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30th Jan 2018

Meet The Women Starting A Music Revolution In Dublin


New Year, New You, eh? That might be how the saying goes but very rarely do those resolutions to be happier, healthier and all-round better actually go to plan. 

So much pressure is put onto people – mostly by themselves – to be the best they can be yet often there’s no real plan to support the changes that they’re hoping to make. Be happier? It’s not something that can be fixed with an apple a day and the odd spin class at the gym. 

One thing that is proven to help increase both mood and general health (without working up a mad sweat) is singing. 

Studies increasingly find evidence that singing is one of the quickest ways to improve both mood and general health; especially singing in a large group. Rushes of endorphins and oxytocin (aka the cuddle hormone) flow to the brain when you belt out a good tune. 

While singing in your bedroom is all well and good, there’s a new musical movement happening in Dublin that’s bringing a whole lotta joy to the city

Mary Lowe O’Gorman and Yvonne McDonald set up adult group singing classes, CÓ seven years ago and have since found it to be a life-changing experience for both themselves and their members.

The repertoire is based on contemporary hits and older classic hits, musicals… The list goes on. Pop, rock, country – all kinds of songs end up with a CÓRus twist.

While members first joined for their love of song, Mary and Yvonne say that they were initially surprised to see such a huge impact that the classes have had on people’s mental health and are now encouraging people to try the classes for a mental boost. “We profoundly believe that your health and wellbeing improves from singing; we’ve seen it happen!” says Mary.

Singing is proven to make you happier – it releases feel-good endorphins into the brain and you get to really let loose 

The members CÓRus are from all ages and walks of life, including cancer survivors, individuals who suffer from anxiety and depression, dementia sufferers and mental health workers. 

There’s even couples who’ve met there romantically (forget about Tinder!) and 29 members are going on a spa break in February, so from a social aspect their 800 members have mingled and made it an important part of their lives.  

Starting the New Year with a mental-health enhancing pursuit like singing in a group can also make it more likely for you to look at taking care of your physical health too, with a balance that’s restored – starting with happiness levels.

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“We want to bring about a singing revolution in Ireland”

Yvonne and Mary emphasised that they’re technically not a choir – you don’t have to audition, read music, or even have to be able to hold a tune. They just want to create a singing revolution and see people put some joy into their everyday lives. Simple.

“Perhaps there’s even an evolutionary aspect to it”, Yvonne says. “We had to be in groups to survive and this is revisited happily every time humans sing together! People don’t have to audition or read music like a lot of choirs expect, that fact helps them relax about joining the classes in the first place. 

“We’re based in 15 locations in the North and South of Dublin and we’re looking at expanding nationwide.”

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Highlights of CÓRus life so far? Having 500 singers on the Late Late Show and seeing first hand the sense of achievement people get from being in the group are some of the most memorable moments

Their inspiration for starting the singing classes came from Mary and Yvonne’s musical background. 

Yvonne says that “Mary and I felt that we had stumbled upon something – in that we felt there were people out there who would love the opportunity to sing but were unlikely to join a more formal choir because they believed they weren’t good enough, couldn’t read music or were worried about having to audition. 

“So, we decided to set up a class teaching people to sing for the joy of it, with no barrier to entry, no need to read music or audition. We printed up a few flyers, found a local venue and set out about a dozen chairs – over 40 people came through the door that first night – so we knew we had touched a nerve –  seven years later that class regularly has 120 attending each week. 

“Córus grew from there we now have nearly 800 weekly class members in 15 classes all over Dublin and beyond and are expanding all the time”

Some of their most memorable moments of Córus over the past seven years include getting a phone call from the Musical Director of the Late Late Show one Friday evening  asking if they could have 500 or more singers available for an appearance on the show.

“The ease at which I found myself saying ‘Yes of course, that’s not a problem what time do you want us?’ still makes me smile.” 

We were standing singing all through reception, along the corridors, through the scene dock and into the studio. It was brilliant, really good fun and the class members enjoyed it so much. 

There are also so many personally memorable moments too, Yvonne and Mary tell Lovin Dublin.

“We have had class members with mental or physical health issues telling us that they feel much better and saying to us ‘You’re on to something with all this singing’. That really gives us a boost. 

“To be honest, we really think after seeing the health benefits from singing that everyone should sing every day. Put on your favourite song and sing along, even if you think you can’t sing. 

It’s like laughter is good medicine, more and more studies are coming out proving that singing, preferably in groups, is even better medicine!” 

What advice would they give to anyone who might say they’re “too busy” to join a singing group? 

‘Not having enough time’ is the biggest excuse (that we’ve all been guilty of) for backing out of something last minute or not committing to making a change for good. But when you think that there’s 168 hours in the week then surely you could squeeze in a sing song?

Córus says that singing classes, however, are specifically designed for busy people. 

Singing has scientifically been proven to be as good for you as a yoga class,” Mary enthused. “It improves breathing, reduces anxiety, encourages bonding and releases feel good hormones like oxytocin. All a class member needs to do is turn up for their hour and a half class each week, leave their troubles at the door and place themselves in the competent hands of our highly qualified music teachers. 

“They will spend the next 90 minutes focusing on their breathing, developing their voice, learning their harmonies, memorising the lyrics, practicing easy movements, having a laugh and performing the songs. 

“Most importantly they will leave on a high – having ‘switched off’ for a few hours and looking forward to doing it all again next week!”

Pass the earplugs: we’re getting ready to sing our hearts out. 

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