Here's a little-known - possibly quite unscientific - statistic: more New Zealanders sing in a choir than play rugby.
Praise Be, TVNZ's Sunday morning music show worked out in 2011 that in 25 years some 47,000 people had sung on the programme and then used surveys to declare it meant more NZers are actively involved in choral singing than our national game.
At Christmas, choirs are an integral part of the festivities, much like strawberries and pavlova, summer swims at beaches fringed with pohutukawa trees and drives around neighbourhood streets festooned with lights. So we got in touch with a handful of Auckland choir singers and asked: "Why sing in a choir?"
former trainee early childhood teacher, CeleBRation choir
(Based at the University of Auckland's Centre for Brain Research, this choir started in 2009 and is led by music therapists Alison Talmage and Shari Storie to help people who have experienced brain disease or injury.)
"Six years ago, I had an aneurysm behind my left eye. I was in recovery, after successful surgery, when I experienced two strokes and two seizures. It happened close to Christmas and I spent until the following September in hospital and at rehabilitation centres. My mother Lu and stepdad and caregiver, Dave Fryer, have had to care for me and my children who are now 13 and 10.
"I love singing and had been in a church choir when I was a child in the Philippines and as an adult in NZ before the aneurysm. After the stroke, I was like a 1-year-old baby again; I have had to learn to do everything all over again. I didn't think I would recover.
"One day, in the middle of 2011, a speech-language therapist took me to the CeleBRation Choir and I've been attending ever since. It helps me with my learning to speak again [the choir programme includes vocal and breathing exercises] and helps me make my voice louder and I've gotten to know new people with similar problems that I have. I love singing so it also allows me to sing with a group again."
Dave: "I've read about how singing and mental/physical exercises help to rewire the brain and I think the choir has helped Karen make the tremendous progress she has. It's also given her something to do - an interest - something to look forward to when she was so ill. It's been hard to find something for a younger person who's had a stroke to do; Karen is now 38 talking well, learning to walk and is happy. I'm a real advocate for the choir and have learned to sing and join in."
• The CeleBRation Choir performs with Stellar Singers, the University of Auckland Concert Band and Kids of Note at Santa's Magic Family Christmas at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Parnell on Saturday, December 17 at 12.30pm.
52, is a high school art teacher and a bass with Jubilation Choir
"My dad used to play guitar and sing to us from books of American folk songs, so I grew up with live music as home entertainment, but my first performance in front of an audience was with an art school rock band.
"Jubilation Choir is a secular, a cappella, gospel choir with a very rock and roll attitude. We did the backing vocals on Hollie Smith's Bathe in the River and we're in the new music exhibition Volume at Auckland Museum. I've been with Jubilation since it was founded in 2000. I used to be in Heaven Bent choir, which my dad is now in. We're both basses.
"There are 33 of us in Jubilation, and we do a mix of songs, some featuring soloists and small groups. There's a special feeling when you sing with a small group. There's this clarity, like you're all standing there and you've all got your notes in your head and you've practised it enough that you're really confident that you'll all hit it right from the start. It's an almost out-of-body experience, like you've dissipated into this oneness. It's a cliche to say it's uplifting, but you are lifted out of yourself - there's absolute trust and connectedness and it's exhilarating and powerful."
arrived from the UK in 2009, Stonefields Choir
"We arrived in 2009 and I knew I wanted to find a choir because I enjoy singing and it's a good way to meet people. For various reasons, I couldn't find one that suited me so I decided to start my own based at Stonefields School.
"At first, I told friends and invited them to join then word got around at school and then I went on a 'rampage' and started advertising around my local area. We got 35 people at our first meeting; now we've got around 80. It's just blown out of orbit! They're not all from Stonefields but throughout the eastern suburbs.
"We're not a religious choir and that's another thing; people often associate choirs with church and that's simply not the case. We sing music from all genres: choral music, gospel, world and popular music.
"Why do I sing with a choir? It's addictive! Many people have their own personal reasons to sing, but for me it's a good way of meeting new people and being part of a community. You learn something completely new and there's no better feeling of doing something people might think you can't. It's fun, it makes you feel alive and it's especially good for things like depression and anxiety and, let's face it, we can all go through that."
• The Stonefields Choir performs with Volcanic City Voices at St Matthew in the City today at 4.30pm to raise funds for the Auckland City Mission. See stonefieldschoir.org.nz.
biologist, Auckland Welsh Choir
"I am the least musical member of my family - all of who play several musical instruments and sing. I sang in choirs at school because I enjoy singing. I've spent a lot of time away from Wales; I lived in Hong Kong for 10 years and there was a very strong male voice Welsh choir there but I never joined, despite hoping to, because it was on a different island and would have meant a lengthy ferry trip there and back.
"When I arrived in New Zealand eight years ago, I felt more settled so I looked for a choir to join and, I suspect, happened across the Auckland Welsh Choir online. Many Welsh choirs are male voice only but ours is a mixed choir and we sing a variety of music including Welsh language but more recently we've branched out - we did Catalan recently - particularly because non-Welsh speakers can have trouble with pronunciation.
"Singing in a choir is a heap of fun; it's an expression of my musicality and, when you're on the other side of the world, it's an additional link with home."
JUDITH LINES, contracts office services in the legal profession, Handel Quire & Consort
"I grew up in a family who always sang together. In my teens, I took piano and cello lessons and sang in a local choir. Individual singing lessons began in my 20s in New Zealand and I conducted a small group of women singers for two years. Singing lessons continued as a hobby in France and the UK.
"Most of my choral singing has been with the Handel Quire & Consort in Auckland since 2008. Robert brought together a small, auditioned choir of experienced singers who all want to perform great music. I don't want to sing for a living but I love to sing, so it was ideal for me to join the Handel Quire where I feel comfortable and constantly learn new repertoire.
"Robert is passionate about performing lesser known Handel oratorios, as well as presenting other widely varied themed concerts. I really enjoy the personal interaction of the singers in the group and working with the conductor. We all rely on each other to create the whole. It is rewarding to sing with a baroque orchestra for the larger works, together with professional soloists. To observe an audience and know that they are enjoying a concert - some hearing for the first time a different style of music than what they are accustomed to - is a good experience."
ANNA DONG, former Epsom Girls' Grammar student, New Zealand Secondary Schools Choir (Started in the 1986, the NZSSC began as a "training ground" for the National Youth Choir, which is now the NZ Youth Choir.)
"I think the NZSSC is special because everybody is giving just as much as you are because you all make a commitment to be there and share a passion for singing and making the choir the best it can be. There's an emphasis on learning new skills but also on developing the skills you can bring and, in turn, you take those back to your school.
"Singing in itself is a way to express something within you; it's a personal form of expression and, when you're singing in a choir, it's about connection. That connection is with the other singers but also the audience and audience response is great!"
Anna is now at Princeton on a scholarship as an international student.
• The NZ Choral Federation won the bid to host the 12th triennial World Symposium on Choral Music in Auckland in 2020. The NZ Youth Choir this year won four categories at the 24th annual International Festival of Academic Choirs in the Czech Republic.