Happiness research added to UBC Okanagan Minds and Music events

Does music make you happy? Researchers at UBC Okanagan hope to better understand the connection between music and happiness over the next year, with the help of audiences attending the university's Minds and Music series of music presentations.

The research project gets underway next Tuesday evening, April 3, with the final Minds and Music event of the current season at UBC Okanagan. Two popular choirs -- the Okanagan Festival Singers from Kelowna, and AURA Chamber Choir from Vernon -- get together to present a joint rehearsal of Handel's Israel in Egypt, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Admission is free and open to everyone.

In their music and happiness research project, principal investigator Dr. Mark Holder, Assoc. Prof. of Psychology, and graduate student Judi Wallace will be asking the audience to complete brief questionnaires before and after the performances, rating their own level of happiness and satisfaction.

"Though previous research has shown that music can influence emotions, including happiness, these studies usually involve short pieces of music -- less than 1 minute -- in a laboratory," Holder says. "We want to assess the effect of music on the audience and performers in a more naturalistic setting."

Minds and Music organizer Dr. Manuela Ungureanu, Assoc. Prof. of Philosophy at UBC Okanagan, says Tuesday evening's joint rehearsal workshop will be a rousing musical experience.

"More than 70 choristers are performing a very complex piece of music -- at times with the choirs alternating and then all together. It's a huge experience," she says.

"We want the public to attend and participate in the study, and enjoy a powerful musical presentation."

If you have your music sheets, bring them to follow along with the instructions and touch-ups, she advises. That's a tip from an insider -- in addition to organizing the series, Ungureanu is an Okanagan Festival Singer.

In its first year, the Minds and Music series presented four concerts at UBC Okanagan. Over the past year, that number grew to nine on-campus concerts plus a master class with world-renowned dramatic tenor Ben Heppner.

"We're looking forward to a great third season starting in September," says Ungureanu. "The Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences Endowment Fund has co-sponsored next season. That funding support is specifically to enable research to be done in conjunction with the music series."

The UBC Okanagan Campus Life and Student Services offices are also sponsoring the series. Donations toward a baby grand piano fund for UBC Okanagan are gratefully accepted at all Minds and Music events.

The April 3 joint rehearsal workshop is a preview to the Okanagan Festival Singers' special 20th-anniversary concert, which will be held Saturday, May 5, at the Kelowna Community Theatre, and Sunday, May 6, at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre.

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