The power of singing

Singing makes us happy. Ernst Buscagne (right), rehearsing with his students, is convinced this is true. Photographs: Johannes Dietschi

Our voice is a fascinating instrument that we carry with us at every moment. Ernst Buscagne teaches choral conducting in the Specialization in Church Music. Listen to him sing the praises of singing.


Greeting the day with a song of joy, belting out an aria in the shower or humming a melody in an unguarded moment of happiness. We raise our voices without giving much thought to their role and the role of sound. Seemingly banal, our voice has what it takes to make us healthy and happy. In the past decades, the positive effects and the fortifying power of singing have attracted increasing research. For example, singing has been shown to increase oxygen levels in the blood. This is a side effect of the deep breathing we need to create longer phrases. Singers also benefit from increased immunoglobulin A levels. These proteins are formed on the mucous membranes and strengthen protection against pathogens. The results of the “Impact Study 2019” by Chorus America, an association of US choirs, are particularly exciting. Singers from all age groups were asked about their perception of singing in their everyday lives. They coincide with my observations from practice:

Singing is fulfilling

When we sing in a choir, we are part of a community. We work together towards a goal. Our group masters a difficult singing exercise and then performs the masterpiece. Or quite simply: after a rehearsal, we sit together enjoying each other’s company. People who are part of a choral community make an investment. They are actively involved in communal activities: from setting up the rehearsal hall to selling grilled sausages outside Migros to fill the empty choir coffers. Those involved experience that sense of community as satisfying and fulfilling. These positive effects are also carried into everyday life and ultimately benefit society.

Singing unites

In a singing community, people from different backgrounds, from different life situations and mostly of different ages come together. Singers learn to listen to their fellow singers, even beyond rehearsals. People are generally more open to working together and keep practicing their teamwork skills. Singing together enhances one’s interpersonal skills and tolerance. In a choir rehearsal, encounters, eye contact and conversations are important aspects of togetherness. In today’s world, millions of people are on the run, minorities are still discriminated in everyday life and people whose appearance or origin differ from the majority are excluded. The many refugee choirs or the choral singing festivals by and for the LGBTQIA+ community show that integration is an indispensable benefit of singing together. Anyone who has experienced open singing on Fraumünsterplatz in Zurich with hundreds of people singing along knows that at that moment all differences are forgotten and the heart opens amid the shared sound. Singing is integration in action.

Singing gives us wings

We are getting older and older. When we participate in life by singing and listening, we challenge our physical and cognitive powers and enhance our quality of life. As early as the 1990s, studies proved that members of choirs and singing groups have significantly higher life expectancy than people who do not sing. Especially for older people, going to a weekly choir rehearsal can enrich their daily routine. When singers are asked about their passion for singing, the answers range from the desire to be creative to the fun factor. Even if the reasons differ, most singers would doubtless agree that singing moves them and dispels racing thoughts, exhaustion or malaise after a long day of meetings at the office. In short: singing gives us wings! In singing, we raise our voices (in the positive sense!) more often and use this power to foster and keep a positive outlook on life.

Ernst Buscagne ( is a lecturer in choral conducting at ZHdK, church musician, choirmaster and singer.
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