Shirley Serban
Shirley Serban

On March 28, a video from the classic The Sound of Music did the rounds. The scene in question was where Dame Julie Andrews is seen singing Do A Deer to the children. However, the lyrics had been altered and changed to explain why you should adhere to the lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic.

In less than a month, that video has witnessed 9 million views and over 4,000 comments.

The creator, Shirley Serban, a resident of New Zealand and a teacher by profession, has since created a few more viral videos that have garnered equal popularity. One from the same movie and the other from the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz, each of these songs have seen plenty of traction, but not as much as Do Re Me.

We managed to get in touch with Serban to ask her about what she has been doing during the lockdown, her learnings from this time of self-quarantine, and how life will be once she goes back to work.

Could you share with us when you got into singing and song writing?

I've been singing since I was a child, and started song writing as a teenager. I used to sing and songwrite in bands and as a solo artist, as well as in church and choirs, but nowadays I do some ghostwriting of lyrics and mostly children's songs for clients around the world. This is separate to my full time job, but I keep doing it for a creative outlet on the side.

Your profile says you are from New Zealand, and tbh I was surprised because you managed to nail the accents for Julie Andrews and Judy Garland. Have you done musical theatre before?

I've never done musical theatre before, though I imagine I'd enjoy it. I am used to the stage though, through singing in different contexts. I also used to be involved in improv comedy for a while.

What is the biggest lesson you have learnt from this pandemic?

I don't know if it's been as much a lesson as a confirmation of things I already believed - that life, status and wealth are fragile. The most important things to me are relationships and feeling meaningfully connected to each other and our natural world. Other things can be taken away - where do we derive our sense of worth?

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has been praised for her empathetic approach towards managing the pandemic. Do you think that it's a quality lacking in many world leaders?

I do admire our Prime Minister for showing empathy and a genuine care for others during this time, and I think that is something that should transcend political affiliation. I don't envy any of them for the difficult choices they need to make, and quickly too, but having your country feel that you're on their side in this is invaluable.

Besides writing song lyrics, what else are you doing during the pandemic? Are there videos that you have seen during this period that has changed the way you look at life?

I've been working full time. I'm the principal of a small school, so my job has been to help guide and support the staff, students and our community through this crisis, from closing the school to now working remotely in home learning environments. I've also continued with song and lyric writing for clients, and have worked on about 20 songs for them while in lockdown for the last month. Then, simple things like spending time with my husband, caring for our animals and walking. And of course, making more videos of my pandemic parodies - I find it relaxing and rewarding to see them making others happy.I've not really watched many videos during this time, but we rewatched a favourite film of mine last night - Into the Wild. One quote that is highlighted in the movie, from Family Happiness by Leo Tolstoy, says, “A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people to whom it is easy to do good, and who are not accustomed to have it done to them; then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one’s neighbour — such is my idea of happiness.” That resonated with me once again at this time.

I recently saw Jojo Rabbit, and one of the things that strikes out is the dance at the end of the movie. Once this surreal moment ends, what is the first thing you will do?

Celebrate! We're already talking about how we can have the best party for our school community once we're able to. It will be so good to see people face to face again.

The final scene in Jojo Rabbit
The final scene in Jojo Rabbit

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