Group Singing as a Resource for the Development of a Healthy Public

D. A. Camlin, Helena Daffern, Katherine Zeserson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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 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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalHumanities and Social Sciences Communications
Issue number60
Early online date5 Aug 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2020


  • singing
  • choirs
  • healthy publics

Cite this