Fit in my 40s: Mamma mia! Can I really work out by singing Abba? – The Guardian

Mark De-Lisser is a voice coach, lately a media one, making heart-warming reality shows in which he builds community choirs to beat loneliness, or the solitude of dementia, or just to soften the condition of being human. Many benefits are psychological, in a space beyond (but passing through) mindfulness, where you make your heart sing by singing. But there are physical benefits, too, from posture to breathing to a muscular skeletal reboot, which is why Im in De-Lissers studio though I want my heart to sing as much as the next man.

In its anteroom are photos of Mark in front of his choirs: one catches my eye, a bunch of middle-aged women, all in green evening dress like bridesmaids to a bride determined to outshine them, looking absolutely pleased as punch to be standing next to him. I bet theyre singing Abba, I thought. No way on Gods Earth am I singing an Abba song.

Deeper breath, he starts. Singing encourages you to use deeper breath. Its like exercise you release endorphins in the body. There are, he says, benefits to this, including clearing toxins out of the lungs, and thereby the blood. There is a whole deep-breathing culture, spun out of yoga, with precisely this in mind: the benefit here is that you also get to make a noise.

But first, work on your posture: if you store a lot of tension in your shoulders, it makes your voice strained and weak. We spend quite a bit of time relaxing, teaching my arms how to go limp. It is work a person could do on their own, and quite engrossing, provided you can accept relaxation as an activity in its own right (this is what often stands between a person and self-improvement, Ive decided; not a lack of willpower, just an inability to pause).

Of course, at some point I have to sing. Whats your favourite song? asks De-Lisser. My mind is blank. Everyones mind is blank at that point. OK, now its worse than blank; its an abyss. What were you listening to on the way here? No Children, by the Mountain Goats. Its the most complicated song ever. I could probably play it, he says (he is extremely musical, needless to say, a chorister since he was a child). But is there anything else you know? Waterloo! I know the words to Waterloo!

And thats how I came to be singing Abba, in a soundproofed room in Croydon. The first rendition was a washout, thin and breathy and peculiarly whiny. The second was a bit more disciplined in terms of breathing you have to breathe, deeply, wherever the line allows, and this does force you into taking authentic big breaths, whether you like it or not. For the third, Mark tried tirelessly to persuade me to go louder, to try and reach the cheap seats, and I had to say (this is a pure manners question), I dont agree with being incredibly loud unless youre incredibly good. Who decides whats good? he says, which is calming without being all that persuasive.

To improve at singing, you would need a coach, and for more than one lesson; to improve at breathing, though, one song a day, at full volume, is inexplicably energising.

People tend to want to sound like other people. You have to strip away the mimicry before you can hear your natural sound and tone, Mark De-Lisser says.

Continued here:
Fit in my 40s: Mamma mia! Can I really work out by singing Abba? - The Guardian

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