A BRIGHTON family with Irish roots have become an online sensation after broadcasting daily music classes for young kids from their front room during the pandemic.
Matt and Lucia Vernon-Long are both classically trained singers and parents to two-year-old daughter Persephone, with another child on the way very soon.
Matt, 35, has performed in some of the world’s most prestigious concert venues, while Lucia 32, works as an early years music teacher and singer, running local classes for young infants.
Like many performers and families with young children, however, they found their lives turned upside down by the arrival of coronavirus.
Eager to channel their talents into something constructive, they decided to take Lucia’s classes online in order to provide some respite for other parents with young kids seeking entertainment at home.
The result is Mini Music Makers, broadcast live on Facebook every weekday morning and uploaded to YouTube for repeat viewing afterwards alongside a treasure trove of other musical content.
Setting up shop in their front room the half-hour episodes, broadcast via smartphone, see the couple performing an array of familiar nursery rhymes alongside their own original songs.
With the help of their two-year-old daughter, the couple perform songs inspired by everything from the Kruger National Park to the Costa Rican rainforest and the animals of Nepal and India.
During lockdown they have taken families on virtual polar expeditions, wild camping trips, and a journey through outer space, all from the comfort of their sofa.
It’s no easy feat either - most of their evenings and weekends are spent painting huge pieces of scenery, making props and costumes, and writing new songs.
Polystyrene sheets have been transformed into icebergs, an old lampshade became the Grand Old Duke of York’s hat, and books, toys, guitar stands, and light fixtures have become complex pulley and weight systems to attach scenery to walls or the ceiling.
It’s all proven worth it, however, with the Mini Music Makers winning rave reviews from parents and children and more than 400,000 video views from families all over the world, including Europe, South Africa, Australia and Dubai.
Speaking to the Irish Post, Lucia attributes her passion for music to the formative years she spent over in Ireland.
“Matt has Irish roots (and an Irish passport he is very proud of!) and I grew up in Dublin. I absolutely put down my love of and career in music down to my Irish upbringing,” she explains.
“In Mount Sackville, the convent school I went to in Dublin, the school day often began with a jam in the locker room; a mash up of kids on their tin whistles, me on the cello and whatever else anyone could play!”
Away from school, she has fond memories of Ireland and the country’s passion for music not only as a form of entertainment but as something to bring people together.
“Summers were spent in Connemara where every evening ended up in a raucous party where everyone performed something (regardless of ‘talent’); Young and old singing together.”
It’s an ethos that has transferred into her work on Mini Music Makers.
Lucia said: “I am a strong believer in the positive effect music can have on everyone, and this is a right all children and families should have. Music is needed now more than ever while the world is gripped by a pandemic.
“This is why we have kept our classes free for all to access, regardless of their financial situation, with the option to pay for those who can.”
And while nursery rhymes, familiar classics and a few original efforts make up the bulk of their songs, Lucia is not averse to including a few traditional Irish favourites.
“After graduating from music college my first proper job was singing the role of Flora in ‘The Turn of the Screw’ for Northern Ireland Opera, and after that I spent a couple of years running education projects for them all around Northern Ireland,” she says.
“So Irish music has a special place in my heart! Songs we’ve done recently on Mini Music Makers are Down by the Salley Gardens and Danny Boy.”