally, why am I so bloody hopeless at singing???

I've said in passing several times since retiring that I'd love to take some singing lessons but had never seriously done anything about it. So you can imagine my absolute surprise... and delight... when She recently presented me with a gift voucher for a month of singing lessons (1 a week). Though a little daunted by the prospect at first, I rose to the challenge and I have to report that even after just one month (5 lessons so far) I'm much improved and now certainly very much motivated to continue. I readily admit I'll never be an Andrea, Josh or Aled but already my confidence has been significantly boosted and with some basic technique now learned, I am at least able to stand alongside fellow parishioners on Sundays and 'hold my own' even with the most rousing of Charles Wesley hymns.

You might sense a lot of 'puffery' but I really do feel a strong sense of accomplishment - I was convinced I was

doomed never to sing reasonably - and at the same time, a real joy at being able to sing! I must add that my music teacher is entirely encouraging and says I am almost pitch-perfect, which of course is a fundamental requirement. But for me, there have been two key factors - knowing where to take breaths and understanding my vocal range - she says I'm a light baritone!. Now that I have a better sense of these, which allow me to keep up without gasping and also where to pitch my opening note so I don't run out of range on the high note, I am now able to address some of the more intricate aspects. Future lessons will undoubtedly help my continuing improvement but its still very early days for me. And my repertoire so far is very limited. There are some old

standards - All Through the Night and Beautiful Dreamer - and I've now included a couple of very famous, favourite hymns of mine in John Newton's haunting Amazing Grace and Carl Boberg's inspiring How Great Thou Art. I have tried Josh Groban's You Raise Me Up but this is a bit beyond me as yet - but by no means dismissed!!

Like most things we do in retirement, we now have the time and focus to commit which means we are likely to derive maximum benefit. Special Interests (like my singing lessons) also provide a strong "look forward to" aspect and we certainly all need this in our older years to provide the stimulation previously provided by our vocations! But I am finding that singing - the most perfect form of 'self-expression' in my view - is giving me a sense of inner joy as I accomplish something I had previously never thought possible.

For me this is just another way of 'making every day a winner' and I would encourage you in your retirement

years to conquer a long-held fear or do something that's always eluded regrets!!

...and remember...have a fabulous retirementLIFE....

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