Glasgow Choirs Sing Up




By Rachael Morris

As Glee and Pitch Perfect sweep the globe with a cappella mania, and over 2 million Brits sit down to watch Gareth Malone’s ‘The Naked Choir’ every Tuesday, Glasgow has begun sing up too.

New research from the Royal Voluntary Service shows that over 2.8 million Brits are now members of singing groups or choirs and, of those, 780, 000 joined in the last five years. As both the number of choirs and singers increase around the world, the popularity of choral music seems to be echoed in Glasgow too. Dr Björn Heile, Head of Music at Glasgow University, said: “This phenomenon is reflected in Glasgow, which has seen substantial growth, particularly in community choirs.”

The Big Big Sing organisation took a particular interest in Glasgow during Festival 2014, staging the UKs biggest massed singing event at Glasgow Green during the Commonwealth Games. A mammoth 44, 448 Glaswegians have taken part in Big Big Sing events, more than any other city, and a quick search for choirs in the Greater Glasgow area returns over 80 results. Of the choirs which provided details, 23 out of 61 were formed in the last five years. The project has, in fact, been so successful that Big Big Sing has extended their deadline from July 2014 up until December this year.

Just last month the BBC Proms in the Park were held at Glasgow Green and featured a choral performance from Big Big Sing as part of the proceedings. Additionally, a musical called ‘The Choir’, written by ‘The Thick of It’ star Paul Higgins, is due to start in Glasgow at the end of the month. It was inspired by the real-life community choir ‘Givin’ It Laldie’ who are based in the Gorbals.

Take a breath singers of Glasgow; it’s been a busy year.

Jamie Sansbury, Musical Director at the Glasgow School of Art, said: “The increased popularity in Glasgow can be seen via the huge proliferation of choirs, particularly those which have emerged over the past five or so years – the GSA Choir included!”

As a cappella singing and choral music has moved back into the popular sphere recently, more opportunities have become available for larger and more exciting performances – an enticing aspect for new starters. The rising prominence of choirs in popular culture has also allowed choral music to reach out to a wider range of demographics and attract more participants.

Not only is choral music becoming more prevalent in popular media such as the BBC program ‘The Naked Choir’, a choral group from Glasgow University have even appeared on the show and reached the semi-finals. The group’s recent rendition of Sinéad O’Connor’s ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ has been viewed over 50,000 times on Youtube.

Ewan MacLean, singer in Choral Stimulation, said: “Having started in 2008 there has certainly been an upwards trend in popularity at the University, partly due to the natural growth of a fan-base over time, but also very much down to a cappella becoming ever-more popular.”

The social environment, the increased community engagement and even a number of health related benefits are also considered to be contributing factors to the growing popularity.

George Acock, Public Relations Manager at Making Music, said: “We believe a thriving community music scene benefits everyone – players and audiences alike. Singing has proven benefits to mental and physical health; there is a large amount of scientific evidence to prove the connection between music and a positive impact on the brain, not to mention the respiratory improvements that can be achieved through singing and singing exercises.”

As long as a cappella musicians such as ‘Pentatonix’ continue to find success in the charts, choruses and choirs continue to feature on television shows such as ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ and ‘The Naked Choir’ and choirs continue to merge into current popular culture, it seems their popularity will continue to grow in Glasgow too.

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