The Singing Side By Side Survey is gathering the perspective and insight of choir members and leaders of all types to develop a toolkit to make all choirs mental health inclusive.
The team of researchers behind the project has been gathered from academic institutes across the country for their expertise in music therapy, health psychology, clinical psychology, music psychology, choir leadership and community engagement. It is led by Dr Yoon Irons and Professor David Sheffield of the University of Derby and includes Liesbeth Tipp of the University of Edinburgh, Dr Michael Bonshor of the University of Sheffield and Lewis Hou of Science Ceilidh, with additional help from Sophie Boyd of the University of Glasgow and Nicola Wydenbach of the Royal College of Music (RCM).
Wydenbach has been the Musical Director of the Mind and Soul Community Choir, a mental health inclusive choir, since 2018 and has learned how to work with people with mental health issues as she’s gone along. She has seen first-hand the value of choral singing for people’s mental health, but she admits that there are insufficient people available to lead such choirs.
So, she is studying for an MSc in performance science at the RCM and become research assistant on the Singing Side By Side project.
‘Based on our findings, we will develop and share a set of resources for choir leaders, perhaps including some information and support that I would have found helpful when I first started working in this area,’ she wrote in her blog on the Singing Side by Side website.
‘Through this research project, and the resources that we develop as a result, we will be able to help new and existing leaders to feel confident about including people with mental health issues in their own choirs or new choirs. If we can make the process easier by providing more support and resources for choir leaders, then more people might set up effective mental health inclusive choirs, and more people with mental health issues can benefit from taking part in group singing.’
‘Considering how mental health issues are on the rise due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this work could not be more timely.’
The project is funded by the March Network: Plus Funds. All choir members and leaders are invited to enter the survey and once the results are analysed, the group will be recruiting choirs across the UK to help test the toolkits and share their experiences.
Interested parties should contact the project public engagement co-investigator, Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org