Text and photos: Majken Ravnkilde

Stress relief is hard to come by in the busy daily life of a university student, but one of the better options are found in Aalborg Stifts Pigekor.

It’s a common fact that music can have a positive effect on mental health, and is often used as a treatment method in the field of psychology. However, this is not just something that benefits psychologically diagnosed people, but is argued by the Danish Knowledge Centre of Work Environment to be a general beneficial activity to prevent stress-like symptoms. This is an important issue demonstrated by a report by the Danish council of knowledge, which shows that the percentage of young people in the age of 16-24 who feel anxious has risen with 5% to a total 25% in 2013 and further in this group the women are the most likely to develop stress in all of society. Therefore, initiatives targeting this particular group of women are more important than ever if we are to prevent that this rise continues to skyrocket, and this is where music could become a valuable tool.

Finding a source of music that really does the trick for you is, nevertheless, a very personal and somewhat difficult task. Therefore, I want to introduce Aalborg Stifts Pigekor with basis in central Aalborg, both because this choir is a great opportunity to break with a sometimes fast-paced lifestyle of the typical university student, but also because I am a singer in the choir myself and therefore have the first-hand experience of this group of music-loving young girls. The choir was started in January 2018 to unite singers in the Aalborg area into one choir. Therefore, to become a member a very small admission test is required to ensure that all members have a clean pitch. Furthermore, most of the songs sung by the choir are in Danish, although some are in English, which is a great opportunity to perfect language skills for English speaking students, since singing and learning language from song lyrics is a very common learning technique.

The music and choir teacher leading this group, Dorthe Græsborg Frederiksen, has 25 years of experience in teaching music and is additionally educated as singer, choir leader and in playing pipe organ and piano. Other than her educational background, she is usually the “life of the party” at rehearsals. She describes working with music as a hobby that has transformed into a job. When speaking of the choir she points out that “We highly prioritise that the members are able to teamwork, the companionship and the social aspect of the group”, and furthermore underlines that “This is something we constantly work on and with, because this needs to be a good place to be and a place where you feel welcome”. She further stresses that this choir is not all traditionally engaged and likes to mix the genres in the repertoire when she states that “Of course, we need to sing songs from the church, but we also need to sing pop and a lot of other things, we need to be able to both be serious and to just be silly in our performance, we need to be able to do a little bit of everything”, and says that the primary function of the choir is to give concerts.

But other than her relation to the choir, Dorthe also has a very personal relation to music in general. She recognises the ability that music can have to destress and improve your general mood and says with a slight laughter: “If I’m finding myself sad or mad, then all I need to do is sit down and play, and then I feel much better. Just a half an hour can really make you human again”. She describes music as a space to breathe and says: “When I sit down and rehearse I’m able to shut everything else out and focus on the piece I have to learn. I imagine it’s the same feeling that people reading a good book have, that you are able to disappear, like I disappear into the music”. She further states that she has seen music build people’s confidence and improve their emotional expression.

But other than the social and de-stressing aspect, why should anybody take up singing? First of all, singing is confirmed to release dopamine, which is the chemical in your brain that triggers happiness. Second of all, an Australian study shows that people who sing with others are happier than the average, confirmed by Professor Don Steward, head of public health at Griffith University in Queensland, who says that people singing in choirs are “Much more satisfied with their health overall and their life in general than everyone else”. The study also shows that singing helps improve your ability to breathe and that it stimulates general circulation.

In my own perspective the working with music, not only in this choir, but in general, has had a huge impact on my daily life. No matter what mood I’m in, going to rehearsals always does the trick for me. For two whole hours of rehearsal everything else is put aside, and when it’s done I always leave with a smile on my face. So if you are just like me, a busy student who sometimes has a hard time making ends meet, this is definitely something I would recommend, which is why my advice to you would be: BELT IT OUT!