Group singing as a resource for the development of a healthy public: a study of adult group singing

Camlin, D. A. and Daffern, H. and Zeserson, K. (2020) Group singing as a resource for the development of a healthy public: a study of adult group singing. Humanities & Social Sciences Communications, 7 (60) ISSN 2662-9992 (online)


A growing body of evidence points to a wide range of benefits arising from participation in group singing. Group singing requires participants to engage with each other in a simultaneous musical dialogue in a pluralistic and emergent context, creating a coherent cultural expression through the reflexive negotiation of (musical) meaning manifest in the collective power of the human voice. As such, group singing might be taken—both literally and figuratively—as a potent form of ‘healthy public’, creating an ‘ideal’ community, which participants can subsequently mobilise as a positive resource for everyday life. The experiences of a group of singers (n = 78) who had participated in an outdoor singing project were collected and analysed using a three-layer research design consisting of: distributed data generation and interpretation, considered against comparative data from other singing groups (n = 88); a focus group workshop (n = 11); an unstructured interview (n = 2). The study confirmed an expected perception of the social bonding effect of group singing, highlighting affordances for interpersonal attunement and attachment alongside a powerful individual sense of feeling ‘uplifted’. This study presents a novel perspective on group singing, highlighting the importance of participant experience as a means of understanding music as a holistic and complex adaptive system. It validates findings about group singing from previous studies—in particular the stability of the social bonding effect as a less variant characteristic in the face of environmental and other situational influences, alongside its capacity for mental health recovery. It establishes a subjective sociocultural and musical understanding of group singing, by expanding on these findings to centralise the importance of individual experience, and the consciousness of that experience as descriptive and reflective self-awareness. The ways in which participants describe and discuss their experiences of group singing and its benefits points to a complex interdependence between a number of musical, neurobiological and psychosocial mechanisms, which might be independently and objectively analysed. An emerging theory is that at least some of the potency of group singing is as a resource where people can rehearse and perform ‘healthy’ relationships, further emphasising its potential as a resource for healthy publics.

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item