WHEN Sue Fraser’s husband developed cancer, she needed a distraction. She wanted to take her mind off the horror of having a sick spouse.
Singing duets proved perfect.
Last year Mrs Fraser, 60, joined the University of the Third Age, an organisation set up for seniors to engage in intellectual, social and physical activities. Mrs Fraser performs at university events with her singing partner Christine Rutter, 60.
The pair, who opines they are soul sisters, describes singing together as therapeutic.
“It removes any mask and exposes all vulnerabilities. I know when Christine is upset. You can’t hide your emotions when you’re doing a duet,” says Mrs Fraser.
Within hours of Mrs Rutter hearing the news of Mrs Fraser’s husband she was knocking on her back door. Mrs Fraser says the bond of friendship that evening is a beautiful memory to keep.
“Christine had just heard the news. She came over and we went to Kennington Lake," Mrs Fraser said.
"We played guitar and sung the Beatles as the sun set and the sky turned a remarkable pink.
“Time wasn't of importance. Everything went back to the way it was before.”
Mrs Rutter had hoped that singing would soothe Mrs Fraser’s worries.
“Music is her language so I thought it would help,” Mrs Rutter said.
Victorian College of the Arts music therapist Imogen Clark, says that singing can be helpful because it allows people to express themselves in ways that words can’t.
“Sometimes words cannot express what some-one is trying to say. Often singing can provide a vehicle for a person to articulate how they are feeling,” Ms Clark said.
Although more research is needed, it is thought that singing can lead to increased levels of the happy hormone serotonin.
Drugs which alter serotonin levels are commonly used in the treatment of depression, anxiety disorders, and social phobia.
Ms Clark says this increase in serotonin may be because of physiological similarities between singing and exercise.
“We know that singing requires deep breathing which increases oxygen to your lungs and gets your heart pumping. So it makes sense that singing would have effects similar to exercise,” Ms Clark said.
“Why and how this happens isn't entirely understood just yet though.”
Mrs Fraser says she used to sing in the University of the Third Age’s choir but now prefers singing exclusively with Christine.
“It’s too loud and too intense when singing in a choir, when it’s just Christine and I we can relate to one another. It’s more intimate,” Mrs Fraser said.
Mrs Rutter says that the pair have a deep bond that has been solidified by singing together.
"I love her [Mrs Fraser]. I love her essence. Performing something as meaningful as singing with someone else is a powerful experience," Mrs Rutter says.
The University of the Third Age has allowed Mrs Fraser and Mrs Rutter to share their adoration of singing.
“Music is written to be kept alive. We’re just a link in that chain. Singing is intangible, you can’t hold onto it. You can only hold onto the memory,” Mrs Fraser said.
“The university allows people to experience things that previously were only a dream.”
To find out more about the university head to home.vicnet,net.au/~u3abgo/