Watch: Singing family who found fame during lockdown release new video to raise awareness of cancer
When they appeared on You Tube in the first lockdown, singing about the lack of supermarket online deliveries and the fact their grandparents couldn’t work Skype, the Marsh family became one of the (very few) highlights of the COVID pandemic.
Parents Ben and Danielle and their four children Alfie, 15, Thomas, 13, Ella, 12 and Tess, nine, filmed their parody of ‘One Day More’ from the musical Les Miserables in their living room in Faversham, Kent, but never imagined what would happen next.
"We’d made it for friends and family but one of Ben’s colleagues asked if he could share it, we said yes and went to bed," explains Danielle.
"When we woke up, I had a message from a friend saying she’d been sent the video from a friend in Australia. We’d gone viral. By lunchtime we’d hit a million views and we were receiving message after message from all around the world. It was totally bizarre."
Today, nearly two years on from the first lockdown, the Marsh family’s songs – including a humorous rewrite of Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Total Eclipse’ called ‘Totally Fixed Where We Are’ - have been viewed more than 30 million times worldwide.
The six-strong choir – once jokingly referred to as ‘The Von Trapped’ – were stunned by their overnight success.
"We felt a bit ridiculous but we said we’d do a few interviews and then we’d disappear," says Danielle. "But when we started getting messages from care homes and nurses in ICU units saying we had made them smile, we decided that the least we could do is keep open our You Tube channel and post more videos. We thought we could make a difference."
They are hoping to do that again this month with the launch of their latest music video featuring a humorous version of the swing classic Mack The Knife. This time, the song has a more personal touch. The lyrics outline some of the facts about prostate cancer, after Danielle’s father John, was diagnosed with the disease in 2018.
"My dad is a doctor and they often tend to be the worst patients so he was reluctant to get himself checked and admits now that had he waited much longer, it could have been too late," says Danielle.
"He put it down to being too busy and not wanting people to see him differently. He didn’t want sympathy. Eventually he went for tests but kept it all a secret from us until he required surgery. Thankfully, he later got the all-clear and we did another video to celebrate that. The charity Prostate Cancer UK spotted it and asked if we could help with their December campaign. We were only too happy to be involved."
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men with more than 11,500 men dying every year – that’s one man every 45 minutes. One in eight men will be diagnosed in their lifetime which raises to one in four for Black men.
"The campaign is about targeting not only men but the women in their lives who can put pressure on them to get themselves checked," says Danielle. "Ben came up with the idea for Mack The Knife because it’s about an assassin and while writing the lyrics he was looking up facts and statistics about prostate cancer which was a real education. We want to start conversations about this so people ask their loved ones and friends if they have been for a check-up or had a test.
"We recorded the song in the boys’ bedroom with blankets up the walls and while trying to keep the dogs quiet and sent it off to the studio to be mastered. By the following week, we were recording the video."
Shot in the Moth Club in Hackney, the video sees the family togged up to the nines in 1920s suits and flapper dresses. It also features John as well as Danielle’s mother Linda in the audience.
"It was the first time we’d shot a proper video with costumes and make-up and it was lots of fun although the children did start complaining when we had to stay longer because Grandad couldn’t tap his foot in time to the music and we had to keep retaking the shot," laughs Danielle.
"But the response has been amazing. We’ve had messages from all kinds of people. One man said that he was now Stage 4 and had left it too late so was applauding the fact that we were encouraging men to get tested and checked. Early detection and treatment can make all the difference and that’s the message we really want to send out – don’t leave it too late."
You can watch Mack the Knife (prostate cancer – facts of life) or download the song with all profits donated by the Marsh family to Prostate Cancer UK.