Singing their way through the pandemic

by Bill Bush

Retired teachers Stacey Noordhoek (26 years in Sedgwick) and Marcia Friesen (31 years in Newton) claim they are immature and like to do goofy stuff, so when the schools closed last spring and neither could substitute teach, they turned their frustration toward COVID-19 into music. Parodies, to be exact.

For over a month they posted a new song online, first on Facebook then eventually on their own Youtube channel—M&S Productions.

Friesen said singing is how they got through the days.

“Back in March and April, when you couldn’t go anywhere, do anything, it was helpful because we would spend hours writing songs and listening to songs hours in a day and you know we’d start in the morning and next time we look up it’d be almost five o’clock,” Friesen said.

Some people journal to document history. Friesen and Noordhoek create parodies.

Many of the songs are sang to the coronavirus, such as their most recent (at the time of this writing), You Came From Afar, using the music from the song Last Christmas. Some are funny and others serious. Many are a mixture of both. But all of them document what is transpiring at that given time.

Early on the couple sang a lot about the shut downs, social distancing, and even the toilet paper shortage. This fall most of their songs had mask references. Now their focus is on the hope of the coming vaccines.

Hope is something they enjoy singing about, according to Noordhoek.

“It’s not all negative,” Noordhoek said. “We tried to have some funny ones, but it’s (coronavirus) bad too. We’re going to get through this. Even though we’re not we’re not suffering like some people are, we just want to let them know that it is acknowledged and is seen by everyone and hopefully people can do what they can to help.”

That doesn’t mean that Noordhoek and Friesen are sitting at home doing nothing about COVID-19. In fact, both are participating in COVID studies through the heartland research—Noordhoek with Novavax and Friesen with Moderna.

“We both felt like, ‘What could we do during this time frame?’” Friesen said. “It’s kind of been fun to listen as they’re talking on the news about Pfizer coming out and Moderna close on the heels, and we’ve kind of been a supporter of the vaccine.”

Although vaccines and masks are controversial, Friesen said they feel strongly about both and include those in their songs.

“Some people we are friends with on Facebook that we’ve known professionally or personally, they don’t agree,” Friesen said. “That’s okay. We’ve just agreed to disagree.”

Another warning for would-be listeners: occasionally they slip in profanity. Their favorite parody, This Land is Your Land, they prefixed with a warning to parents, in case they didn’t want their children to hear a few bad words.

But the profanity isn’t why that song is their favorite. They sang about the governor’s orders to stay at home and Noordhoek said it was to the point, fun, and factual.

Friesen added that they got a clean recording of the song on their second try, which added to the enjoyment. She said they don’t know how to edit, so they sing over and over until they get a clean take.

While most of the time it doesn’t take them too long to get it right, sometimes they have to pause.

“There’s been some that took several days of just having to back off because we couldn’t sing anymore,” Noordhoek said. “Our voices were terrible and we just were upset and so we would wait a couple days and we’d come back to it.”

Friesen said the pressure to get it right can be intense. Her son is engaged to the actress Lexi Simonsen, and she said recording the parodies has given her a new appreciation for what actors and people in the music world deal with, having to record over and over.

“It’s just the two of us and you still feel that pressure, I can’t imagine what the professionals feel,” Friesen said. “Now I know why it takes them a thousand years sometimes to put out a new movie, a new album, whatever.”

Neither Friesen nor Noordhoek have professional music training, and neither taught music when they were teachers. Friesen grew up in the Mennonite church and learned four-part harmony. She took piano lessons and learned to read music and sang in high school and college.

Noordhoek took guitar lessons and plays mostly by ear. She sang in her school’s choir and while in college her and her twin sister played and sang for a couple of weddings and a funeral.

They took some time off recording over the summer because they moved and because Noordhoek spent a few weeks in Colorado. Now they’re back at it, and even though both are subbing full time, they have enough songs ready to release one a day through Christmas.

What are their future plans?

“I think that as long as COVID’s around we’ll continue to sing, and sing about what’s going on right now,” Noordhoek said. “We’ll just try to kind of keep following the COVID through. And you know, then when it’s gone, maybe we’ll think about something else.”


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