Film composer Ian Laurence began his acapella choir ‘Jonah & the Wailers’ in 1996, and the choir is still rehearsing under his musical direction today. They have performed in many major music venues, including Sydney’s iconic, ‘The Basement’, every year until it closed in 2017.
The coming of COVID resulted in the choir not being able to rehearse live, so we resorted to ZOOM. ZOOM was not everyone’s cup of tea unfortunately, as ZOOM was now, very commonly being used at work, and by the end of their working day, many singers had had enough of ZOOM. Some hadn’t, however. I still remember our first ZOOM rehearsal, & how much fun it was to say hi to everyone in this, (to me), novel, new medium. We were actually able to talk to each other & see each other as well.
We actually gave ourselves about 4 recording projects during this ZOOM ONLY period of rehearsals. Probably the most “fun” one was “Goin’ to the Chapel” – a song based on the Bette Midler version of the song. It was fun because we all of a sudden, realised that we could “dress up”, or have “props” in our ZOOM recording of the song.
‘What a Wonderful World’ now on Youtube:
This is probably the most memorable of our four recordings during COVID, because, after posting it on Facebook, I remember we got about 10,000 views – a large number by our standards … & the thing that stood out, to me, was that people from all over the world had watched it!! … such was its healing effect. In other words, we’d created this beautiful video, singing about what a wonderful world it was, at a time when the News, around the world, was talking about what a terrible world it was … however, fortunately for us, none of us had COVID, & we didn’t even know anyone who had COVID … so to us, in singing this song, we were singing about our own experience.
The recording of this song had 2 phases. Firstly, individuals sent me recordings of themselves, singing in synch with recordings from our website. Secondly, all singers sang in synch with the resultant mixed recording to record the video side of the project.
Our recording projects during 2020 would not have occurred without the COVID crisis. It was our response to having no other alternative; if we wanted to continue making music. Not so much a response to stress or trauma, but just a practical response to the question “Well, if we can’t rehearse live, what CAN we do?” During COVID Lockdown, a number of singers posted scientific research, stating what the various health benefits were of singing in a choir. I think our response was that the research was telling us what we knew anyway! We didn’t really need research to know that singing in a choir was good for us.
I think that the companionship, the friendships, the feelings of accomplishment, having created a “product” – a video recording of a song using Zoom, is such a great thing. To be honest, we’re not thinking about “recovery or resilience” … we’re just getting on & doing what we can … following our creative urges in making music.
As a qualified counsellor/psychotherapist, I’m very aware of the healing effects of making this beautiful music, but in actually making the music, it was never my intention to make the music because it is a good way of dealing with stress, trauma, recovery or resilience. Sure, all those effects are bi-products of what we do in making our music, but they’re not the point of making the music.
I began “Jonah & the Wailers” as a film composer, just wanting to get back to creating music, which is performed live – not for use in programs on television sets. I was also very keen at the time, on African American Gospel music, which is evident from our website … however, after a while, I started to add songs with a positive message to humanity. “What a Wonderful World” is an example.
Much of our work is on Jonah & the Wailers Facebook – & it’s still there. I love people to experience our work by firstly listening to it, then posting how much they love it … & by telling us how much it has brightened their day!! J
More of Ian Laurence and Jonah and the Wailers’s work can be found at https://www.jonahandthewailerschoir.com.au/