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Singing the praises of school choir competitions

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Singing isn’t everyone’s forte (get it?) and the phrase "school choir" may well inspire thoughts of strangled cats, needless stress or perhaps even disgustingly perky American teens bopping around incessantly.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, choirs can be a lot of fun and are often the setting for a thriving learning environment. And a choir competition may be just the nudge someone needs to get started with singing.  

It’s well documented that singing has a profoundly positive effect on the brain. Numerous studies have concluded that while flexing our vocal cords, we experience a surge in endorphins, the hormone associated with feelings of pleasure.

Research has also found communal music-making can benefit learners' emotional and social development. Further to this, memorising melodies, rhymes and rhythms has been found to prompt children to use mathematical and scientific reasoning (a meta-analysis by Professor Susan Hallam from the UCL Institute of Education provides a good round up of the research here)

And group singing has never been cooler. Just look at internationally renowned acappella group Pentatonix (see the video above), who have broken into the mainstream.

So how can you start your school singing? Setting up a choir is relatively easy – you can run it just like any other after-school club and you don’t need to play an instrument as there are plenty of backing tracks downloadable from the internet.

It is useful to have something to aim for to keep students motivated and this is where the competitive element of choirs comes in. Lewis Richards is choirmaster of Ysgol Iau Llangennech Choir, BBC Songs of Praise School Choir of the Year. He embraces music-making as a way to engage children and says the competition was a key part of the motivation for the students joining up.

“Part of the reason I went into teaching was to try and offer different experiences like this one to the students. They revelled in it,” he says.  

The competition is running again this year, so send off an application before 14 November and with a bit of luck you’ll be singing like the Von Trapps in no time…

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