Whether it’s Band Aid or Comic Relief, charity singles have the power to change lives through music.
Aberdonian Debra Kirkness is also hoping to do just that following the recent release of her song Butterfly Wings, performed by vocalist Lauren Yule.
Debra originally wrote the song 18 years ago after being touched by the story of three north-east girls born with recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (RDEB), a severely debilitating skin condition for which there’s still no cure today.
She’d always held the song close to her heart and is now delighted to have it out in the world to raise awareness of the condition, as well as funds for EB charity DEBRA and her own charity, Music 4 U.
“Children with EB are called butterfly children because their skin is as fragile as a butterfly’s wing,” says Debra.
“I wrote this song for them to say that we’re here for them and that we care.”
You can find 🦋'Butterfly Wings'🦋, performed by Lauren Yule on Spotify & Apple Music…
Spotify 🔗: https://t.co/Vng5XqX2Ot
Apple Music 🔗: https://t.co/BlPHXCjIui
You can also donate through our Just Giving – Music4U page…
Just Giving🔗: https://t.co/JTnXbOnpp5
— Music 4 U (@m4uaberdeen) November 30, 2021
Music has been an integral part of Debra’s life for as long as she can remember.
She was in three choirs during her school years before taking part in competitions with the ambition of becoming a cruise ship entertainment host.
However, being the youngest of four siblings in the family also brought out Debra’s empathetic side, which now goes hand in hand with music through her work as the founder of Aberdeen charity, Music 4 U.
“Everyone needs to help each other somehow in life,” says Debra.
“In my early 20s, I did volunteer babysitting for youngsters with disabilities around Aberdeen.
“I really loved it and it made me realise that everybody needs everyone.”
Compelled to help
From then on, Debra’s passion for caring for others continued after forming Music Makers singing group for children in Aberdeen two decades ago, which later became Music 4 U.
But the course of her work altered significantly after hearing the stories of three young girls – Adana Forsyth (Montrose), Chiara Venditozzi (Stonehaven) and Hannah McKandie (Fyvie) – born in the north-east with epidermolysis bullosa.
“This is still a rare condition today, but to all be born in the same year in the same geographical location, was unbelievable,” says Debra.
“My youngest daughter was five-years-old and about to go to school when I read this article about the girls.
“They couldn’t put on school uniforms without their skin being badly damaged, which made me realise just how much I’d taken things like this for granted with my own daughter.
“I felt absolutely compelled to do something.”
Debra was later invited to meet the girls and their parents in person after feeling so touched by their story.
After holding fundraising events and finding out more about the work of EB charity DEBRA, she penned Butterfly Wings unaware that it would take 18 more years for it to fully come to life.
“My youngest daughter and her boyfriend who is a musical director secretly got together during lockdown and arranged the song to sheet music,” says Debra.
“They presented it to me on my birthday in a folder with butterflies and it said: ‘For one Debra, to another’.
“That really inspired me to really run with the song.”
Debra soon set about a plan for recording and releasing Butterfly Wings as a charity single.
When it came to vocals, Debra explains that Lauren Yule, a teenager living with bone dysplasia and Turner syndrome who has gained confidence through singing with Music 4 U, had to be the voice of the track.
“Having Lauren perform is the absolute epitome of Music 4 U’s ethos – ‘children helping children through music’,” Debra explains.
Brought together by producer Nils Elders, the track was released on all major music streaming services at the end of November last year.
This also coincided with a special launch event held by DEBRA where the song was performed live at a Sporting Legends lunch in Edinburgh, with Graeme Souness, DEBRA vice-president, one of the star names in attendance.
Hopes song can fly around the world
Debra hopes that the song can “travel around the world” and help spread further awareness of EB.
“If the song helps to encourage people to fundraise or raise awareness, that’s brilliant,” says Debra.
“From my point of view with Music 4 U, it’s important that we keep on doing what we do with young people like Lauren by giving them the platform of music to nurture their talent.
“It all comes back to ‘children helping children through music’ and we exist to make a difference.”
Butterfly Wings by Lauren Yule is available now on all major music streaming platforms.