12 July 2019
One of the most memorable experiences which I had as a child was engaging in a BBC Radio Broadcast called ‘Singing Together’ at Primary School. This was complemented by the work of our itinerant music teacher who continued to teach these songs when he visited.
It built up an amazing repertoire within the mind and heart. As well as national songs from all four corners of the United Kingdom, there were songs from different parts of the world, operatic arias, German lieder, sacred solos, fun songs and all sorts.
A generation later, singing did not constitute the core activity of school music teaching. With the advent of electronic keyboards, it moved to instruments and composition etc. Not that these activities were unhelpful but they were not communal but solitary activities.
This came home to me when I read that a recent project monitored the effect of corporate singing over a term in twenty-four schools. Interestingly, there was a marked improvement on learning and self-esteem.
Reporting in the Church Times, Rebecca Paveley wrote, ‘...teachers recorded a ten per cent increase in listening and reading skills and an 11 per cent increase in the pupils’ performance in maths as well as an increase in the children’s self-confidence’.
The researcher identified two important reasons for this. Firstly, singing together helps to bring about social cohesion. We see that in the church as much as the football stadium. Secondly, singing together has a positive effect on our well-being.
No wonder it has been such an integral part of worship in the Reformed tradition where the people’s part was almost exclusively confined to communal singing. And, of course, we value listening above all else for the Word of God is ‘our supreme rule of faith and life’.