Somewhere Over the Rainbow there is hope

In early April, about three weeks into the Covid-19 lockdown, I uploaded a Facebook video of me playing “Somewhere over the Rainbow” on my flute to show solidarity with NHS workers as they tried to cope with the pandemic, writes Catherine Preston.

While the rainbow has become a symbol of hope for people wanting to express their gratitude to healthcare workers, this song has become its theme tune.

Most of us know the song thanks to Judy Garland’s magical Oscar-winning rendition in the “Wizard of Oz”.

The song, with lyrics by Yip Harbug and music by Harold Arlen, was voted the number one song of the 20th century by the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Over the Rainbow – Mill Wharf says Ta to the NHS

Over the Rainbow in Berwick

Gepostet von Catherine Preston Berwick am Donnerstag, 9. April 2020

My interpretation from the balcony of our house in Mill Wharf, Tweedmouth, serenaded the street during the applause for our key care workers. The video struck a chord with over 5,000 views.

Putting together the performance was pretty simple and took two to three hours. I wrote and recorded a piano accompaniment, and on the Thursday of that week at 8pm my partner Andrew recorded me with an iPhone.

We edited the film slightly so it started with the street clapping and then uploaded to social media.

It was great fun and very rewarding but how could I better the experience and learn new skills in the process?

As an academic researcher, I study flow, which is about those precious moments when challenge, skill and immediate feedback align themselves perfectly, just like the sun and moon and one is lost in a fascinating absorbing world to the exclusion of everything else.

Having captured the zeitgeist with my solo performance, I wanted to include musician friends from the flute ensemble Tooti Flooti but at the same time observe safe social distancing. Staying two metres was the easy enough. I live in Berwick and they are scattered all over Manchester and the north west. Anyway, live performances are strictly no go for the foreseeable.

Inspiration came from the Elms Bank School Choir in Whitefield. Assistant headteacher and brilliant singer, Catherine Dent, a former student of mine, had created a stunning and very emotional multi-screen video.

Could we emulate them?

Well, during the lockdown, I had mastered baking, so a split-screen musical video would be a piece of cake!

Or would it?

First, I had to win over initially sceptical friends in Tooti Flooti. Once they had agreed, we had to get hold of a flute arrangement for eight instruments.

There wasn’t one so I had to indulge in a bit of DIY, creating an initial arrangement with Garage Band to share the audio with  the group.

During this process I had to teach myself how to use the app’s score writing programme, extract the parts and send the pdfs over to each member.

They then had to send me a video recording back which had to be strictly in time with the click track master.

Sounds simple? Well, it wasn’t. This complex process took quite a while to synchronise as the sound, balance and tuning were essential. If the music wasn’t spot on, the project would sink like a lead balloon.

After careful navigation, we had all the parts. One great audio. Eight great videos. We just needed to put them together and I didn’t know what to do. I had used video during my doctoral research but never for anything as ambitious as this.

Fortunately, I could call upon lots of lockdown time, Adobe’s Acrobat Premium Pro, Apple’s iMovie and my own obstinate determination to master new software from scratch.

The result? Well, after 30 plus hours graft our finished video premieres on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter from 8pm Thursday, 21st May. I hope you enjoy.

These are difficult times for us all. And I personally dedicate this particular rainbow of hope to my mum Pam and the brilliant team at her care home next to the Tweed.