Known as the ICU Liberty Singers, the group is now in the race to secure the Christmas number one spot and raise funds to support NHS staff who may have been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
The choir began life as an attempt to bring some fun and respite to critical care workers after an incredibly tough few months. Choir members include staff such as nurses, doctors and allied health professionals who have been working on the frontline of healthcare.
Critical care staff nurses, Kirstin McGettrick, Lyndsey Jarvie, and doctors Cat Felderhof and Claire McCue all from Glasgow Royal Infirmary, joined with staff nurse Alison Sharp from the Royal Alexandra Hospital’s ICU team, using Zoom as a way to get together and use the power of music to find joy during difficult times.
Kirstin said: “It is something so positive to come from something that was – and still is – so hard for so many. In ICU we often ask patients or families if they would like music played and it has the power to relax.
“The choir coming together is an example of how everyone has pulled together during the COVID pandemic. In Glasgow Royal Infirmary, we have been so grateful to be helped by so many others. We have had staff moved from their own clinical areas such as Theatres, Recovery and Nurse Specialists to come to ICU to help us look after the much greater number of patients with COVID. We could not have cared for these patients if it was not for them and we are forever grateful.
“The choir is a representation of everyone pulling together for a common goal having lived through a shared experience. It makes you feel less isolated as you know ICU staff from all specialties up and down the country have all experienced what you have.”
Dr Cat Felderhof, added: “So many members of the choir have commented on how they were struggling with mental health issues following on from the pandemic but singing together has improved staff well-being and given everyone something to really look forward to on a weekly basis.”
Asked about the thought of going for a Christmas number one, staff nurse Alison Sharp, said: “This has all been very surreal! I normally sing in a local choir but we haven’t been able to meet or rehearse since the early spring. I hadn’t really appreciated how much I was missing singing as part of a group until we started on Liberty singers.”
Choir Director, Kari Olsen Porthouse, contacted Dean of the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine and offered to run a pop up choir – with four singing sessions and a remote recording of one of the songs. The 100 strong choir includes ICU staff from every region who ‘met’ for the first time, on Zoom, on November 25, and enjoyed 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 time and come together instead in a spirit of fun and relaxation.
Kari said: “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.”
The group are planning to take on Liam Gallagher, Jess Glynne and Robbie Williams in a bid for the top spot. All money raised will go to create a fund, managed through the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine, to provide support for staff who may have been impacted by the pressure of the COVID crisis. SONY ATV, which owns the rights to Every Breath You Take (I’ll Be Watching You), gave permission for the re-worked hit to be released as a charity single.
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 today (Friday, December 18) and will be available for download and streaming through the usual channels.
All of the staff involved will be working over the Christmas period, looking after Covid and non-Covid patients in High Dependency and ICU units.
Staff nurse, Lyndsey Jarvie, added: “Any time for families with a loved one in critical care is difficult, but especially at Christmas. Normally we would have had family visiting at all times throughout the day and sitting with loved ones at the Bells on Hogmanay. Obviously this year will be very different, but please know we will be doing everything that we can to help make sure that this difficult time is made as easy as we can possibly make it for our patients and their loved ones.”
Her colleague, Kirstin McGettrick concludes: “Please know that we always endeavour to care for the most precious people in your world in ICU as if they were our own and just as we are separated from our own families over the Christmas period we will adopt the patients as our Christmas family.”