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West Coast songstress seeks to honour essential workers

West Coast YouTube success, Shirley Șerban, with her Do Re Mi parody. Photo: supplied

A West Coast songstress whose video parodies have animated millions of viewers around the world wants to honour Covid-19 essential workers.

“They deserve all the respect that we can give them,” Shirley Șerban says.

She says that while many Kiwis are struggling because of the strict measures to contain the Covid-19 virus, others such as herself are able to continue working and have much to be thankful for.

This includes looking out her window at the beautiful mountains edging Lake Brunner; and being warm, dry and safe with her husband at home.

Meanwhile, other people are employed in vital, and sometimes potentially dangerous, services providing food, healthcare and other essentials, she says.

A lot of them are 17-year-old kids working in the supermarket, who would rather be home playing video games like their friends.”


Shirley wants to honour such essential workers by writing a parody of an existing song and creating an accompanying video with photos and 15-second video clips of these people clothed in their protective work gear, dancing to any tune.

She’s received material from overseas, however not much from New Zealand, so encourages Kiwis to send their selfies.

“Overseas it’s got quite big,” she notes of her YouTube songs. “[Here] I think we’re a bit shy as a nation.”

A rainbow shines over Lake Brunner on the first day of New Zealand’s “lock-down”. Photo, taken from her garden: Shirley Șerban

Reaching millions 

Almost nine million YouTube viewers have watched Shirley’s parody of Do Re Mi from The Sound of Music movie. Original film footage is accompanied by Shirley singing her own lyrics about the value of Covid-19 prevention.

That first video attracted international media attention, including from the BBC and CNN, and almost 4000 comments. A representative of the Von Trapp family, which inspired The Sound of Music film, said they enjoyed her version.

The creative Coaster has now posted seven Covid-19 parodies on YouTube, one of these being My Favourite Things, about positive aspects of the lockdown.

In a funny, perhaps poignant, version of Prince’s Nothing Compares 2 U, a casually-clad Shirley plays her guitar and other instruments and sings about the difficulties of being isolated at home with a loved one.

When speaking with Daily Encourager, she remarks that this song doesn’t reflect her situation and jokes that it’s probably more accurate to say her husband is challenged by being confined with her!

For years, the West Coast musician has written original songs and shared them with friends, family and her community. She writes music for clients and at present, ghost-writes children’s songs for television channels overseas.

She works full-time as the principal of Lake Brunner School and when the Covid-19 nationwide household isolation began near the end of March, she had been hectically busy at school.

So the first Saturday after this lockdown started, she sat down to write the Do Re Mi parody, “purely to get some active relaxation myself”.

She initially shared the song with family, friends and other educators.

“Just for a laugh – there was no deep and meaningful to it at all!”

Once Shirley shared it on YouTube, the response was overwhelming. Hundreds of private messages arrived from around the world and some people told her they’d been having a rough day and her song had helped them to keep going.

So now, she’s creating the musical parodies for personal relaxation and also for others.

During the Covid-19 crisis and beyond it, she wants to think about common themes which people might be feeling or experiencing.

“If I can find ways post-Covid to keep people smiling, sure.”

She doesn’t make any money from the video parodies, which are all legal under Fair Use copyright laws.

Ninety-nine percent perspiration

When asked where her creativity comes from, Shirley responds with the humour seen in her videos.

“The Warehouse – no, I don’t know!

“I strongly believe that every person is creative, it’s just if you express it.”

As with sport, people can practise, persevere with and fine-tune their creativity, she says.

We each have something and I guess this is my thing.”


Referring to Thomas Edison’s quote that “Genius is one per cent inspiration, ninety-nine per cent perspiration”, Shirley observes that generally for most creativity, inspiration is “the spark moment”.

She lives by the lake in the township of Moana and her videos encourage people faraway. When asked, her perspective on how the world might change seems simple and strong.

“The basic commandment is ‘love one another’,” she says, adding that whatever people’s strength is, that they can use this for the good of others.

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For further information:

About Shirley’s essential workers video and YouTube channel


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