This week, I want to talk about singing. There are two definitions I found from the Oxford Dictionary, the first is: ‘the activity of performing songs or tunes by making musical sounds with the voice, the singing of hymns in Latin’. The second is: ‘melodious whistling and twittering sounds made by a bird or birds or the cries of laughter from children’. The Cambridge Dictionary states that: ‘singing is the activity of making musical sounds with the voice, usually a tune with words.’ Somewhat clinically, Britannica suggests: ‘singing is distinguished from speaking by the manner in which the breath is expended to vibrate the vocal cords.’

Not one definition suggests it might just be for fun. That people sing when they are happy, or sing along to a tune they like and remember the words to, or from a musical show they liked.

Most people will shy away from singing publicly, unless perhaps they have had one too many or are a Karaoke fan! Others bracket choirs with ‘churchy’ stuff, with visions of little boys in ruffed collars and serious-looking adults draped in black robes.

A choir for every singer

Well, let me tell you, choirs are alive and kicking in Portugal, with 19 listed, and probably as many unlisted, and they aren’t all attached to churches - some are, and some indeed have singing preferences and different languages, but there is a choir for every singer, good or bad.

I had the privilege of witnessing the fantastic Pennsylvania State University Men’s Glee Club Choir, during the opening concert of the XXIII Semana Coral de Lagoa, on May 14, 2023, in the Carlos do Carmo Auditorium, Lagoa in the Algarve, with thanks to the Municipality of Lagoa for welcoming and supporting this production. Goodness me, I was blown away by the choir’s dedication and skill, not only the singers themselves but their conductor. It was like he was pulling strings to make them sing higher, lower, softer, louder, with gusto or pathos.

I belong to a choir myself, Just Sing, a community choir in Guia, which means anyone can join, regardless of their singing ability. We have a talented and experienced leader Antonio, who has the patience of a saint as we struggle to learn new songs and harmonies, but we are all there because we enjoy singing. When we finally get a song together, we are jubilant - we all hope that the odd flat note has gone unnoticed (it usually isn’t, but who cares). We made new friendships too, going out socially on occasions, but what draws us together is the love of singing. Some have got serious stuff going on in their private lives, and coming together once a week for two hours is a chance for ‘me time’ to get away from the norm, and raise their spirits. Most just like to sing for pleasure – I am no great singer myself, and heartily dislike karaoke, and wouldn’t dream of standing alone on stage - good grief, no, no, no. But in a group, it is good fun and the sound we make puts us all in a good mood, and we leave with the latest song buzzing around our heads.

Find one near you

I shamelessly admit that this is a bit of advertising for Just Sing, and we would love to attract new members, male and female, so if you are curious, come along to Guia Community Hall, opposite the Market building, on Wednesdays at 18.00-20.00hrs just to listen if you aren’t brave enough to join in. You will be made more than welcome, and any one of us will answer questions. Most of us don’t even read music, so don’t let that put you off! We have lyrics printed and we practice – sometimes with much laughter – when someone has lost a page or left their folder at home. We get by and help each other.

I can’t speak for other choirs across Portugal, but I would bet my last cent that they all get enjoyment from their singing, whether it be formal or fun. Ask around - there’s bound to be one nearby that’s just right you.


Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man. 

Marilyn Sheridan