Why Did the Burning of Notre Dame Start People Singing?

February 9, 2020

What do a crowd of Parisians watching the Notre Dame on fire and the Singing Cops of Buffalo, New York and have in common? The experience of singing as a way to connect with people around them. Why is this important? You may be surprised…

Michael Norwood and Moe Badger are policeman who were recorded breaking into song at a restaurant in Buffalo. (check them out here  The video went viral and changed the dynamic of policing for the two singers. "When people see us, people demand us to sing now," Norwood explained. Even when they pulled someone over, the first thing the driver said was “You’re the singing cops–I want a song right now!”

They were inspired to start a program called "COPSS" — which stands for Children Overcoming Police Stereotypes through Sports. Now kids tell the officers that they want to grow up to be like them. Why does singing in public have this kind of effect?

Singing together humanizes us, as we are both the singers and the audience.”

Singing together is a tribal activity that many of us have lost track of. When we see and hear people singing, we’re reminded that singing is a powerful way to share ourselves with others. When we sing together, we bring together–our hearts and our emotions. Just ask the Singing Cops…

Another example of this happened on April 15, 2019 when the Notre Dame caught fire in Paris. Throngs of stunned folks crowded into the streets to watch one of the most iconic buildings in Europe being devoured by flames (luckily, most of the cathedral was spared.)

As the crowd stood mourning, they broke out in song, singing Ave Maria. The video’s been watched over 10 million times on social media, with many users referring to the scene in Paris as “moving” and a powerful moment of bringing people together. Why do crowds break into song in situations like this?

Singing together is one of the most natural ways to deal with strong emotions.”

At funerals, weddings, commencement ceremonies, sporting events–wherever emotions are strong, people may break into song. Studies have shown singing together raises our pain threshold, releases endorphins and dopamine, increases the efficiency of our breathing and makes us feel more connected to each other.

To recap, singing (especially together) makes us feel more connected and helps us deal with strong emotions. You don’t have to be professional, you don’t have to be good, you just have to be willing. By right of birth you’re a member of The People’s Choir. Go ahead–sing!

Mark Bosnian

Mark is an award-winning songwriter and professional voice coach with 30+ years of experience teaching people how to take center stage. He has toured nationally with the 80's hit band Nu Shooz and coached Grammy award nominees, American Idol semifinalists, and singers on The Tonight Show.