IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Group singing as a resource for the development of a healthy public: a study of adult group singing


  • David A. Camlin

    () (Royal College of Music)

  • Helena Daffern

    (York Centre for Singing Science, AudioLab, University of York)

  • Katherine Zeserson

    (Harmony Associates)


A growing body of evidence points to a wide range of benefits arising from participation in group singing. Group singing requires participants to engage with each other in a simultaneous musical dialogue in a pluralistic and emergent context, creating a coherent cultural expression through the reflexive negotiation of (musical) meaning manifest in the collective power of the human voice. As such, group singing might be taken—both literally and figuratively—as a potent form of ‘healthy public’, creating an ‘ideal’ community, which participants can subsequently mobilise as a positive resource for everyday life. The experiences of a group of singers (n = 78) who had participated in an outdoor singing project were collected and analysed using a three-layer research design consisting of: distributed data generation and interpretation, considered against comparative data from other singing groups (n = 88); a focus group workshop (n = 11); an unstructured interview (n = 2). The study confirmed an expected perception of the social bonding effect of group singing, highlighting affordances for interpersonal attunement and attachment alongside a powerful individual sense of feeling ‘uplifted’. This study presents a novel perspective on group singing, highlighting the importance of participant experience as a means of understanding music as a holistic and complex adaptive system. It validates findings about group singing from previous studies—in particular the stability of the social bonding effect as a less variant characteristic in the face of environmental and other situational influences, alongside its capacity for mental health recovery. It establishes a subjective sociocultural and musical understanding of group singing, by expanding on these findings to centralise the importance of individual experience, and the consciousness of that experience as descriptive and reflective self-awareness. The ways in which participants describe and discuss their experiences of group singing and its benefits points to a complex interdependence between a number of musical, neurobiological and psychosocial mechanisms, which might be independently and objectively analysed. An emerging theory is that at least some of the potency of group singing is as a resource where people can rehearse and perform ‘healthy’ relationships, further emphasising its potential as a resource for healthy publics.

Suggested Citation

  • David A. Camlin & Helena Daffern & Katherine Zeserson, 2020. "Group singing as a resource for the development of a healthy public: a study of adult group singing," Palgrave Communications, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 7(1), pages 1-15, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:pal:palcom:v:7:y:2020:i:1:d:10.1057_s41599-020-00549-0
    DOI: 10.1057/s41599-020-00549-0

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: Abstract
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Stephen Hinchliffe & Mark A. Jackson & Katrina Wyatt & Anne E. Barlow & Manuela Barreto & Linda Clare & Michael H. Depledge & Robin Durie & Lora E. Fleming & Nick Groom & Karyn Morrissey & Laura Salis, 2018. "Healthy publics: enabling cultures and environments for health," Palgrave Communications, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 4(1), pages 1-10, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Melanie Rock & Gwendolyn Blue, 2020. "Healthy publics as multi-species matters: solidarity with people’s pets in One Health promotion," Palgrave Communications, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 7(1), pages 1-8, December.
    2. Christopher J. Colvin & Myrna Pinxteren & Mandla Majola & Natalie Leon & Alison Swartz & Nonzuzo Mbokazi & Mark Lurie, 2020. "Fostering a healthy public for men and HIV: a case study of the Movement for Change and Social Justice (MCSJ)," Palgrave Communications, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 6(1), pages 1-8, December.
    3. Krithika Srinivasan & Tim Kurz & Pradeep Kuttuva & Chris Pearson, 2019. "Reorienting rabies research and practice: Lessons from India," Palgrave Communications, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 5(1), pages 1-11, December.
    4. Henrice Altink, 2020. "Tackling child malnutrition in Jamaica, 1962–2020," Palgrave Communications, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 7(1), pages 1-14, December.
    5. Wilson, Marisa & McLennan, Amy, 2019. "A comparative ethnography of nutrition interventions: Structural violence and the industrialisation of agrifood systems in the Caribbean and the Pacific," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 228(C), pages 172-180.
    6. Vasiliki Kioupi & Nikolaos Voulvoulis, 2020. "Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Assessing the Contribution of Higher Education Programmes," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 12(17), pages 1-17, August.
    7. Steve Hinchliffe & Andrea Butcher & Muhammad Meezanur Rahman, 2018. "The AMR problem: demanding economies, biological margins, and co-producing alternative strategies," Palgrave Communications, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 4(1), pages 1-12, December.
    8. Jennifer Gabrys, 2020. "Planetary health in practice: sensing air pollution and transforming urban environments," Palgrave Communications, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 7(1), pages 1-11, December.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:pal:palcom:v:7:y:2020:i:1:d:10.1057_s41599-020-00549-0. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Sonal Shukla) or (Springer Nature Abstracting and Indexing). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.