Group Picture "Zangerscollectief", Belgien © Jonas Persson

5 fun and interesting facts you didn't know about choirs

Unknown facts and trivia about the world of choirs and choral singing

International Choral Scene

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If you sing in a choir or consider yourself as a choir fan, then you probably know about a list of truly niche things only true choristers know about...

“The weirder the warm-up, the better it is…”

“There are never enough tenors…”

“There is always at least one diva in each choir…”

There is a variety of inside jokes, commonplaces, and memes choristers share, and you might even be a choir fanatic and know the most trivia facts… 

But we decided to challenge you!

We wanted to take your knowledge even further and we collected five fun and interesting facts concerning the world of choirs, choristers, and choral singing we bet you didn’t know!

  • What do you know about the oldest surviving choral repertoire in the world?
  • Have you heard what the university of Oxford says about the benefits of singing in a choir?
  • What about the absurd, mind-blowing effect of simultaneous singing on a group of choristers?
  • Did you know a Guinness World Record was won… by a choir?
  • What do you know about the World Choir Ranking of the best choirs in the world? What if you were on the TOP 1000?

Keep reading and test your knowledge about the choir world!

FACT #1: The oldest choral repertoire was sung in unison and carved in stone

The oldest unambiguously choral repertoire surviving today dates back to Ancient Greece. Of this, the Delphic hymns (2nd century BC) and the hymns of Mesomedes (2nd century AD) are the most complete. In Ancient Greece, singing was meant in unison. Moreover, the original Greek chorus sang its part within Greek drama, as we found in the fragments of the works Orestes (by Euripides) and Ajax (by Sophocles) thanks to surviving papyri. 

Both Delphic Hymns were addressed to Apollo and were found inscribed on stone fragments at Delphi in 1893.

FACT #2: Singing in a choir is good for your physical and mental health, according to Oxford

An article by the University of Oxford stated that although this area is particularly challenging to research scientifically - since it’s very hard to find a suitable “control” activity - “a number of recent developments have helped us to understand how group singing can improve physical and mental health, as well as promote social bonding.”

Singing has proved to bring physical benefits such as improved breathing, posture, and muscle tension. It also showed to be effective in pain relief. At the same time, since learning new songs is cognitively stimulating and requires the use of memory, it has been shown that singing can improve our mental agility and even help those suffering from dementia. 

Singing can then have a positive effect on our mental health, too, both for the release of neurochemicals such as β-endorphin, dopamine, and serotonin, and for the group and teamwork-based setting stimulating and strengthening a feeling of togetherness and social well-being.

FACT #3: Choir singers not only harmonize their voice but they also synchronize their heartbeats

Researchers in Sweden who monitored the heart rates of singers performing together a variety of choral work found that, when the members sang in unison, their pulses began to speed up and slow down at the same rate. The scientists studied 15 choir members singing a variety of different works and determined that the more structured the work, the more the choristers’ heart rates were synchronized. 

The reason formulated by scientists for this synchrony was that choral singers coordinate their breathing, and the human pulse follows the rhythm of inhalations and exhalations.

FACT #4: A choir in India won the Guinness World Record as the largest choir in the world

The largest choir consisted of 121,440 people and was organized by The Art of Living (India), in Perungalathur (Chennai, India) on January 30, 2011. The organization for the event used 2,429 stewards and the choir sang in unison for over 5 minutes. The choir is listed in the Guinness World Records as the largest choir in the world.

FACT #5: There’s even an official World Ranking for the best choirs in the world 

Back in 2000, INTERKULTUR started carrying out its competitions according to the MUSICA MUNDI” quality seal and evaluation method. This frame of reference made it possible to start an overall comparison of all competing choirs over the years and to thus create the first INTERKULTUR World Rankings. The ranking system features the TOP 50 choirs from all over the world in each one of the 8 different categories, plus an overall TOP 1000 ranking.

If you’re curious to see what choirs are currently listed as the best in the world, check out the INTERKULTUR World Rankings here.

So, how many of these interesting choir facts did you already know? 

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