From Mozart to Madonna, choirs take centre stage

Singing is fast becoming one of the country's most popular leisure activities. An increase in people wanting to exercise their vocal chords has seen the seen the number of choirs in the UK rise to over 25,000.

An increasing number of people are joining or starting their own vocal groups. They are inspired not just by TV talent shows such as the X Factor and The Voice, but  also by 'Military Wives' choir master Gareth Malone.

Singing has certain health benefits, helping to keep the mind and body fit. It is also a fun hobby, where you get an opportunity to meet like-minded people of all ages.

Not only does singing enhance feelings of well-being and boost the immune system; singing has been  linked with a lower heart rate, decreased blood pressure and reduced stress. It could also help those prone to Asthma by improving lung capacity.

Thousands of people are discovering that choirs come in all shapes and sizes and are as diverse as the people that join them. Singing with a choir is no longer confined to church or seen just as a spiritual activity. 

There are choirs aimed at vocalists of all abilities.  Some require an audition to and expect a basic ability to read music, while others are suitable for complete beginners who are new to singing. Groups aimed at beginners will usually provide you with a CD of the music to help you learn by 'ear'.

Types of choirs

Choral societies
These large choirs are a great place to start if you enjoy classical music. Often performing with an orchestra, they sing concert works such as Handel's Messiah or Mozart's Requiem.

Singing groups and community choirs
There are groups all over the country from which to choose. You'll find groups that remain with one genre such as the Rock Choir or numerous barber shop quartets, and others that  sing 'a bit of everything'. These groups are non religious and you don't have to attend church to join.

Church choirs
If you enjoy singing religious music, singing in church will be an uplifting experience. Many church choirs sing traditional sacred music, while others perform gospel.

Nothing quite matches the feeling of elation you get from singing in harmony with others. Joining a choir will give you the opportunity to do just that, in addition to meeting like-minded people and making new friends.

Whether you want to sing choral works or chart topping hits, you will find a choir that is suitable. Almost anybody can join, from professional musicians to those with little or no singing experience. While many choirs will expect some degree of musical ability,  those aimed at beginners will not require you to audition or to read sheet music.