Every Breath You Take (We Watch Over You)
The ICU Liberty Singers is a pop up online choir, open to ICU staff across the NHS, giving critical care workers the opportunity to sing together this Christmas.
The choir is a collaboration between Kari Olsen-Porthouse (aka Liberty Singer) and Dr Alison Pittard, Dean of the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine and Consultant in Intensive Care Medicine at the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.
One hundred singers signed up within 48 hours of launching the project on Twitter. The numbers limit was extended as a result, and the choir now comprises over 140 members.
The choir began life as an attempt to bring some fun and respite to ICU workers after the toughest year in history. Choir members include ICU staff such as nurses, doctors and allied health professionals who have been working on the frontline of healthcare.
As more data emerges, it is now clear that around 1 in ten people who catch COVID-19 end up needing hospital treatment. Of those, around one third end up in ICU. This is why limiting the spread really matters – if 1000 people catch it, 100 will end up in hospital, and over 30 will end up in intensive care. Right now, over 20,000* new cases A DAY are being reported, with almost 1800* people in intensive care due to COVID.
While the country has had varying degrees of lockdown to contend with – the relentless pace of caring for the most seriously affected has not changed hugely for ICU staff and now they face going in to winter – traditionally hugely challenging in a normal year – with a second wave hitting hard.
Working on the basis that music and singing are immensely relaxing for the mind, Choir Director Kari Olsen Porthouse contacted Dean of the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine, Dr Alison Pittard and offered to run a pop up choir – with 4 singing sessions and a remote recording of one of the songs.
“ “Singing is immensely powerful for helping establish and maintain good mental health – but something really special happens when we sing together and the effect is even more powerful. There is a sense of belonging, and a sense of a team working to deliver something beautiful. That perfectly captures the strength and teamwork of ICU staff this year and the chance to give them something back and recognise their phenomenal efforts is a privilege.”
Jackie Shears, from NHS Digital, and a member of of Kari’s community choir, heard about the choir and promptly penned a carefully re-worded version of the Police hit ‘Every Breath You Take’, to express the extraordinary contribution of ICU workers across the country this year – and to encourage the public to continue taking recommended precautions to help prevent more demand on ICU’s.
“I really wanted to recognise that while we are all frustrated by the restrictions, ICU staff have had minimal respite since March, have continued to provide high levels of care and professionalism, identifying treatments and working out how best to care for incredibly unwell people. The second wave comes at the end of an unprecedented year, without let up – so the song includes a plea on their behalf not to let levels rise further and create any more demand than is necessary”.
The 100 strong choir includes ICU staff from every region and ‘met’ for the first time, on Zoom, on November 25th, and had an hour of hilarity, singing a range of songs. They were able to ‘let go’ of the enormous pressure they have faced all year, for a short hour and come together instead in a spirit of fun and relaxation, as evidenced by this tweet after the first rehearsal.
Since then, legal permission was granted by SONY ATV, which owns the rights to Every Breath You Take (I’ll Be Watching You) and the opportunity to release the song took shape. The Choir had a second group rehearsal and then used videos of Kari conducting each part so they could practise in private, between rehearsals – and sometimes even during their breaks on shift!
The track comprises 223 individual vocal recordings sung by the choir members, recorded in their own homes and then blended to create a ‘virtual choir’.
The single is released on December 18th and will be available for download and streaming through the usual channels.
Every Breath You Take (We Watch Over You)
“This has been such a fun way to recognise and thank ICU staff. It has been an utterly extraordinary year and I am beyond proud and grateful to all ICU workers for their skill, dedication and professionalism in the face of unprecedented circumstances. Marking this in as public a way as possible seemed only appropriate.”