Tony Leighton is a Canadian writer happily retired and attempting to help others feel the same.

A Shortcut To Joy

The Spooky Men's Chorale.png

It’s a good internet.

My friend John said that wryly a while back. Like me, he spends a lot of time dipping into the unfathomable wealth available to all of us online. It’s like a magic box of everything you’ve ever wanted to know and oceans more.

Rays of light beam into my inbox daily. One of them is from swissmiss, who’s real name is Tina Roth Eisenberg. She’s a designer as well as a curator of well-designed things and whatever else she feels like bringing into the light through her daily email, which she’s been sending since 2005.

Yesterday, it was a whimsical astronaut lamp. Today, it was James Sills, a UK choirmaster, in a 20-minute video that warmed my heart and will not fail to warm yours if you choose to view it.

James Sills leads four choirs. They are made up of regular people, many of them seniors, some of them homeless, most of them not singers before they met James.

You will be jarred by the guys in the picture above. They are called The Spooky Men’s Chorale or The Spookys for short. They look like a group of aging bikers. They sound like angels. (In the video, they start singing at the 10:42-minute mark.)

What about singing in retirement? What about finally stepping up, joining with others, and getting over the reluctance you’ve felt for 50 years to actually let go and sing?

Sills says most of us think we can’t do it, that we were discouraged early in life by ourselves or block-headed adults, and we’ve maintained that inhibition ever since, believing, mistakenly, that only about 2% of the world can sing and we are in the other 98%.

Most of us can sing, he says. We just need the chance. That’s what he offers because he believes singing has at least three powerful benefits for anyone who finally gets around to it:

1. Community • “In singing we find our tribe,” says Sills. We work together to create something beautiful in this age of loneliness. With one of his choirs, he has made sure the rehearsal space is about a two-minute walk from a pub, because the camaraderie carries on after the work is done. Choirs are communities that draw closer with every practice and performance. They are practicing both singing and connection to others (also known as friendship).

2. Self-Discovery • Because, says Sills, “singing brings you into the moment and into yourself” like few things can.

3. Catharsis • Singing is joyful release. Blood pressure drops. Endorphins flow. “The one that blows my mind,” says Sills, “is that it helps our hearts synchronize."

Singing with others is particularly good for men. It’s the opposite of rugged macho individualism, the age-old scourge implicated now in all sorts of male mental health issues. “To sing is to make yourself vulnerable,” says Sills.

That’s why The Spooky Men’s Chorale is so jarring to behold and so heart-warming to hear.

Thank you, internet.


Feel free to email me about this post.
I probably can’t respond but would appreciate your insight or story or query, which I might refer to in a future post.

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