Community, Therapy, Healing

Overtones, hosted by Renee Collins
In studio at the Lyric Theater, recording for Overtones. Photo by Warren Cobb.

Last Friday, I had the privilege of recording a segment for an upcoming episode of Overtones, a one-hour radio program hosted by my friend and fellow University of Kentucky Choristers alum, Renee Collins. (The program will air on Monday, March 12, at 3:00 p.m. on Lexington Community Radio.) The program was a tribute to our former teacher, professor emeritus Sara Holroyd. Ms. Holroyd will receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Kentucky at the university’s commencement on May 2. Sara Holroyd fueled my love of group singing.

During our conversations, another Chorister alum told the story of sitting in rehearsal with painful sinus congestion. As she related the event, Ms. Holroyd was demonstrating a technique and sang a note in a high register. The frequency was, well, just what the doctor ordered as it cleared up the congestion.

Healing with Music

That story launched conversation about the ability of music to heal. The documentary film, Alive Inside, demonstrated music’s ability to awaken and animate the mind. I recall seeing first-hand how music relaxed and calmed my mother-in-law in the hospital after her last stroke. Threshold singers bring comfort to those at the threshold of living and dying.

I remain convinced that we could heal many of our social and political divides if we sang together more. Not that we would suddenly be of one mind, but singing together recalls our humanity. Music helps us be of one heart.

As music has increasingly become a commodity, it has become less of a community. Group singing has faded in favor of performance. I truly believe that if we reclaimed the community of singing, we could see one another as people, not positions.