At the start of lockdown, Gareth Malone started an online choir. Over 30,000 people would regularly join in at 5:30 every weekday. I was one of them.
The EP we recorded is being released tomorrow, with profits going to NHS Charities. I sing on three of the four songs, with accompaniment by the London Symphony Orchestra (I didn’t record You Are My Sunshine, the video of which is also being released tomorrow).
Over 3,000 of us joined a ‘Friends’ Facebook group. One suggested we send a ‘thank you’ song to Gareth, and it was decided to rewrite the lyrics to Abba’s Thank You For The Music to tell our story and include the song titles / warmups we’ve been working on.
I was one of the 40 lyricists. For example, I wrote the penultimate line: “Maybe we’ll meet one day in real life, instead of virtually”. I also trained the group admins how to use Zoom, and co-hosted rehearsals for up to 711 participants at a time.
Amazingly, Abba granted permission for us to record our version of the song (as far as I know, they’ve never let anyone do anything like that before). At Decca’s request, we’ve also recorded a version with the original lyrics – I’ll share that when it’s out.
You may be able to spot me at 3:58 (on the side, 3 rows down), and my name is in the credits at 4:50.
And now we’re waiting for Gareth’s response, if any (he’s on holiday, so there’s no hurry).
Our custom lyrics (with my notes added):
We’re all at home and in fact it’s a bit of a bore
If we watch TV, we’ve probably seen it before
Then Esther asked Gareth to teach us to sing (1)
Great British Home Chorus became a real thing
We’re so grateful and proud
All we want is to sing it out loud
So we say…
Thank you for the music
The songs we’re singing
Thanks for all the joy you’re bringing
Danger Men and Good Dogs (2)
Singing in harmony, we hope you agree
Despite the technical difficulties (3)
We all say thank you for the music
We feel like family (4)
Now we are globally singing, it makes us all smile
Rehearsals can help us forget about life for a while
And now we’re a choir, together each day
Singing tongue twisters, sirens and ooh loo la lay (5)
From your swish garden shed (6)
You’ve taught songs till they’re stuck in our heads
So we say…
Thank you for the music
The feels, the laughter (7)
We’ll remember ever after
There’s no doubt about it
Our choir keeps our hopes alive
Helps us survive
Thanks to you and to Decca, we’ll thrive (8)
As we go somewhere only we know (9)
Each day at half past five (10)
We’ve been so lucky
Finding our voices, finding friends
We wanna sing it out to everybody
What a joy, what a life, what a chance
Thank you for the warmups, the notes we’re hitting
We’re still standing, we’re not quitting (11)
You have been our sunshine (12)
We say in all honesty
Because our world isn’t ordinary (13)
Maybe we’ll meet one day in real life
instead of virtually (14)
Meanwhile, it’s thank you for the music, from your GBHC
Gareth, we say thank you!
(1) Dame Esther Rantzen suggested in a TV interview that Gareth start a choir to keep the nation’s spirits up during lockdown
(2) Our favourite warmups included ‘Danger Men at Work’ and ‘My Dog is a Good Dog’
(3) We’ve all faced technical difficulties throughout… but we’ve got through them
(4) One of the songs we worked on was ‘We Are Family’ by Sister Sledge
(5) More of our regular warmups
(6) Fortunately, Gareth had recently built a soundproofed music room at the end of his garden
(7) When singing something emotional, he’d experience “the feels”. And he’s very funny, so there was much laughter
(8) Decca is the record label whose YouTube channel Gareth used to use. They have supported our ‘thank you’ song, and are releasing the EP tomorrow.
(9) The EP includes our version of the Keane song ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ (it was my favourite). The lyric refers to YouTube
(10) For weeks, Gareth led the chorus at the same time every weekday, before changing to weekly on his own YouTube channel. He’s currently taking a well earned summer break with his family, and promises to be back in the autumn if the pandemic continues
(11) We recorded Elton John’s ‘We’re Still Standing’ for the EP
(12) ‘You Are My Sunshine’ is the video being released tomorrow
(13) We also recorded ‘Ordinary World’ (this line is one of my suggestions)
(14) Gareth has said we’ll all meet and sing together when we’re able to – that’s what we’re working towards next (this line is another of mine)