BLOG NO. 9 - RHIDIAN EVANS
Angharad is a highly respected musician, musical director and singer. She’s passionate about working with young people and emerging talent. We’re lucky to have her here at the Torch. Find out more about Angharad by clicking here.
Sing Out for Mental Health
Living in this ever changing, ever more fast-paced world, many people including the young are struggling with their mental health in some form or another. In fact it is estimated that in 2022, 1 in 6 people in the UK experience mental health issues (like anxiety and depression) in any given week. But while this increase in mental health issues such as social anxiety, panic attacks and more is quite worrying there has also been an increase in awareness of the impact of exercising areas of the brain and body that can help us all to reduce these feelings of panic and depression. And this is at the heart of all of my work in performing arts.
My aim through my work - in the community, with the Torch Voices, with young artists on and off stage, is to offer a chance to be creative in a positive and nurturing environment and, simultaneously, giving the vagus nerve a good work out. This allows the body’s fight or flight mechanism to be stimulated, producing a feeling of calm, compassion and connection.
Working with the Torch Voices has always been a joy and a true privilege. Not only does the choir make a glorious sound, creating harmonies and bringing music to life every week, but all of the exercises that we do encourage connection to breath and work toward stimulating the vagus nerve and its calming influence. Often the impact of singing in a group can be forgotten but it is something that humankind has done since the first use of the voice; creating a vocal community and passing songs and stories from generation to generation through folk song and music.
There have been countless studies on the impact of singing on physical and emotional health, but one of the most beautiful facts that I have found is that during our rehearsals all of our heart beats line up; so we are truly a choir in sync with each other and with the music that we sing.
This connection to voice, breath and storytelling is a true gift that we have often forgotten to develop in this “instant” world. Sometimes allowing yourself or your children the chance to step away from technology and into a world of performing and creating gives our body and mind the chance to reconnect, reset and shake off the cares of the day. This is why I aimed throughout the lockdowns to continue offering music and song via the internet. If it reached out to one person and improved their mental health for that short space of time, then that is truly a gift that I am blessed to have given.
During our recent “Legally Blonde Jr” workshop, we were keen to foster an environment of positivity and kindness throughout the whole process. I am passionate that a young artist should never be told “you can’t” or that they are “not enough” in some way. Too many times I have met adults who are afraid to sing or be expressive because a teacher in their past told them that they couldn’t or shouldn’t. My question to those teachers is, can you show me the measurement of “enough”? How do you know that because a young person “can’t” right now, and that given encouragement, time and appropriate positive guidance, they “can” further down the line? And to those adults who have been told this I would just say, why let one person’s opinion stop you from doing something that allows you to feel free and healthier? Try to block out those limiting opinions because often they come from ill-informed or uninformed people. Let your inner voice out, let it sing, and given time maybe it can become what you want it to be.
Back to “Legally Blonde Jr” and alongside our work on breath control, mindfulness and performing for the entire workshop, all our students engaged in positive expression, positive affirmations and kindness to each other. The results were joyous to see, not just in their exceptional performances in just a week’s work, but in their outlook, their ethos and their incredibly supportive attitudes toward each other. It was a true pleasure to witness and be a part of.
Through all of this, I would encourage anyone, any age, any ability, to get out there and engage in some performing arts; get singing, get dancing, get connected to your breath and give that vagus nerve a good work out. Maybe in a few years’ time we can register a decrease in mental health issues and an increase in positivity and creativity.
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