Raise your voice – singers urged to support survey
It used to be something that was only ever done at school or church, but collective singing has enjoyed a huge renaissance in the UK in recent years, thanks in no small part to choirmaster Gareth Malone who, through his television shows, has brought the joy of choirs to a whole new demographic. However, praise must also go to a number of organisations committed to changing the choir’s public image and encouraging ever greater numbers to sing.
Voices Now is one such organisation. Having masterminded several successful collaborations between choirs of different backgrounds through festivals and gatherings, it now has bigger ambitions: the Big Choral Census.
Do you know how many choirs exist in the UK? No, nor do we, because there are no definitive figures on choirs in the UK. Choirs are important: they are good for public health, well-being and communities. Accurate data would help funding bodies better understand the importance of choirs in British society, leading to better support and funding. This is why Voices Now is undertaking the largest data-gathering exercise on UK choirs singing ever performed.
Choral Researcher for Voices Now, Elise Boileau, says: “Knowing the number of choirs and sharing information would help efforts to lobby government and funding bodies who can make singing more accessible in the UK, but most importantly it would help to better connect choirs with each other and get more people joining choirs on a regular basis.
“Many people have surveyed different pockets of choirs already or have large membership databases. With this piece of research, Voices Now is pooling this information centrally. No single organisation will benefit from the research. It is designed to support and benefit everyone who takes part.”
This ambitious project plans to measure the social impact of choirs. We know that choirs often have transformative effects on communities and benefit both our physical and mental health. If, indeed, hundreds of thousands of us are attending weekly choirs in the UK, it would represent a sizeable and important contribution to national well-being, one worthy of far greater exposure.
So far, more than 2,700 individuals have completed the online survey and researchers have registered more than 6,000 choirs from existing databases. The charity is convinced that this only scratches the surface of the UK’s singing population. Voices Now want the census to be as comprehensive and inclusive as possible and are recruiting volunteers nationwide to help contact small choirs that are difficult to reach online or don’t belong to a national network.