Physiotherapists from the University of Plymouth are working with a Devon-based charity to explore how singing is improving their breathing and overall wellbeing.
The Singing for Wellness project, run by Wren Music, has received funding from the National Lottery Community Fund to run sessions in three locations in the county for the next three years.
It follows a successful NHS-funded pilot in Torbay before the pandemic, with the new sessions taking place in East Devon, West Devon, and Torbay.
Singing can be of particular benefit to people with respiratory conditions and those suffering the effects of long Covid, but many in this vulnerable group are anxious about attending group events and remain socially isolated.
The Singing for Wellness sessions aim to overcome some of those barriers and are run by three singing leaders from Wren Music, who have all received specialist training from
Mrs Kath Donohue, Programme Lead for BSc (Hons) Physiotherapy at the University of Plymouth.
Kath, who worked as a physiotherapist for more than 30 years specialising in long term respiratory conditions before joining the University, will also be working with the leaders to assess the impact of the sessions on participants’ respiratory health and mental wellbeing. She said:
“Respiratory diseases can cause a number of issues that impact on people’s quality of life. One of the principle ones is breathlessness, and in a number of conditions the diaphragm becomes dysfunctional and less efficient. We are constantly looking for techniques that can help patients to manage their condition, and singing has been shown to have a number of benefits. It will be fascinating to explore that through this project with Wren Music, and to see how the sessions they are running are having positive impacts for people and their families.”
Wren Music is run by professional singers and musicians and delivers projects with vulnerable groups including children with disabilities, adults in care homes, and children in the care system. It also has community choirs and orchestras across Devon.
Each of the new sessions start with a series of breathing, relaxation and oxygenation exercises followed by pitch, tuning and harmonising exercises, before the group learns and sings a few songs.
In East Devon, the new sessions are on Mondays, from 1.30pm to 3.30pm at Honiton Family Church, High Street, Honiton. In West Devon, the choir meets on Thursdays, from 1.30pm to 3.30pm at Pavilion in the Park, Mill Road, Okehampton. In Torbay, the sessions are also on Thursdays, from 1.30pm to 3.30pm, at The Windmill Centre, Pendennis Road, Torquay.
Paul Wilson, one of the singers leading the sessions, said:
“We are getting some amazing feedback from the Singing for Wellness sessions we’ve held since January. I can see people brightening up in front of me as we’re doing the sessions, they are energised, and there’s a lot of laughter, which is great. Someone said that Singing for Wellness should be available on prescription. Sadly, we know there are quite a few people who could really benefit from coming to the Singing for Wellness choirs, but they are still very nervous, which is completely understandable. We’d love more people to come along, have a cuppa, meet new people, and see how singing might help them.”