This summer, The Frontiers of Neuroscience announced a discovery: When choir members sing together, their heart rates synchronize. It has a lot to do with controlled breathing. Exhaling activates the vagus nerve, a long nerve originating in the brain, which slows the heart’s pulse. In short, a choir that breathes together, beats together.
Beyond physiological alignment, members of The Esoterics, a choral group now in its twentieth season, share a feeling of social responsibility. Marking September as Suicide Prevention Month, the songs they showcased Sunday in a concert called ÆONIA were interpretations of poems by writers who ended their own lives.
A portion of the proceeds was donated to Beyond the Bridge, a foundation that works to reduce the risk of suicides among LGBTQ youth. I spoke briefly with Stacey Prince, the psychologist who cofounded the organization with her partner, Teri Mayo. She told me about her own experiences with suicide, how the foundation raises money, connects youths with help, and creates affirming spaces to reduce risk factors. According to statistics from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, a harrowing thirty to forty percent of LGBT youth have attempted suicide.