I’ve written previously about Moi Aussi, a song that I wrote for the opening ceremony of a photo exhibition in 2017 and that went on to be used for a World Down Syndrome Day event in Bern in 2018. This week, a professional recording of the song has been released, accompanied by a promotional video and a package of resources to help those who might want to use the song in schools or with other groups for whom its message of inclusion resonates.
The song is available on all of the usual music platforms – search for “Les amis de Moi Aussi” or find links here – but you can also download an MP3 file directly from the website of the Moi Aussi Association. In addition to the “radio” edit, there are backing track versions with either no vocals at all or with the vocals at a reduced volume. Sheet music and guitar chords are also available alongside the lyrics.
From idea to project
I had chatted many times with Laura (Mulcahy, the founder of the Moi Aussi Association) about how we could use this song that seemed to be striking a chord with those who heard it. It was my son Robert’s schoolteacher who suggested in summer 2019 that we should make it available to schools.
Last November, I searched for recording studios in Lausanne, where the association is based, and sent a speculative message to one of them. Soon Laura and I were meeting with Raphaël Parisod, owner of Wavestudios, who brought the experience and skills we needed for this unusual project.
By early March, Raphaël and his talented colleague Guillaume Meylan had created a basic musical arrangement over which I recorded vocals and guitar at a studio close to Yverdon. While the full impact of COVID wasn’t yet being felt in Switzerland, I recall that we were already keeping our distances at the recording.
A few days before that session, I had sudden thought that the original key in which I had written the song (F) might not suit the voices of the primary school kids who were the ultimate target of the song. Following a little web research, and with some valuable guidance from Gaëlle Graf, a music educator based in Lausanne, we decided to drop it to Bb. This would bring its range more into line with the typical range of kids of 6 to 10 years.
Changing the key was relatively straightforward, as the backing track had been created digitally, but it did mean the song was now a little low for me to sing it comfortably. We made the right decision I think, as it was now pitched correctly for the kids who sang on the recording – and for those who we hope will sing it in the years to come.
Recording the choir
With the COVID lockdown and the closure of the schools in Switzerland, it looked like we might have a long wait before we could do the second live recording session. We were surprised, therefore, when things fell into place for us to visit the 4P class of Mme Bonnet at the Floréal school in Lausanne in late June. The project was back on track and we could have the song ready for the autumn after all.
Recording with the kids was the absolute highlight of this project. They were simply fantastic: good-humoured, enthusiastic, talented, well-behaved. They had been singing the song for the previous year, so they knew it really well. Raphaël and Guillaume brought along the necessary gear, Elma Okic was on hand with her video cameras, and Hayley Hay took some (as usual) great photos.
We had visited the classroom the week before for a rehearsal session and they were really excited by the time the big day arrived. Laura’s daughter Emer, who has Down syndrome, was proud to introduce us to her classmates and friends. She was front and centre for the recordings.
We recorded several takes with the full class, and then broke them into groups of three or four for further recordings. We felt an overwhelming rush of warmth and joy come over us when Guillaume played a first rough mix over the loudspeaker at the end of the session – the sound of the kids voices gave the song an amazing lift. Laura and I both shed a tear or two. 🙂
Throughout the summer, the team at Wavestudios worked on perfecting the musical arrangement, followed by the mixing and mastering. There was some additional work to be done in getting the sheet music together, and Elma put the finishing touches to the video.
The whole package was published this past week. Sharing the video on social media has generated a wave of positive comments, re-shares and encouragement.
We’ve only just begun the process of pushing it out into the world. We’re using different ways to let teachers and anyone else who might be interested know about the song. We’re hoping that before long we’ll hear of classes performing it. And maybe in the years to come it will take on a life of its own, spreading its message of inclusion far and wide. We certainly hope so!
Un grand merci
I’m pleased and proud to have written this song that has already brought me so many happy memories. I’m grateful to Laura for getting behind this project with her typical drive, making the association’s funds available to pay the various professionals that helped us. Also to Ruth (who originally “commissioned” the song), to Robert’s teacher Mme Franklin, to Raphaël and Guillaume, to Elma and Hayley, to Gaëlle; and especially to those amazing kids and their wonderful teacher Mme Bonnet.
It was because this was such a big collaborative effort that we chose the artist name “Les amis de Moi Aussi” for the release. You too can be a friend of the project by helping us to spread the word – share it with music teachers, language teachers, or anyone who you think might connect with its message.