ICU Liberty Singers - Singer Stories

The ICU Liberty Singers 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. 

Our singers share their experience of singing together and the impact that being a part of this choir has had on them.

“Singing is a mindful activity. It’s harder to be distracted by the everyday noise in life if you’re busy creating your own tune. Anyone can sing and sharing it just makes it better! Who knows where this project will end?”

Kari Olsen-Porthouse, Liberty Singer

Every Breath You Take (We Watch Over You)

by ICU Liberty Singers

My name is Julie Harper. I am an ACCP on Critical Care at QMC in Nottingham. Over the years I have been involved in amateur musical theatre and this has always been my source of stress relief. During COVID this all stopped and at the time I needed it most.

So when this opportunity came up to sing my heart out, with people who have and are going through the same, how could I not get involved? 

It has been great and uplifting to see everyone, and meet new people from all over the country, just sing and have a laugh without judgement.

Julie Harper

Advanced Critical Care Practitioner, Queens Medical Centre, Nottingham

One of things I have really missed during the pandemic is the choir that I normally sing in every Wednesday evening.  It is not just the singing and technical aspects of making music with others that comes with a choir, but also the sense of community, support and connection through collective singing.  It’s difficult to capture into words, but there’s a profound, intangible emotion felt while bonding with other choir members in rehearsals and performances, along with the social interaction and fun times before and after the singing.
I have very much missed a weekly Wednesday sing during the pandemic for all those reasons – and then the ICU Liberty Singers came about!  We’ve only had 2 rehearsals together on Zoom which is never quite the same as face-to-face practices.  However, the joy in everyone’s faces as they sing along muted on their screens and Kari’s infectious enthusiasm has really brightened up this gloomy second wave period for me already.
It’s been such a tough year for everyone, and I hadn’t realised how much stress and tension had built up until becoming extremely emotional during that first sing together of Every Breath You Take which beautifully expresses the feelings across the ICU community right now.
The ICU Liberty Singers was the right medicine at the right time that I needed to boost up my mental wellbeing and physical health too from just feeling better after a good old sing with others.  I feel fortunate to have stumbled across the invite on social media and very grateful to Alison and others who organised this ICU choir.  THANK YOU!!

Heather Baid

Intensive Care Pathways Leader, Intensive Care Unit, Brighton

I’m Sarah, I’m an ICU nurse.
I joined the choir as I enjoyed singing and thought it would be a great way to deal with stress during the pandemic. I’ve made some wonderful friends and it gives me something positive to look forward to. We normally sing over zoom, but we have met up twice and it was amazing hearing everyone sing together. It was so much fun! I remember the first meet up was the first time I had felt genuinely happy in months.
We also have been asked to sing at two conferences, not many were able to attend but it was still amazing.
This choir has turned a big group of strangers into an ICU family!

Sarah Carpenter

ICU Nurse, Cardiff

Anyone who knows me would be really surprised I joined a choir. It’s well known in the family I can’t sing!

However I loved the idea of a multi professional critical care group getting together.

I attended the first rehearsal (half expecting it to be my last) but I really enjoyed it – we had lots of fun with no one feeling awkward and got singing straight away under Kari’s tuition and infectious enthusiasm .

It’s no secret in 2020 we in critical care have shared experiences which have impacted on us professionally and personally. To do something uplifting and fun as a group is great. A great stress relief after busy shift. Who knew I would ever record my own voice singing and send it in! Safe in the knowledge that the other 99 can likely sing!  The song has great meaning to us.

What it also says we are still here, resilient and able to come together as a critical care team (it doesn’t matter we don’t know everyone), and to have fun in spite of everything.

Carol Boulanger

Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust

It was amazing to finally meet up and sing together in real life after almost a year since it all started. I only really knew this group of people as (un)familiar faces that filled a Zoom grid every other Wednesday. They pulled off a Christmas single in a matter of weeks, they sent messages of support via our WhatsApp group when any of us were struggling, they shared in our celebrations, they understood what we were all going through with a shared love of singing – they were a group of friends that had never met. And when we finally did all meet, face to face, you could feel the love and warmth in the room, and even better, we could all actually sing! We sounded bloomin’ brilliant when we all sang together for the first time. It was pure joy! This may sound kind of morbid but in that moment I felt such happiness that it made me remember that that is what happiness feels like. I can’t say thank you enough to Kari for giving this to us all. Thank you!
Catherine Williams

Speech and Language Therapist ICU Nottingham

I joined the choir quite by accident when our ITU Consultant text me the join link and said here is the link for you…which I blindly clicked on, not knowing what it was. When I realised I’d joined a virtual ITU choir I was secretly thrilled as I’ve always wanted to be part of choir but wasn’t brave enough to audition.

As an ITU Psychologist responsible for staff wellbeing this choir literally struck chords with me and I tried to get as many of our staff involved as possible.      As a psychologist we know that singing has been shown to improve our sense of happiness and wellbeing. Research shows that people feel more positive after actively singing than they do after just listening to music.  

Research into what makes us resilient suggests that our social connections play a vital role in maintaining wellbeing. Having a sense of belonging and a purpose are all important factors. And of course gathering in social groups is not something we can physically do right now. So seeing the positivity coming from this online group suggests that the same benefits can be achieved virtually.

I’m so excited to be part of this and even on evenings when I’m tired and not feeling up to it, I feel so much brighter after just Kari’s warm ups!!

Michelle Smalley

ITU Psychologist

The choir has given me a very positive outlet after what has been a stressful, exhausting and emotional year. The experience we have faced has affected us all differently, but to be able to come together – as a wide and varied group of critical care staff – to create something so rewarding, as well as having a huge amount of fun, has been just the release I have needed.

Chris Gough

Consultant Intensive Care & Anaesthetics

I’ve worked in ITU for 20 years this year as a pharmacist. Two decades, so much has happened and changed in that time. Both professionally and personally for me.

Music brings people together especially in times of adversity. It always has, during the war, at happy times of celebrations and sad times celebrating peoples lives.  For me at my lowest times being part of a choir has brought me great joy. So when this year, such an unprecedented time in history, in all our lives, a colleague messaged me about this ITU choir, knowing how I love to sing. I jumped at the chance to join in. I felt elated when I found out I was number 93 and had been able to join the choir in the initial 100. 

The lead up to our first session and seeing all the messages it made me feel like I was part of something wider than just my local team it gave me a great sense of solidarity and a sense of belonging. It has brought me joy singing as a group and I am proud of what we all do in our working lives so to be able to have some light relief at this time of year just coming through the 2nd wave the choir has come at just the right point.

Julia Trinder

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