In praise of … office choirs
The Guardian, Thursday 4 June 2009
Few topics divide a workplace as strongly as that of the office choir. It is not a simple two-way split between can and can’t sing, but raises all sorts of issues around self-regard, camaraderie and general wellbeing. On Tuesday night, in the glorious setting of Nicholas Hawksmoor’s Christ Church, Spitalfields, four choirs gave a taste of the rewards on offer, at the launch of a new competition to find the Office Choir of the Year. In the age of The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent, choral singing appears to be a bit of anomaly: it doesn’t lead to fame, or record deals or public humiliation. The best choirs unfashionably subsume the individual into the group. Yet, paradoxically, they can also give immense personal satisfaction. The reasons for this are many and varied. There is evidence that singing in groups releases pheromones, creating a buzz that is anecdotally familiar to any lunchtime chorister. Then there is the satisfaction of meeting up with your colleagues for an activity more creative than a gossip over the watercooler. The high drop-out rate among aspiring musicians means that the geek in accounts may well turn out once to have been a choral scholar or lead vocalist in a band. So both socially and physically the benefits are clear, but ultimately singing is a performance art. As anyone who has ever done it will vouch, there is nothing quite so life-affirming, so out-of-the box exhilarating, as knowing that you have hit the top of your form in front of an appreciative audience.