Somewhere Over the Rainbow: Sounds of Solace
If you’d rather watch a video on Somewhere Over The Rainbow, this clip is of ambulance driver Izzi. Filmed at the Bristol Heart Institute, part of University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust, Izzi treated staff and patients to this beautiful piece of music during her break.
As the pandemic crisis continues to demand so much of everyone’s resilience, Somewhere Over The Rainbow has become a Covid-19 anthem that points towards brighter days.
Originally written for the 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz, the lyrics promise the prospect of better days to come, and encapsulate a sense of yearning for something good to happen.
Composed by Harold Arlen and lyricist Yip Harburg, the pair created a musical universe of hope and optimism, set against a backdrop of troubling and testing times.
“my generation unfortunately never succeeded in making that rainbow world, so we can’t hand it down to you. But we could hand down our songs, which still hang on to hope and laughter… in times of confusion.”
It’s no surprise then, that during the difficulty of the last 9 months, the song has been coveted and covered by so many different musical groups as a covid anthem. But this isn’t the first time the song has been used to inject brightness and into times of turmoil.
Somewhere Over The Rainbow, wartime tribute
Revisiting her performance as Dorothy in the film, Judy Garland sang the song with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and a special recording was sent out to American soldiers to boost morale. Garland also performed it live for the troops in 1943. You can listen to it here:
The song offers not only hope, but also courage. A key component of this, is it’s specific choice of lyrics, most notably in the line, “And the dreams you dare to dream really do come true”.
Hamburg describes the precise effect of this moment:
“You see? And that word 'dare' lands on the note, and it's a perfect thing, and it’s been generating courage for people for years afterward, you know?”
The song is a fitting choice then, to bring people together at this time.
Credit: Vintage Stars: Judy Garland entertains civilian employees at the Philadelphia Navy Yard during a War Bond Drive.
The NHS Chorus-19
The NHS Chorus-19 was set up at the beginning of lockdown to lift the spirits of NHS staff. It now has over 1000 members who rehearse every week over YouTube. They first came together, to share their version of ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’. You can listen to it here:
Throughout the country, other musicians joined together to show their support for the tireless work of NHS staff. You can hear a doorstep rendition of the song, featuring musicians in Cardiff after the Thursday night NHS clap for carers.
Credit: NHS Chorus 19
The song inspired and accompanies drawings of rainbows that children around the country have been creating and displaying to show support for hardworking hospital staff.
Artist Damien Hirst, has also generously supported hospital Arts and Cultural programmes, including here at UHBW, with donations of his work titled Butterfly Rainbow. The piece is made up of bands of coloured butterfly wings, one of the artist’s best‐known motifs.
Damien Hirst said:
“I wanted to do something to pay tribute to the wonderful work NHS staff are doing in hospitals around the country. The rainbow is a sign of hope and I think it is brilliant that parents and children are creating their own version and putting them up in the windows of their homes.”