'HARMONY': a collaborative Corrs cover

“Let’s live in harmony, harmony”

For a fun side project over the past year, I collaborated with fans of Irish band The Corrs to make a cover of their song Harmony. Seven musicians from six countries recorded themselves singing or playing instruments into smartphones and microphones, and sent their parts over the internet. Before starting, we only knew each other through an an online community called ‘The Corrs Club’, had never met in person (still haven’t), and had little idea of each other’s musical capabilities. This could’ve been a recipe for a very mediocre Irish stew…but it turns out Corrs fans are a musically talented and dedicated bunch! The musical stew far exceeded our expectations!

Harmony is about the troubles in Northern Ireland, unfortunately ongoing, as there were riots in Londonderry just hours before writing this blog on Good Friday. (This day being significant in Northern Ireland’s history for the Good Friday Agreement of 1998). But the highlight of the song for me is an epic, lush, hopeful chorus of voices singing “Let’s put it all behind us, let’s live in harmony”. Wherever you are in the world, that’s an inspiring message, don’t you think?!

I sang lead vocals, played tin whistle and clarinet, and assembled this cover (I’m reluctant to say “mixing” as my skills are basic). I’ve now heard the song hundreds of times, but still find it powerful. And, this collaboration gives it extra meaning. By harmonising with others on the word “harmony”, from four different continents, we’ve literally created worldwide harmony! ;)

Read below to learn how we did it.

Here’s our cover:

And here’s the original version by The Corrs:


The band’s hiatus
When in 2015, Irish family band The Corrs returned from a ten-year hiatus to release new music, fans worldwide were ecstatic - including this fan. Having been enamoured with their sweet melodies since the late 1990s, The Corrs played a big role in inspiring me to take up songwriting, singing, Irish tin whistle, and to visit Ireland from Australia. 

The Corrs’ previous album, Home, had been released in 2005, and was a return to their Irish traditional music roots. It was an apt ending of an era, covering music from their parents’ old songbooks, but a question mark hung over their future. The band hadn’t officially quit, yet they increasingly took more time away to raise families and pursue other projects. Lead singer Andrea and violinist Sharon developed solo music careers, creating some great music, but there was never quite the same magic that the four siblings had together.


The return (phew!)
Finally, the band announced that they’d recorded a new album, White Light, and I felt excited and relieved, as though,All is right in the world again”.

The announcement also breathed new life into an online community called ‘The Corrs Club’, a forum which had been running since 1997 (formerly known as the CorrBoard). I joined it in the early to mid 2000s. Today’s internet is infamous for its dark corners, but The Corrs Club has always been a positive online space where fans across the globe could discuss favourite songs, albums, performances, and interviews. Throughout the The Corrs’ hiatus, the forum continued to bubble along, but new music had us energised.

The band’s sixth studio album, White Light, was released in November 2015. The music industry and the internet had changed dramatically since their last release ten years before. Music streaming and digital downloads were the norm over buying CDs; music recording equipment was cheaper and more accessible than ever before, and anyone with a smartphone could record decent-quality sound and send it across the planet within seconds.

The club collaboration
An idea was tossed around in The Corrs Club - should we try collaborating and making our own cover? The technology now would allow it, and there were enough musicians in the group to make it work. The main problem was that we didn’t know what level of musicianship everyone was at, and how, logistically, we’d make it happen. So we decided to play it safe for our first cover, to choose a simple song and to keep the arrangement close to the original. Perhaps in the future we’ll try a punk-hillbilly-flamenco version of Runaway, but not for attempt #1!

After nominating several song ideas, we decided on a beautiful song called Harmony; track 11 from White Light. Lyrically, Harmony is about Ireland’s troubled history. Phrases like “Down Bombay Street, there’s flames at our feet” references the burning down of houses in the 1969 Northern Ireland riots. It has that perfect Corrs’ blend of the traditional with the modern, and the song seemed to match our two main requirements: simple to cover, with the potential to be inclusive.

1. Logistically simple to cover (or so it seemed): Harmony opens with nothing but a synth drone and a single vocal melody reminiscent of Irish airs. Gradually, layers of guitars, drums, tin whistles, violins and other voices are added. It sounds more simple than highly produced songs like Breathless or Summer Sunshine…but perhaps deceptively so. Like Pass the Parcel, we’d unwrap one layer to fine another musical layer, another melody to cover. But that’s all part of the fun!

2. Inclusive: We wanted to feature as many club members as possible, and several people were keen to lend their voices. Harmony seemed perfect for this because at 3.25, it bursts into a giant chorus of voices singing “Let’s put it all behind us, let’s live in harmony, harmony”. I was stopped in my tracks when I first heard that chorus, because it’s so powerful, joyful, and unexpected. I loved the idea of bringing voices together from around the world to recreate that sound.

