University of Edinburgh: Choir that transforms lives extends its range

A project that showcases the mental health benefits of singing together is being extended to support people who have experienced racism.

The HarmonyChoir initiative – begun by the University’s School of Health in Social Science – is staging an event to highlight the impact racist abuse can have on a person’s wellbeing.

The online concert, which marks the launch of a wider study project, will seek to raise awareness of the impact of racism on mental health. It will also open up a discussion on how people can support those affected.

Project leader Liesbeth Tip, a clinical psychologist based in the School, will also talk about how people who witness racial abuse can be more effective in challenging such situations.

Open forum
Performers from a variety of ethnic backgrounds will highlight their experiences of racism during the performance. Choir members and guest speakers will also discuss questions from the audience.

HarmonyChoir was launched by Ms Tip in 2016. It built on existing research, which showed how being part of a choir has a positive effect upon the singers’ psychological wellbeing.

After a series of rehearsals with professional vocal coaches, the choir performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

During rehearsals, experts gauged how choir singing can help members challenge the stigma surrounding mental health and create a sense of connection with other people.

Facebook Live
The latest event, scheduled for 29 November, will be hosted via Facebook Live and then uploaded to HarmonyChoir’s YouTube channel.

The show – funded by the Society for Theatre Research – is free to watch but audience members can donate to anti-racist organisations if they wish.

A joint study with the University of Roehampton on how best to support those affected by racism will be launched at the event.

Ms Tip said: “This is an opportunity for people to share their experiences and be part of a wider study that seeks to ensure that the voices of people affected by racism are heard.”

Ms Tip, fellow researcher Jingni Ma and choir member Christina McClure have written about the rationale behind the new study for the website, Mental Elf.

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