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Sharon Corr: 'I feel it's important to embrace change and go with the flow; it can be difficult but then, everything happens for a reason'

Madrid-based Sharon Corr talks to Barry Egan about online chats with her siblings and how hard it is self-isolating with two kids on her own following the break-up of her marriage to Belfast barrister Gavin Bonnar


Sharon Corr.

Sharon Corr.

Sharon Corr

Sharon Corr

The Corrs

The Corrs

Sharon Corr

Sharon Corr

Sharon Corr.

Aspring day in 2002 at the Corrs' family home in Dundalk. Gerry, the daddy, reminisces that he was known as The Weirdy Beardy in the local newspaper for his "unpopular" stance in support of a centre for Travellers in Dundalk in the late 1960s.

"The concept was an Habilitation Centre to help Travellers transfer from a life in the ditch to a house in the settled community," says Gerry. "Sadly, the Nimby (Not In My Back Yard) factor triggered in, like elsewhere in Ireland."

I ask him was his wife Jean attracted to his idealism.

"I think my idealism, if that's the word, was a pain in the neck to Jean," he laughs. "Jean was a pragmatist. She loved the earth, loved life, loved people, and loved me."

When Gerry met her at a dance in the Pavilion ballroom in Blackrock, Co Louth, in 1962, he "loved her speaking voice". "Later, when I heard her sing, my future was sealed! She sang an Irish song called Mo Sean Dun na Gall which she had learned at school in her native Donegal. Jean's is the voice of The Corrs," Gerry said of the four Corr siblings - Andrea (lead vocals, tin whistle, ukulele), Sharon (violin, keyboards, vocals), Caroline (percussion, piano, vocals) and Jim (guitar, keyboards, vocals) - who went on sell over 40 million albums worldwide and sell out stadia across the globe.

Back to 2020; sitting in her house in Madrid, eldest daughter Sharon is a long way from Dundalk but she speaks with an idealism that her father would have appreciated.

"How the hell Trump ever got elected - seriously!" she guffaws. "Inject disinfectant!"

Sharon watched on CNN the infamous interview the Mayor of Las Vegas, Carolyn Goodman, gave where she talked of the need to reopen the casinos.

"The ignorance and lack of true empathy and knowledge is astounding," Sharon says. "Expose the people to circulated air most likely surrounded by infected people for the short-term gain of gambling and money! Ahhh! This is a huge example of how the world needs to change, back to an emphasis on humanity rather than self-gain.

"This will change I'm sure; the world has gotten a giant wake-up call, and the sooner those idiots who have been elected are gotten rid of the better."

Sharon moved to Madrid two years ago. She lives with her two teenage kids - Cathal (14) and Flori (12). Sharon separated from Belfast barrister Gavin Bonnar last year, after 18 years of marriage. Does living with two kids on her own make it harder dealing with Covid-19 lockdown in Madrid?

"Of course it makes it harder," she says, "but perhaps it makes it easier, too. Sometimes it's easy to see what you don't have but I prefer to focus on what I do: two beautiful, laughing, healthy kids; a roof over my head, food, my music and wonderful friends and family.

Sharon Corr

"Life has its own journey. I feel it's important to embrace change and go with the flow; it can be difficult, but everything happens for a reason and for the better, I think. Anyway, many people are in this situation. I am not unique. I am lucky, though. Too many good things in my life to dwell on the past."

The daily death rate in Spain from Covid-19 was terrifyingly high not so long ago. What was it like to live in Madrid during that time of terrible fear?

"We went into lockdown on March 14 - I remember the day before, our last day of freedom," she says. "I was taking the kids to the park to play football and realised it was shut. I knew for sure then it was beginning. So I took them to the grounds of the Prado museum and we enjoyed the sun, lying on the grass eating a thrown-together picnic, playing football, people-watching."

Sharon remembers thinking about the history in the Prado, "and outside, history unfolding to change the world forever". "It seemed the guys passing a football between each other laughing and drinking beers and the lovers kissing were their own works of beautiful art.

"There was a guy with a guitar walking by and I asked him to sit with me, and never having met, we sat on the grass singing and playing together, two human beings in harmony."

Is the fear lessened, does she feel?

"Yes thank God, there are fewer sirens. The death rate has slowed down and today for the first time I will be able to take my cooped-up teenagers outside for an hour's walk," Sharon says. "I never thought so little could mean so much." At first, the lockdown in Madrid seemed "so surreal," she says, "the streets of the capital empty". She talks of the "deathly quiet but for the ambulance sirens", and "masked police stopping you on the street asking for ID, 'Where are you going'"?

"The loss of freedom has been immense," she says. "We can go to the supermarket or pharmacy, with gloves and masks on.

" The government here is starting a slow de-escalation of restrictions, and that gives me hope that our world of freedom will return. The people of Madrid have suffered and have been very brave and kind. Behind the masks are smiles and caring faces." There have been some patches of light through these dark days, she says. "My dear friend delivered a beautiful, healthy baby last week amidst this nightmare. She and her whole family had coronavirus, but on the milder end of the spectrum."

Sharon has been having regular online chats with her siblings. "We talk every day and check in on each other," she says, "comparing our situations and easing the isolation we feel. The measures taken are not so severe in Ireland. I would have loved to be able to exercise for an hour a day or walk out with the kids."

