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Cheyne Gang Singing Group

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 5th February 2020.

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Money should not be a barrier to finding a place to sing or to learning to play a musical instrument.

Scotland has a proud tradition of music and song. I am sure that, as youngsters, we all had particular music that became part of our family life. I am also sure that many members have experienced the joy of singing together at a young age at family get-togethers, especially at Christmas and New Year. That is usually when each family member in turn would perform their party piece—a favourite song rehearsed over the years, which remains forever associated with that family member. Whenever we hear or sing that song, we feel connected to those family members, even many years after they have gone. In our family, it was at wee Granny Meg’s house in Chryston on the first, with Uncle Tom singing “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”, Aunt Joanne singing “Mississippi” and Aunt Winnie singing “Amazing Grace”. None of us has ever forgotten the time that Winnie’s teeth came out mid-song, only to be quickly replaced without a pause.

Turning to more serious issues, I note that, in a paper that was published by the Royal Society in 2015, researchers at the University of Oxford examined the phenomenon of choir singing and its benefits. They found that group singing not only helps to forge social bonds but acts as an excellent ice breaker and helps to improve our broader social networks. That is invaluable in today’s society, in which loneliness and social isolation have become major issues. When the Scottish Government sets its budget tomorrow, we should remember that projects that fight loneliness and bring people together—many of which are preventative health projects in our most deprived communities—often rely on grants and facilities that are provided by local government.

Medical research has shown that a good social network can have significant health benefits, so we should not underestimate the positive benefits of the social bonding that choirs encourage. As we have already heard, singing is particularly beneficial for improving breathing, posture and muscle tension. Listening to and participating in music have also been shown to be effective in pain relief, possibly due to the release of neurochemicals that are similar to those that are released after intense exercise. I know that I would probably choose a good singalong rather than an hour on an exercise bike.

Singing clearly provides an inclusive means of bettering our mental and physical health, so I hope that the Cheyne Gang will be able to continue to grow across Scotland. I again thank Gordon MacDonald for providing members with the opportunity to debate this important issue.