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Justin Bieber joins forces with NHS choir on ‘Holy’ in Christmas No 1 bid

Pop singer reached out to the choir to ask if they wanted to collaborate on his single, five years after he helped them beat him to the Christmas No 1 spot

Roisin O'Connor
Monday 14 December 2020 08:51 GMT
The NHS choir recording ‘Holy’ at Abbey Road
The NHS choir recording ‘Holy’ at Abbey Road (Press)

Justin Bieber has partnered with the NHS Choir that beat him to the 2015 Christmas No 1, which he encouraged fans to buy instead of his own single.

In 2015, Bieber's hit single “Love Yourself” and the choir's “A Bridge Over You” went head-to-head in an attempt to achieve that year’s festive hit.

However, Bieber urged his followers to “do the right thing” and help the choir reach the top of the singles chart over his own song.

The pop star has since reached out to the choir to perform a version of his single, “Holy”, this year, as the choir aims to raise money for an NHS charity.

If they succeed, the profits will be split between NHS Charities Together and the choir's local NHS trust charity.

This year’s cover was recorded by the choir at London’s Abbey Road Studios. Bieber said he was “humbled” to work with them.

He said: “It's great to be reunited with the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS choir, as we share a fun bit of UK chart history together.

”Especially in these difficult times, I’m humbled to team up with them for a charity single that will benefit NHS workers on the frontlines of this pandemic and pay tribute to their unbelievable dedication.“

Choir leader Caroline Smith, a children’s community physiotherapist, had previously met Bieber and helped to organise the choir’s performance at Glastonbury Festival.

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“It’s really exciting,” she said of the single. “It was really difficult to keep the secret!”

She said that upon receiving a message from Bieber’s team asking whether the choir would be interested in collaborating, she wasn’t sure if it was real.

“People haven’t had much time to think about anything else outside of work, so to get an opportunity like this was lovely,” she told The Independent.

“To walk into Abbey Road… it was beautiful, and [the choir] hadn’t seen each other in so long. It reminded me how talented everyone in the choir is, and hearing it played back with Justin’s vocals was amazing.”

She said that she was “so grateful” to Bieber and his team for reaching out after what has been “an incredibly tough year”. 

“When you get a moment to stop and think, it has been a devastating year for a lot of people,” she said, commenting on how the song fit with the year’s theme of helping to support one another.

“Friends, family and colleagues have been so important, and the song seems to fit that theme of those people helping you get through,” she said. 

Justin Bieber says he is ‘humbled’ to work with the NHS choir (Rex Features)

Choir member Pamela Lutalo, a British-Ugandan rheumatologist who worked on a 30-bed Covid ward for three months, told The Independent it was an “incredible experience” to record Bieber’s song.

Lutalo, who became a member of the choir in 2019, volunteered on the ward during the first wave of the pandemic.

“We did the best we could for our patients,” she said. “That time gave me the sense that the NHS is a community, and we supported each other through it all.”

She said that the choir wanted to do something to thank people in the NHS, as well as the general public for supporting key workers through the pandemic.

“It’s a suitable song,” she said. “It can be interpreted in different ways – from a personal side, I wanted to sing it because it was a way of showing appreciation. We wanted to say thank you and do something for NHS Charities Together and the NHS trust charity.”

Lutalo said she is an “optimistic person” and believe things will get better.

“When you work together, you can achieve a lot,” she said.

“Holy” by Justin Bieber and the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Choir is released on Friday 18 December.

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