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Music offers many benefits, so sing out

Do you remember when we were young in grade school, and the teacher had us learn certain songs, such as the alphabet song or the days of the month song? We would sing "a, b, c, d, e, f, g..." or "30 days hath September, April, June and November."

If it had not been for memorizing both songs, it might be a bit difficult to remember my ABC's or the number of days in a month. Occasionally, I still sing the number of days in a month song, because it helps me recall which months have 30 or 31 days. Or could it be these are the only songs I know from beginning to end?

I was just thinking about a music festival that was once a year when I was in grade school. All the upper grade school kids in the county got to participate. We all learned the same songs, such as "America the Beautiful" or "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and some fun songs as well. We all assembled by school groups at the TMP-Marian High School Auditorium (formerly St. Joseph's Military Academy). First, we practiced the songs and finally performed them. As I recall, there were hundreds of us singing, and we made beautiful music. I sure did enjoy that day.

Here is another thing I have enjoyed in the past, and that is singing at weddings. Of course, there was singing at the marriage ceremony, but later at the wedding dance, everyone could join the wedding party for the traditional bride and broom song, which was sung in German. You would find me in that group.

Research has shown singing in groups can have a healing effect on the brain, because when we sing together our bodies release endorphins. These hormones give us feelings of pleasure. There is something about singing together that relieves stress and makes us feel better. Words accompanied by music more easily are retained in the brain. Music and singing have a positive effect on the brain. Even dancing and walking to a rhythmic tune can give temporary relief of symptoms experienced due to certain diseases, such as Parkinson's disease.

A group might consist of a duet, several persons, a barbershop quartet, a chorus, a choir, or the entire body of people gathered together. Many adults and children sing when they attend church services, and most of us are amateur groups. It doesn't matter how good you sound, but that you actually sing if you want to benefit from the music.

Using a process called "melodic intonation" therapy, researchers have found "teaching stroke victims to sing rewires their brain, helping them recover their speech. ... If the left side (of the brain) is damaged, the right side (of the brain) has trouble (fulfilling that role). But as patients learn to put their words to melodies, the crucial connections form on the right side of their brains." (Singing 'rewires' damaged brain by Victoria Gill, BBC News, San Diego, Feb. 21, 2010)

"When you sing, musical vibrations move through you, altering your physical and emotional landscape. Group singing, for those who have done it, is the most exhilarating and transformative of all. It takes something incredibly intimate, a sound that begins inside you, shares it with a roomful of people and it comes back as something even more thrilling: Harmony. What researchers are beginning to discover is that singing is like an infusion of the perfect tranquilizer, the kind that both soothes your nerves and elevates your spirits. Group singing is cheaper than therapy, healthier than drinking, and certainly more fun than working out." (Singing Changes Your Brain by Stacy Horn, Time.com)

Did you know God commands us to sing? The words in Psalm 100:2 are for us today, "Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing." That doesn't mean just mouthing the words of the song, but to sing praises with understanding.

We can find joy in praising God instead of grumbling because there are so many songs during the church service, so let's all sing out. Singing is a valuable part of the service. Sing like you mean the words. Your participation in the song service will enhance your relationship with Jesus Christ, and as Christians we should consider how God instructs us to come before Him.

There are no negative side effects to singing. It is a part of our lives, and we should take advantage of opportunities to join others in song. It's good for the body and soul.

I like this advice, "Sing, sing a song, sing out loud, sing out strong" as sung by the Carpenters. We might not have the voices of the Carpenters, but let's not be without a song.

Alberta Klaus is a member of the Generations advisory committee.