Frequently Asked Questions
Every Breath You Take (We Watch Over You)
When did the choir form?
The Choir was suggested by Kari Olsen Porthouse, to Alison Pittard, Dean of the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine, in mid November
Alison jumped at the chance and a link for sign up was created. Within 48 hours 150 ICU staff from across the country, and one from New Zealand, had responded to Alison’s tweet and signed up.
The choir met, on Zoom, for the first time on November 25th 2020.
How many rehearsals did they have before they recorded their parts?
2 x 1 hour Zoom choir sessions, involving warm up, belting out a few familiar songs and including in that a few run throughs of the different parts for Every Breath You Take (we watch over you)
In between a dedicated website provided access to carefully recorded videos of each of the 6 vocal parts involved in the arrangement.
How was the recording made, given that meeting or singing together is not currently allowed?
Choir Director, Kari Olsen-Porthouse made a series of you tube videos for each of the 6 choral harmonies that make up Every Breath You Take (We Watch Over You). Each video played the specific harmony, to the backing track, with Kari conducting so that the viewer knew when to start/stop etc.
After the second group rehearsal on line, each member of the choir got two devices and some headphones. They watched the video of their chosen part, listening on headphones and sang along, recording their voices using the second device such as a phone.
The recording, of just their voice singing that part was supplied to Kari, who used her home studio to layer all the voice recordings together into a 6 part harmony. The final mix was then mastered by Rich Williams, of Ringstead Studios to give it a final polish.
Singers could record more than one part if they wanted to….and some did!
So how many recordings make up the final track?
223 recordings supplied by 113 different individuals.
Where did the backing track come from?
Rich Williams of Ringstead Studios kindly spent hours of his own time playing, recording and mastering all the instrumentation on the backing track to create something that perfectly matched the vocal arrangement by Kari Olsen-Porthouse.
Was it always the plan to release a single?
No! The original plan was a fun choir experience to lift morale and provide some respite from the gruelling shifts that ICU staff have faced nearly the whole of 2020.
Once the idea of the song had been shared with Alison Pittard, the notion was raised of recording the song to be played in ICUs across the country on Christmas Day, to unite and lift those who were working. This required permission from SONY ATV who own the rights to the original Police classic. An application was made immediately and helpfully Sony responded with permission on November 26th. Suddenly a single was a possibility.
Where did the new lyrics come from?
Kari Olsen-Porthouse runs a number of community choirs, and Jackie Shears, who wrote the lyrics, sings in one of them. She has a habit of writing new words to classic songs for a laugh and when she heard about the ICU choir, on November 15th, she suggested Every Breath You Take (I’ll be watching you) as a start point for a tribute to the care and professionalism of ICU staff in this challenging and extraordinary year. The initial draft took an hour to complete. Alison Pittard provided some insightful edits from an ICU perspective and the song was born.
How did the choir react to the song?
In a post-rehearsal poll after the first session it was the runaway winner. Comments from ICU staff included:
“I just had chance to read through the [new] lyrics of Every Breath You Take and I am reduced to tears!! Totally floored”.
So if you only got permission to record it on November 26th, how did a Choir Director and two members of the NHS get everything in place to release the single on December 18th?!
As with everything in the NHS this year, difficult challenges can always be faced and overcome by teamwork…….!. The NHS always delivers and this project was no different. We could not have done this without some significant support and willingness to help us learn about the music industry and overcome the challenges.
The cause is an amazing one and the number of people who bent over backwards to give their time and expertise with no notice was a joy to see.
Where will money raised from the single go?
This year has been an immense, unrelenting challenge for ICU and other hospital staff. Dealing with the highest volumes of very sick patients ever, treating an entirely new disease and seeing suffering and deaths on an unparalleled scale have taken their toll. The levels of exhaustion, feeling overwhelmed, stress and even PTSD are high and the money raised will form a fund, administered by the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine, to support ICU staff in any way they feel will have a positive impact on their wellbeing and mental health.
Are there any others ways I can donate?
For those who want to contribute beyond buying the single, a crowdfunder campaign has been set up. All donations will be placed in the charitable fund, administered by the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine, to support critical care staff wellbeing and mental health.
Which hospitals do choir members work for?
ICU Liberty Singers is made up of critical care staff from NHS Trusts from all over the UK. A list of the NHS organisations represented within the choir is available here.