It can be said of dozens of activities and pursuits that they are the best gifts that give back to the giver. A week ago on Sunday 1 July a few members from my flagship choir Renewal Choir were interviewed for a radio programme on BBC Radio Bristol called Clueless. Basically, Clueless is a treasure hunt show where two teams (in this case from BBC Radio Bristol and BBC Radio Somerset) have to solve cryptic clues that test their general knowledge and take them to different points around the region where they ultimately find the treasure. Last Sunday Renewal Choir were stationed at one of the points (my church in Knowle West, Bristol) as the Clueless team were led there by the latest clue.
Radio presenter Martin Evans turned up at our church where he interviewed a few people from the choir, recorded us singing and took a few pictures for BBC social media. The whole experience was quite short but there was something that Martin said that has stuck with me ever since. He said, “singing is like the gift that you keep giving away but then you’ve still got it.” Genius!! Taking that a step further, not only is singing a gift that you can keep giving away but it’s also one of the best gifts that give back to you as well. You give it away and you receive back from it – it’s quite amazing.
The gift of singing
There is something about music – and in my opinion about singing in particular – that has the ability to reach the deeper layers of one’s emotions and can make one feel happy or sad, feel comforted, bring peace, inspired, challenged… and the list goes on. Of course, I’m biased towards singing but for me there is something so special about singing as a shared activity. It has even been said that when choir members sing together even their heartbeats are synchronised. Whether this is just a physiological phenomenon is hard to say but there is no doubt in my mind that the singing with others creates a bond that goes beyond just the melody, harmony and rhythm of a song.
Over the last 12 weeks or so I’ve assembled a group of willing souls from the Bristol community – the Voice of Hope Wellbeing Gospel Choir, taught them to sing in 3 part harmony and organised a fundraising gospel concert in aid of the Above & Beyond charity which raises funds on behalf of Bristol’s city centre hospitals. What an amazing time and privilege to be able to do something on behalf of those who are not well enough to care for themselves that can benefit them in more ways than one.
The gift of community
Aside from the gift of the music itself – which all in all, was profoundly uplifting – there’s a deeper experience from being part of a group of people participating in a shared activity. That deeper experience is the development of a community where people have a sense of belonging and where each person in the group feels that each person matters and where they are looking out for one another. Over the sessions, it’s been interesting to see the group dynamics changing as the choir members started to form bonds and make independent connections with one another.
The gift of friendship
The natural progression from forming strong connections in the group is that of moving on to form friendships. This tends to take a lot longer than ten weeks to happen but I’ve seen this happen in Renewal Choir where choir members have grown from being complete strangers to perhaps sharing lifts to then meeting up outside of choir events and rehearsals and then forming friendships which have lasted for years. Of course, connections and friendships can be formed in other activities (e.g. team sports, dancing) but there is scientific evidence to show that the activity of singing in a group forms some of the strongest bonds of all.
The gift of fundraising
One of the most satisfying elements of putting on a music production of this type is that it doesn’t have to be totally centred around the artists. Many concerts make a contribution towards a named charity particularly during the well known season of giving – Christmas.
In the case of this particular fundraising event, we made a decision that the Above & Beyond charity would be the beneficiary of any money raised from ticket sales. In this way, the Voice of Hope Wellbeing Gospel Choir could give not just in terms of singing but also provide a monetary gift within an organisation that supports the ethos of the choir. The funds raised were not designated for any particular cause so that they could be used in the area where they would be most needed.
The best gifts
Of all of these benefits – the gifts of singing, community, friendship, fundraising or any of the countless other gifts – it’s purely subjective as to whether there is one gift that is better than another. I would say it depends on the needs of the beneficiaries. I believe it’s true to say that what many people appreciate and can identify with is a gift that is given with true passion and comes from the heart. A gift that’s given from the heart, whatever the form it takes, is one that means the most and will be treasured and cherished for a long time. It’s about sharing those parts of one’s life that are special and that mean the most.
The fact that you can get so many special gifts from one event is amazing in itself and as a giver really makes one appreciate that what you do just for the love of it can have such a profound impact on others. A gift that continues to produce so many other gifts that benefit others and in turn benefits the receiver is what makes it that gift that just keeps giving – over and over.