Singing Can Reveal the Meaning of Your Life – Why not Give it a Try?

This section is my own work. However, ‘the very idea’ would not have come about without reading Dr Michael Mosley’s book entitled ‘Just One Thing’. I recommend it to you strongly. He enumerates ‘how simple changes can transform your life’. One such simple change is singing. The claim is that singing can ‘boost mood, reduce anxiety, reduce chronic pain and be fun’. Also, that it can ‘improve mood, reduce stress and inflammation’. Last, singing ‘positive music'(that means anything that you personally like for more than 5 minutes a day is enough to improve your mood’).

This section takes the idea further illustrating how singing, and the associated memories and reflections, can reveal the meaning of your life (or at least some aspects of that meaning). Singing can also facilitate further development of the revealed meaning. The illustration is provided by CP, no stranger to this blog. His contributions on the Tour de France and other occasional pieces can be found throughout the blogsite.


I love to sing. I’ve always loved to sing, but because of my natural reserve, inhibitions, stage fright – call it what you will – I have almost always performed without an audience. Twas not always so. In my late pre-teens I would entertain visitors (usually aunts and uncles) with my boy soprano hymn-singing. ‘Ye Holy Angels Bright’, ‘God is Working His Purpose Out’, ‘We Plough the Fields and Scatter’ : these were my favourites and remain so, with the addition of the sailors’ hymn ‘Eternal Father, Strong to Save’, which I think should be sung by a congregation rather than an individual. I am told that at family gatherings my sister and I would charm our relatives with our gently swaying, hand-in-hand rendition of ‘Now is the Hour’. Although I don’t remember ever doing it, I probably occasionally joined in singing my two school songs, and I still know almost all the words:

Oxford & Elson House School 1948-1954

Scholars of Oxford House are we

There’s gladness in our heart

We work in perfect unity

And try to play our part

De dum de dum de dum de dum

To have in life a purpose

In all we do let goodness lurk

Finis Coronat Opus.

Bancroft’s 1954-1962

Floreat Bancroftia, floreamus pueri

Vivat et memoria fundatoris nostri

Nobis in aeternum magni sint honores

Floreat Bancroftia, floreant rectores

For many years I have kept refreshed and ready a small number of songs which I could call upon to perform in extremis. These include ‘Non, je ne Regrette Rien’, ‘My Old Dutch’ (the full Peter Sellers version), ‘The Folks who Live on the Hill’ (Peggy Lee peerless), ‘When You’re Smiling’** and ‘The Rose of Tralee’. In a weak (or was it strong?) moment I actually did perform the last ditty, tugging at the heartstrings of my friend Liz Brinig with my tender rendition. This happened in a quiet moment at a weekend house party, in which the usual singing was in a group of us round the pianola lustily belting out the likes of ‘South of the Border’.

** When you’re smiling, when you’re smiling

The whole world smiles with you.

When you’re laughing, when you’re laughing

The sun comes shining through

But when you’re crying you bring on the rain

So stop you’re sighing, get happy again

Keep on smiling ‘cause when you’re smiling

The whole world smiles with you.

Short, simple and easy to sing to. But at her unforgettable 1961 Carnegie Hall concert Judy Garland transformed it with the following:

If you suddenly find out you’ve been deceived, don’t get peeved

If your husband bluntly tells you’re too stout, don’t you pout

And for heavens sakes retain a calm demeanour

When a cop comes up and issues a subpoena

If the groom should take a powder while you’re marching down the aisle

Don’t weep and moan because he’s blown

Just face the world and smile.

‘Cause when you’re crying don’t you know that your make-up starts to run

And your eyes get red and scrappy

Forget your troubles, have yourself a little fun. 

Have a ball, forget it all,

Forget your troubles, c’mon get happy

Keep on smilin’, ‘cause when you’re smiling’

The whole world smiles with you.

Alone in my flat I sing quite a lot, and thanks to YouTube access I can call up just about any song or any piece of music that was ever written, singing along or not as the mood takes me. My era in Pop was the 60s, but I return only rarely to that genre and those days. One exception is ‘The Days of Pearly Spencer (David McWilliams, please, not Marc Almond). I am almost completely ignorant of more recent Pop, though I regularly listen to ‘Chain Reaction’ (Diana Ross is supreme), the Living Tree (Bassey at her best), Pompeii by Bastille and bits and pieces from Pink, Rihanna and early Taylor Swift. Otherwise, Peggy Lee and Judy Garland are my very frequent choices. I also occasionally explore what happened before the 60s: a prime example of the pre-Beatles days is ‘At the Hop’ by Danny and the Juniors from 1957. Garland was really the absolute best of the best, whether giving her all on classic belters like ‘Come Rain or Come Shine’ or pouring out her emotions on ‘The Man that Got Away’. Incidentally, Marc Almond features on a colourful, camp collaboration with Gene Pitney on Pitney’s ‘Something’s Gotta Hold of my Heart’. I’m always dipping into something Italian – perhaps part of a Three Tenors concert, or maybe Hetty and the Jazzato Band, an Anglo-Italian quintet putting their own feel on favourites like Tu Vuó fà L’Americano.

By the Way

We had a small collection of records when I was a child, and the first time I heard a serious classical soprano in full flow was Anni Frind doing her stuff in the Nuns Chorus from Casanova (J Strauss jr). I rarely listen to sopranos but when I do it’s to Tebaldi rather than Callas. I am happier with the contralto register. In my youth its leading exponent was the wonderful Kathleen Ferrier, whose glorious recording of the Northumbrian folk song ‘Blow the Wind Southerly’ was for many years a standing dish on radio programmes like Two Way Family Favourites. A more recent leading contralto/mezzo has been the Swedish star Anna Larsson, who made her international debut in 1997 in Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony with Claudio Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic. A few years later I enjoyed the most thrilling musical evening of my life when she sang, again with maestro Abbado, in an unforgettable performance of Mahler’s Third Symphony at the Albert Hall proms, this time with his hand-picked Lucerne Orchestra. The two words Claudio and Abbado are what I touch most often when I start a YouTube session – not to start singing, just listening, watching and admiring.

When my osteoarthritis gives me a lot of grief and various other aches and pains join in, I sometimes think I’ve had enough. But then I realise that I’ve NOT had enough of Abbado, nor Judy, nor even Danny and the Juniors, so life must go on.