Christmas is coming, are your goose bumps getting fat?

The leaves were still on the trees and winter woollies still in the bottom drawer, September was still showing on the kitchen wall calendar and we were rehearsing “We need a little Christmas”!

Such are the joys of the Winter term in Inspiration Southampton. Pete tried to avoid ‘the C word’ at the same time as trying to teach us how to pronounce it – without hissing like a pitful of Indiana Jones’ least favourite reptiles – and we adjusted to having seasonal ear worms in our heads long before the department stores.

Ah, Christmas music! The warm tunes that remind so many of us of huddling around a fire surrounded by family and triggers memories of pine scents, mistletoe, and mulled wine. The sounds which, for at least half of us, can actually give us goose bumps.
A recent study of brain scans by scientists at the University of Southern California, seems to show that, while listening to music some people (those with a higher volume of fibres linking their auditory cortex to the part of the brain that processes emotions) “reacted to songs in a heightened manner” with resulting goose bumps.

I suspect I may be one of those with this wiring between my ears. When the choir is warming up at the start of our weekly rehearsals we often hum our first few rising scales until Pete signals to change from humming to singing “Ah…” Hearing this never fails to make the hairs on my arms stand on end.

Similar effects can be prompted by memories linked to a certain song. However, it does not need to be a well-known song as, similar to my reaction to the whole choir singing “Ah…”, the sensation can simply be caused by a new voice or key change being introduced. A repeated melody that builds up slowly can have the same effect as well and there are certainly some of all of these to listen out for in our programme today. So, if in the course of the afternoon you find some of our songs giving you the shivers (or not) you will at least know that you are not alone!

If after hearing the concert today you feel the Inspiration to join us, you would be most welcome to come along to our first ‘open’ rehearsal of the Spring term, held on Wednesday 24 January, 7:15pm at Richard Taunton College, Hills Lane, Southampton, SO15 5RL.

For more information, please visit:

Alan Matlock, Bass, Inspiration Choir Southampton

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