Courtenay musician’s video offers an antidote to crisis

With the impact of the COVID-19 crisis forcing many into isolation, Courtenay singer-songwriter Sue Pyper wanted to make a music video that would lift the spirits of those feeling overwhelmed by it all.

Stay Home was originally intended to be “a little local thing to cheer people up to get the word out” about the benefits of self isolating, Pyper said Thursday during a phone interview from her home. “Then people across Canada got the word out, through friends.”

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Her video of collaborators from across North America practising social distancing was paired with Big Mistake, a song by the folk duo Big Little Lions, and has been viewed more than 13,000 times since being posted to YouTube on Sunday. The same video has been shared nearly 300 times on Pyper’s Facebook page as well.

“I shared it on Facebook and tagged the people who participated. And then it seemed to go a little bit crazy. It kept going up. I had no expectation that it was going to be as popular as it is.”

The collaborative video involving 25 participants — some friends, some strangers — was also meant to be a sign of support for hospital workers fighting the virus on the front lines, Pyper said. A roomful of nurses and doctors from North Island Hospital in Campbell River appear in the video holding pieces of paper that read: “I stayed at work for you, you stay at home for us.”

“It was never my intention to make it trite or light. I think people wanted something a little more upbeat. But we’re putting these people at risk if we don’t stay home.”

Pyper’s own folk music is generally quite spare. She wanted something which had a bit more bounce, and was given permission by fellow Comox Valley performer Helen Austin, co-leader of Big Little Lions, to use Big Mistake as a soundtrack. Austin and Pyper both appear in the video, as do a number of musicians from Vancouver Island and the surrounding area. Other contributors are from Nunavut, Toronto and California.

Pyper offered little in the way of instruction, and let each participant be the boss of their own screen time. “Some simply mimed along, some got in their pyjamas. Someone even dressed up as a dinosaur.”

It was two days from concept to completion. Pyper knew she had to work fast, given how quickly the virus was spreading. She has friends from the Comox Valley who now live in the Lombardy region of Italy, where the number of coronavirus cases jumped by 2,500 on Thursday.

“They were telling me to tell everybody to stay home,” she said. “They wanted me to give everybody a heads up about how bad it could get.”

Pyper has done her part. She has received feedback on the video from viewers in the United States, France, the United Kingdom and South America — all of it positive.

“A couple in Duncan say they watch it every day to make them smile. People seem to really enjoy it.”

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