Personal, musical and social benefits of singing in a community ensemble: Three case studies in Melbourne (Australia)
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Australia has a diverse, multilayered society that reflects its rich musical life. There are many community choirs formed by various cultural and linguistically diverse groups. This article is part of an ongoing project, Well-being and ageing: community, diversity and the arts (since 2008), undertaken by Deakin University and Monash University, that explores the cultural diversity within Australian society and how active music engagement fosters well-being. The singing groups selected for this discussion are the Skylarkers, the Bosnian Behar Choir, and the Coro Furlan. The Skylarkers and the Bosnian Behar Choir are mixed groups who respectively perform popular music from their generation and celebrate their culture through music. The Coro Furlan is an Italian male choir who understand themselves as custodians of their heritage. In these interpretative, qualitative case studies semi-structured interviews were undertaken and analyzed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. In this approach there is an exploration of participants’ understanding of their lived experiences. The analysis of the combined data identified musical and social benefits that contribute to participants’ sense of individual well-being. Musical benefits occurred through sharing, learning and singing together. Social benefits included opportunities to build friendships, overcome isolation and gain a sense of validation. Many found that singing enhanced their health and happiness. Active music making in community choirs and music ensembles continues to be an effective way to support individuals, build community, and share culture and heritage.