That said, Sharon believes that the stronger, more restricted lockdown in Spain "ultimately will get us back outside sooner, knowing we have saved lives and reduced the pressure on the health service by adhering to the restrictions".

There have been over 8,000 deaths from Covid-19 in Madrid alone, and close to 25,000 in Spain in total.

What are the chats with her siblings like? "We make each other laugh," Sharon says. "We always have. And if one of us is feeling down or isolated, we listen and help. Venting goes a long way to easing fears. My birthday" - her 50th, on March 24 - "happened during lockdown. So my daughter baked. We had a lovely tea party and had fun online chatting with Jim, Caroline and Andrea."

She is currently reading Michael Alan Singer's The Untethered Soul. "God, it's a revelation into the mind!" she says. "And very welcome. Andrea recommended it to me."

Caroline introduced her to Deepak Chopra's Abundance Challenge, which "has been very helpful; although I struggle to switch the incessant chattering mind off, I am trying." Sharon is also practising yoga, which was not a success initially. "For the first few weeks, I had the yoga gear on without actually doing the yoga. Discipline is difficult!"

To help her manage mentally all that Covid-19 brings, Sharon is "finally starting to learn how to meditate… not my natural disposition, except when playing music".

Her daily routine is, essentially: up, overdose on coffee, calm down eventually, make breakfast for the kids, online school, meditation, yoga, lunch, playing and writing, cleaning, dinner, games and TV with kids.

"The kids are addicted to Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Friends, which I love," she says.

Sharon has also been watching the Australian family saga, A Place To Call Home. "I prefer to watch something uplifting and removed from reality. We have enough reality right now."

She is dealing with the 'new normal' "one day at a time - cooking, ironing, mopping". 'Mrs Mop' even got, she laughs, "the Brasso polish out the other day. Shock, horror! And there were mornings spent sucking the dust out of the plug sockets with the vacuum cleaner. Holy God! What next"?

How about pizza for breakfast with a beer? I joke. Like the rest of us during lockdown, I ask, are you becoming an alcoholic and binge-eater? She laughs.

"I'm definitely enjoying a few Friday or Thursday night beers with my friends and family at the online house party. It's great to connect and relax with friends and laugh and be silly.

"We are munching down on the crisps every night, but that's nothing new. Being a complete carnivore, I've surprised myself by a craving for lentils. Bizarre but true. I love making curries. But I wouldn't say no to pizza for breakfast!"

What does Sharon see when she looks in the mirror after two months of lockdown?

"I see me, a human being, woman, mother, trying hard to be calm to make the most of things. My face could do with a trip to the beauty parlour for sure - not to mention the rest of the body! More than anything, I need fresh air, walks and sunshine. Covid puts a reality check on vanity. Though wearing a nightdress halfway through the day had to be stopped."

I ask Sharon to tell me a story that illustrates the kind of woman she's been over the last few months.

"Every day is a story. These last few years have brought many changes that I've embraced, not without difficulty," she says, perhaps referring to the end of her marriage, or the death of her beloved father in 2015, "but with the knowledge I was on my right true path".

"I am changing. The world is changing. We have been out of sync with the universe and out of control, over-consuming, hurting our beautiful environment with our careless disregard, and not being in the moment… constantly hooked up to a smartphone, so we can never concentrate on any one task. Something had to give."

Sharon muses that maybe the silver lining of "this horror is we will learn true appreciation for this beautiful world we live in, for the kindness of strangers, for our friends and family, for a kiss or a long deep hug, for our children's laughter".

She thinks this is an opportunity to "quieten ourselves", and to learn how to "live properly", and therefore feel better by being more "connected" to our "true selves and to others".

"I certainly welcome this," Sharon continues.

"Life has been too hectic. A time to recharge and focus on what's really important is good."

Sharon's mother died at the age of 57 in 1999 (her father was 82 when he died), succumbing to a rare lung condition. What does Sharon think her parents would have made of the global pandemic?

"My mum was so earthy," she says. "I think she would not have been happy with the effect we've had on our environment: how we carelessly disregard nature , by over-consuming, littering, not respecting the wildlife, the elements that are essential to our very own existence.

"Dad always said, 'keep it simple'. He loved mum and us and he went to work and came home - then cherished the music he made with mum; that was their magic. It's not complicated, rather it's concentrated only on what's important. There are lessons to learn in that."

Sharon's musical journey

Something of a virtuoso, Sharon Helga Corr started to learn to play the violin at the age of six. She still plays, and she also has a beautiful baby grand piano in her home in Madrid. "My dear friend," she calls it.

And it's her constant companion.

"I write every day. I wrote an instrumental for my daughter the other day, my flower. I'm working on one for my handsome brave boy right now.

"My music has changed a lot over the years.

"It's bound by my truth and experience - and I express it in all its beauty, difficulty and sometimes ugliness. I follow the flow of my heart and it pours out of me," says Sharon, whose last solo album was 2013's beautiful The Same Sun.

"I've been making plans for my new album; thankfully it's recorded and mixed. So right now, I'm working on artwork and a promotional campaign. I long to return to the stage."

Will The Corrs - whose last album was the brilliant Jupiter Calling in 2017 - tour or record next year?

"We'll let you know!"

Belfast Telegraph