Scotland’s Singing for Health Network launches new podcast and digital map to help Scots through the power of music and song
A community music initiative that provides support for refugee and asylum seeker women, a choir for carers that helps reduce stress and anxiety and a singing group for people experiencing memory loss or dementia … they’re just a few of the groups helping Scots through the power of song.
They’re part of Scotland’s Singing for Health Network, a community of singing practitioners, researchers and medical professionals who are passionate about music and how it can improve health and wellbeing.
On March 7, the network will launch a new six-part podcast series where experts will share how singing can help manage a variety of health conditions.
A digital map will also be unveiled on the organisation’s new website, which will provide the first comprehensive list of Singing for Health services in the Greater Glasgow area. Over the next year, the Royal Society of Edinburgh-funded network will be mapping Singing for Health groups across Scotland and encourage groups to get in touch if they wish to be included.
Designed to be used both by individuals and health professionals, including GPs, users can search the map for singing groups in their area that work with people with specific conditions, everything from lung health and Long Covid to dementia and Parkinson’s Disease. The map will also offer evidence-based research on how singing can alleviate symptoms or boost mental health.
“Singing is a really important part of healthcare and has so many benefits,” said Dr Brianna Robertson-Kirkland of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, who leads on Scotland’s Singing for Health Network, alongside Liesbeth Tip from the University of Edinburgh and research assistant Sophie Boyd, who is also a Singing for Health practitioner.
“Practicing breath control can help some people with their lung conditions or for people affected by dementia, it could be tapping into their memory banks with songs they might have sung twenty or thirty years ago or using singing to connect to family or friends.
“Each podcast episode will offer an insight into what group sessions might look like and show that singing isn’t this scary thing! So many people say they can’t sing or feel nervous about singing in public, so the podcast is designed to give them a flavour of what to expect when they do go along to a group.”
Dr Robertson-Kirkland knows first-hand how powerful music and song can be. She was a singing for health practitioner before joining the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland as a lecturer in Historical Musicology.
She shares her own moving story in a podcast episode: “My grandmother loved to sing but at the end of her life, she was losing her speech. She wanted me to constantly sing to her and I would sing songs that were important to both of us.
“Singing for health has such a deep personal and professional connection for me – I’ve seen it first-hand with my grandmother and as a practitioner. I was a leader for the Musical Memories Choir in Hamilton, which is a dementia singing for health group.
“People who had dementia would come to life as they remembered songs from their past and it was a moment of joy for their loved ones to see that connection – they’d get a hint of that person before dementia had taken hold.”
Before working with Musical Memories, Dr Robertson-Kirkland was a play leader and co-ordinator for Capability Scotland and had performed as a singer in hospices and care homes.
“Singing can benefit in a variety of different health areas and it made me think ‘why is this not more known about’. That’s what we hope to achieve with Scotland’s Singing for Health Network – to get the word out there and share opportunities that could help people all around the country.”