Monday, 17 September 2018

The joy of rediscovering an old interest

I know I have mentioned this in previous blogs but since giving up alcohol, I have been surprised at how much more time I have on my hands.  Whereas before I would go out drinking until late on a Friday and Saturday and then struggle with debilitating hangovers, which sucked the life out of me for at least 24 hours, I am now almost always in bed before midnight (and much earlier on a school night) and up by 7am.  My new normal is feeling energised, with a desire to fill my days, rather than festering on a sofa gorging carbs and feeling lethargic.  Over the past eight alcohol-free months I have increased my hiking, yoga and swimming, read prolifically, dedicated more time to sailing and diving and spent more time writing.

However, recently I have been feeling a little low and I started to consider whether I could find a new interest that would fill my time, keep my brain occupied and give my mental health a boost.  Thinking back to my childhood, when going out drinking was not my primary hobby, I remembered how much I had loved singing and being part of a choir.  My mother sings in the prestigious London Concert Choir and has suggested for a while that I should join a choir.  So, finally listening to my mother's advice - see mum, I do sometimes listen - I started researching choirs in Hong Kong.

Through some online searches, I found a choir called the Cecilian Singers, that looked as though they sang the type of choral music I enjoyed singing, and didn't look too amateur (i.e. you had to get through an audition), or too professional (i.e. the ability to sight read was a nice to have, rather than obligatory).  I contacted the choir, who were just about to start rehearsing for their Christmas concert and I was invited to come in for an audition.  So, last Monday after some half-hearted vocal warm-up exercises at home, I went along for my audition with trembling hands and flashbacks to completely terrifying and tearful choir auditions at school overseen by our quite demonic choir mistress.  Fortunately, the audition was much easier than previous choir auditions and I got through and I am now part of the Cecilian Singers choir.  After my audition I stayed on for our first rehearsal.  Most people who know me, know that I love Christmas, so legitimately singing Christmas music in September was my idea of heaven!

There were two things I took from the first rehearsal, the first was that the other choir members were very friendly and welcoming and the second was that I left the rehearsal with the same sort of buzz I get from working out.  I started looking into this and I discovered that firstly research shows that singing in large groups is a great social bonding activity and secondly research has found that  singing releases positive neurochemicals such as β-endorphin, dopamine and serotonin.  So, I am hoping that through being part of the choir I will meet new like-minded people and keep my mind filled with feel-good endorphins.  Aboveall, it is really quite exciting to have relit the flame of an old interest that fell by the wayside for a long time as 'socialising' took over.

For those of you based in Hong Kong who like listening to Christmas choral music, our Christmas concert will take place at St. John's Cathedral in Central on the evening of Wednesday 5th December.  I know this isn't everyone's cup of tea but let me know if you are interested in coming along and I will let you know how you can buy tickets nearer the time.

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