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I love to sing! Don’t you? It lifts my spirits, fills my heart, nourishes my soul. Whether it is singing in a choir or singing alone in the shower, it cannot fail to energise, enthuse and yes, surprise.

There is that soaring sense of achievement when you hit that top ‘A’. A sense of shared accomplishment when a harmony is perfect. A triumph gained from distinguishing the individual notes of a broken chord or arpeggio. The magic of turning mere speech into lyrics by the imposition of rhythm, of tonality. Accompanied or a capella, a song is a sheer expression of creativity and joy.

Recently, with hip hop music, we have seen the evolution of the voice being used as a kind of vocal percussion, aka beatboxing. In Turkish and many African and middle-Eastern countries, singers employ elaborate untexted vocal improvisation within their musical tradition. Such music existed long before the First Crusade to Palestine, possibly even as early as the year 900. In Iceland they practice throat singing. In the sprechstimme technique, singers half-talk, half-sing a piece of music and often only approximate pitch. In European classical vocal music, traditional Indian music and scat singing in jazz arrangements, a solfege assigns syllables to each note. The most famous such music is the Do-Re-Mi song in the ever popular musical, The Sound of Music.

However, the most enduring, popular form of vocal music is the song. A melody with lyrics. And it is that melody that lifts the words from prose to become musical poetry. Your song may be a Geman lieder, an Italian canzoni, a French chanson, an English or American folk song. Linking them all is the fact that meaningful words are made more resonant, more powerful, by putting them to music. That music can inspire, stir, tug at the heart strings, but always it is the combination of the two which makes the song work. A lyric may be immensely powerful, but for the western ear as a rule, setting it to a minor falling cadence of notes for example, tends to heighten the emotional impact.

Whatever you feel about songs, I urge you to sing as often as possible in 2013. Singing has immense physical and emotional benefits. It exercises the body aerobically, increasing blood oxygenation and exercising the major muscle groups in the upper body. It is immensely influential for psychological problems, reducing stress through the action of the endocrine system and giving us a sense of emotional well-being. Singing as part of a choir can also give us a greater sense of community, of belonging.

Singing can help you to live longer. It keeps you in shape because it is good for the heart and lungs. It releases endorphins into the body, giving you the feel good factor, but unlike chocolate, you don’t gain weight! It strengthens the heart, increases lung capacity, improves posture, clears synuses, raises levels of immune system proteins, tones the muscles of the stomach and back and heightens mental acuity.

So what’s not to like? Go on! Turn over a new leaf! Make 2013 the year that you start to SING!