We open our hymnals to Hymn 379, and we begin to sing. “God is Love, let heav’n adore him / God is Love, let earth rejoice …”
Lifting voices together in praise can be a transcendent experience, unifying a congregation in a way that is somehow both fervent and soothing. But is there actually a physical basis for those feelings?
To find this out, researchers of the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden studied the heart rates of high school choir members as they joined their voices. Their findings, published this week in Frontiers in Neuroscience, confirm that choir music has calming effects on the heart — especially when sung in unison.
Using pulse monitors attached to the singers’ ears, the researchers measured the changes in the choir members’ heart rates as they navigated the intricate harmonies of a Swedish hymn. When the choir began to sing, their heart rates slowed down.
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