The puzzle (how on earth do we do this?)
The score for Harmony hadn’t been released to our knowledge, so we had to learn each part by ear. And, none of us lived in the same country, let alone could rehearse together. So, to make our cover sound tight, we decided to record our parts while listening to the original version.

Steve in the US got the ball rolling and cleverly worked out the atmospheric ‘drone’ sound and chords on keyboard. Terry in the UK expertly deciphered the intricate guitar picking, and a killer drum track came from StPaddy (his online name) in Germany which made me think I had to up my game! I recorded four layers of tin whistle parts in Australia, and doubled some parts on clarinet as we didn’t have a violinist between us.

The voices (borrowing a technique from The Punch Brothers)
Recording all the voices was trial-and-error. We asked everyone to listen to the original track while wearing headphones, and record their parts into a microphone or phone. I borrowed an idea from US band The Punch Brothers, who feature their fans’ voices in their song Little Lights at 3.26. On their website, they’d uploaded a demo of part of the song, and asked fans to record themselves singing along. The result is an airy mass of voices, floating underneath the lead vocal. So for Harmony, I recorded myself singing the different vocal harmonies and uploaded them to my website for others to use as a guide. The process still wasn’t perfect, but we made it work! In the end we combined voices from England, France, the US, the Philippines, and Australia. 

The lead vocal (Andrea’s so darn good)
When it came to the lead vocal, I really wanted to attempt it because I loved the folky Irish feel of it. There are other Corrs’ songs that I know I wouldn’t be able to do justice, but this one seemed within reach. Well…I can tell you that Andrea is a really good singer. This is a hard song to sing in tune, and it spans several octaves - yet Andrea sounds so effortless and emotional when she sings it. I recorded hundreds of vocal takes over months, and had to do a lot of practice to be able to reach those low and high notes. Even then, I couldn’t sing them as well as Andrea, and had to edit the best takes together. The upside is that my voice got better and stronger from singing this song on repeat!

The assembly (more cowbell?)
Using Logic Pro, I put all the parts together and would email mixes to Steve in the US to get his opinion (and Terry in the UK towards the end). The more we listened to the original, the more barely-audible melodic motifs we would hear and feel the need to replicate. For a few months, the cover felt it needed a bigger instrumental build. One main problem was that we were lacking Sharon Corr…or any live strings, really, so we improvised! Steve added synth strings and other sounds, and I often doubled them on live clarinet. The combination of sounds gives it its own flavour, but is representative of who we are as a group of musicians around the world, making do with what we have!

The final vision
To visually depict how we came together in spirit, I used a NASA satellite image of earth at night and placed photos or images representing each musician roughly on the countries they are from. Please note: this image is not to scale, otherwise we’d be huge! I had a bit of fun with InDesign’s pen tool to show how we are all connected (inspired by maps of flight paths!). To thematically link it to the White Light album artwork, I used a similar font, and popped the album’s photo of The Corrs in the corner…so they can talk on corners. (That’s a cheesy Corrs joke). I assembled the picture with the song in Premiere Pro and uploaded to YouTube.

The credits
Firstly, thanks to The Corrs for writing this inspiring song. Secondly, thanks to all the patient musicians who contributed musical parts (especially Steve for his huge amount of work as we emailed back and forth dozens of mixes) and general ideas of how to approach this. Thirdly, thanks to general members of The Corrs Club for creating a positive community to talk all things Corrs. This was truly a team effort!

Wendy Lang (Australia) - lead and backing vocals, tin whistle, clarinet
Terry Burbridge (UK) - guitars, backing vocals (outro)
Steve Wang (US) - keyboards
StPaddy (Germany) - drums
BallerinaTay (US) - backing vocals in verses and outro
GaelleF (France) - backing vocals in outro
nightcat (Philippines) - backing vocals in outro
Produced by Wendy Lang, additional production by Steve Wang

The lyrics

Music and lyrics by The Corrs

More walls since Good Friday he said
There's nothing good about that
Down Bombay Street there’s flames at our feet
And they burn like the Indian sun

It's a far cry from home you land
Your brothers and sisters behind
This battle scar's long, like a mourning song
You know though you never had learned

Now we'll never know, the man you'd have been
The one who brought peace to a land born in pain
Taught love to a daughter, kindness to a son
But you've ended before you've begun
You've ended before you've begun

And a Main Street became the frontline
My beloved a casualty of time
It's wrong, it's wrong, no matter what side you're on
To end them before they've begun

Now we'll never know, the man you'd have been
The one who brought peace, to a land born in pain
Taught love to a daughter, kindness to his son
But you've ended before you've begun
You've ended before you've begun

We'll never know, the man you'd have been
The one who brought peace, to a land born in pain
Taught love to his daughter, kindness to his son
But you've ended before you've begun
You've ended before you've begun

Let's put it all behind us
Let's live in harmony, harmony