Come together through carolling

Sing Up explores how carol singing can bring your school community together

From nativities to pantomimes, there are many fun and exciting ways to celebrate Christmas in your school. With such an abundance of different traditions on offer and limited space within your school calendar, this Christmas, Sing Up wants to emphasise the importance of carol singing.

While the logistics of involving students in carol singing may seem daunting at first, carolling can take a number of different forms. Ranging from school carol concerts to taking your singing to the streets, there is no wrong way to go about spreading Christmas cheer through the act of group singing.

Whatever form you choose, carolling is sure to be a memorable and fulfilling experience for those who are singing as well as those who are listening, and it can be the perfect way to bring people together over the holiday season.

Tradition of carolling

Carol singing is a tradition which can be first traced back to over a thousand years ago. Although its exact origins are not certain, some believe that the practice derived from poor citizens singing in hopes of repayment of food or drink, while others believe that carollers travelled door-to-door as they were not allowed to perform in churches.

Today, carolling most conspicuously takes the form of groups of singers bundling up in the cold to spread cheer to the public by singing Christmas songs, often with a purpose of raising money for charity. It has become a joyful and altruistic activity which seems to embody what Christmas stands for. Not only does it also create close bonds between singers, but it also has the power to spread this outward into the wider community.

The science of singing together

While it seems intuitive that singing in a group will foster a sense of community and camaraderie between individuals, there are a number of studies which prove the real extent to which group singing can bring us together.

Researchers at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden discovered that when we sing together as part of a group, not only does our breathing become synchronised, but our hearts beat in time with each other.

Another study, performed by the University of Oxford in 2015, determined that out of a series of different group activities, singing in a group created closer bonds much quicker than any other activity. Singers reported feeling closer to the other members of their group after just one session than was the case for those participating in creative writing or crafts.

The feelings of closeness and opportunities for enhanced social cohesion which group singing offers are the perfect way to build a strong school community as well as foster a greater sense of unity within the wider local community.

Amidst the widening societal divides in our current political climate and an epidemic of loneliness that is growing in the UK, it seems that everyone could benefit from a stronger sense of community. Whether it occurs within your school or in your local community, carol singing is the perfect way to forget our differences and join together to celebrate what we share through song.

Top tips for carol singing

While a perfect musical performance is not the aim of carol singing, sufficient time spent planning in advance is key for any successful carolling experience.

1) Choose your location

You might want to share your singing with as many people as possible by gathering at a local train station or shopping centre, or by visiting a local care home or community space. Alternatively, you might plan to keep your carol singing within the school, in assembly or at a school concert.

2) Choose your repertoire

The best idea is to keep it simple with familiar tunes that everyone will know, while perhaps adding some interest with descants or harmonies. Sing Up provides an essential carol singing booklet to make things easy for you, and an extensive selection of Christmas songs expertly arranged for young voices is also available in our Song Bank, accompanied by teaching tools which make them easy to teach quickly to your students.

3) Determine your purpose

It is certainly reason enough to go carol singing for your own enjoyment or in order to spread joy to members of your school or community. However, if you are planning to sing in a public place, you could also consider choosing a particular cause to raise money for.

4) Recruit more singers

With carol singing, having as many people involved as possible will make the experience even more enjoyable. You could choose to combine your school choir with another group, or extend invitations for parents or other members of your local community to get involved. The more the merrier!

5) Practise

The good thing about Christmas music is that it’s always fun to rehearse. Everyone loves to spend time singing these familiar tunes so it’s a great excuse to get practice without it feeling too much like work. You might even decide to throw in some dance moves to accompany your singing and to liven things up even further for your pupils.

6) Choose your outfits

Deciding on a theme for what your group will wear is a great idea. Dressing up can be a lot of fun and co-ordinating outfits will only add to a feeling of community. Whether you are going all-out in full donkey costumes or if you are donning your loudest Christmas jumpers and festive props, just make sure you are fully equipped with gloves, scarves and warm coats if you’re singing outside!

7) Bring some snacks

Finally, consider bringing some tasty treats for your singers to celebrate with after you have finished singing. The experience will be even more enjoyable if your students know there are delicious mince pies waiting for them afterwards.

If you do get involved in any carol singing this Christmas, we would love to hear about it. Please send over your videos and photos via Twitter @SingUpTweets or via email to press@singup.org. We can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Sing Up offers you a complete singing package through a digital music platform and training so you can place singing at the heart of education.

Sing Up membership packages are flexible and well-loved by teachers across the world. Joining will enable you to cultivate strong communities and healthy, happy and confident individuals.

Membership includes access to all the repertoire you’ll need, from pop to classical, specially arranged to promote good vocal health in young voices. Sing Up’s teaching resources are designed to help you use singing for cross-curricular learning in the classroom or to act as a complete foundation for musical learning across the school, with early years to age 18 and beyond.

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