One year ago I was invited to write this column for Classical Crossover Magazine. The world then was a very different place. The UK had a general election driven by Brexit: Star Wars, The Rise of Skywalker was packing out cinemas and my biggest concern was whether or not I had enough Brussels Sprouts for my family. Actually, that’s a lie, my biggest concern was whether anyone but me would even eat the brussels sprouts!
Fast forward one year, though it feels more like two, my husband, James and I, have just a small packet of the divisive edible vegetable buds which we’ll share between just the two of us on Christmas Day. Of all the “cares of the day” however, this pales in comparison to what millions of other homes are going through. Isolation, loneliness, grief and financial worries obliterate my culinary concerns and quite right too. My heart goes out to everyone who is having a tough time.
This is therefore the reason why I have released my video version of Hushabye Mountain which I am presenting to everyone as a “virtual hug” in these torrid times. Recorded with Robert Emery’s Art’s Symphonic Orchestra, it was actually in late spring when I decided to call upon my long time video collaborator, animator Gary Andrews, to brainstorm ideas. I remember, we were both sitting in our respective gardens, caked in sun cream contemplating where the year would take us. At the time, we were hopeful that the video would put a full stop after Covid-19 with the worst behind us, but as the year went on and more waves came, we could see that instead of it being a parting gesture it would need to be a song of comfort and hope for better times.
I am so lucky that the song itself is, in my opinion, one of the greatest songs ever written. Composed by Robert and Richard Sherman, it was first sung by Caractacus Potts (Dick van Dyke) in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in 1968. The Sherman Brothers created some of the very best songs of the 20th Century; Feed the Birds, There’s a great big beautiful tomorrow, I wanna be like you, Substitutiary Locomotion are all absolute gems.
I am of course no stranger to their work having released Let’s Go Fly a Kite a year earlier but there is something truly out-of-this-world magical about Hushabye Mountain. The strings soar to the greatest heights, the melancholy is turned up to 11 and the lyrics are quite literally dreamlike. Right now, we can’t completely kick this devastating virus and the stress it causes into touch but we can have moments of calm, moments where we can pause and rejuvenate, just like we do with a good sleep.
“So close your eyes on Hushabye Mountain, wave goodbye to cares of the day…”
It is through words like these that we made our video virtual hug for everyone. Since that early planning meeting way back in May, our interpretation of the song went through a number of iterations but we settled on the view of moving through the seasons, from cold to warmth and then topping off with a cosy “goodnight” as shooting stars give us hope for more magical times. To conjure up all of the seasons in one shoot however is obviously a bit tricky as we filmed my singing on a scorching day in August. So, without trying to sweat too much I also wore my winter coat and scarf and found a perfect Holly tree in the forest to try and give the illusion of it being Christmas time.
Cleary, we needed some movie magic and this was where Gary came in. Many of you will know Gary through his daily doodles but I have also worked with him on How Does It Feel? and Let’s Go Fly a Kite. He is a dream to work with and funnily enough, we also sung a version of The Prayer together once on one of my tours. He’s a great man and someone I am proud to call my friend. Gary did an amazing job of animated Hushabye and finally topped and tailed the video with an animation of a family together during this strange time. I am very happy with the result and hope you all enjoy and find comfort in it too.
So, here ends my year of columns. Thank you, dear reader, for taking the time to read them but don’t worry I’ll be back in the new year with more news and views. In the meantime, please take care of yourselves and one another Oh, and if you have any left-over sprouts, please send them my way! Merry Christmas.